News / Science & Technology

    Climate Change Stars Fade, Even If Risks Rise

    Former US Vice President Al Gore talks during an interview (File photo).
    Former US Vice President Al Gore talks during an interview (File photo).
    Reuters
    Compared to the heady days in 2007 when U.S. climate campaigner Al Gore and the U.N.'s panel of climate scientists shared the Nobel Peace Prize, the risks of global warming may be greater but the stars preaching the message have faded.
     
    With many governments focused on tackling short-term economic growth, the shift reinforces what former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has sometimes called a “shocking lack of leadership” in confronting long-term global warming.
     
    The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with ex-Vice President Gore, will issue a report on Friday in Stockholm about mounting risks of global warming, from heatwaves to rising sea levels.
     
    “We need new voices,” said Jennifer Morgan, of the World Resources Institute think tank in Washington. “Hopefully the IPCC will inspire leadership, from the Mom to the business leader, to the mayor to the head of state.”
     
    It is a sign of the times that some of the world's most powerful figures such German Chancellor Angela Merkel - a former environment minister - U.S. President Barack Obama or Chinese Premier Li Keqiang appear to have put the issue on the backburner to focus on domestic economic issues.
     
    Mohamed Nasheed addresses the media at his residence in Male, Maldives, Sept. 8, 2013.Mohamed Nasheed addresses the media at his residence in Male, Maldives, Sept. 8, 2013.
    x
    Mohamed Nasheed addresses the media at his residence in Male, Maldives, Sept. 8, 2013.
    Mohamed Nasheed addresses the media at his residence in Male, Maldives, Sept. 8, 2013.
    Even former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, who made global headlines in 2009 with the world's first underwater Cabinet meeting to highlight the threat of rising sea levels to his small islands, was forced from power in domestic turmoil. He is now seeking a comeback.
     
    China and the United States are the top emitters of greenhouse gasses seen by climate scientists as contributing to global warming.
     
    Times have changed since, as environment minister, Merkel said in 1995 something that might well say today: “the existing commitments will not solve the climate change problem.”
     
    Drafts show that the IPCC will on Friday raise the probability that global warming is manmade to at least 95 percent from 90 in its previous report in 2007.
     
    Gold medals
    The head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Rajendra Pachauri (file photo)The head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Rajendra Pachauri (file photo)
    x
    The head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Rajendra Pachauri (file photo)
    The head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Rajendra Pachauri (file photo)
    ​Much of the "glamor" has gone since Rajendra Pachauri, the Indian chair of the IPCC, and Gore proudly showed off the Nobel gold medals in 2007, a time when firm global action on reducing emissions of greenhouse gasses seemed feasible.
     
    The problem proved intractable in the financial crisis. A U.N. summit in Copenhagen in 2009 failed to work out a deal, and many voters may simply have tired of hearing of global warming. Governments have now agreed to work out a U.N. accord in 2015.
     
    “The IPCC has become more cautious... it's a pity,” said Yvo de Boer, former head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat who now works at auditors KPMG and was among those most outspoken about the need for action during his 2006-2010 term.
     
    “You might ignore it [climate change] but it's not going to ignore you,” he said. He said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry could be the strongest up and coming leader on the issue.
     
    Both Gore, the IPCC and Pachauri, now 73, won a series of international awards for their work in 2007. Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth, won an Oscar and standing applause at U.N. negotiating sessions when it was shown.
     
    But Gore has also been worn down by criticisms, especially by U.S. Republicans who say his climate campaigns are alarmist and question the science behind them.
     
    His later ventures have been less high profile. He sold his struggling cable channel, Current TV, to Al Jazeera in January. Gore's latest book, The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change, has won good reviews.
     
    IPCC leaders including Pachauri have been less outspoken in recent months than before the 2007 report by the IPCC when he said, for instance, that he hoped it would “shock” the world into action.
     
    A 2010 review by scientists in the InterAcademy Council (IAC), partly spurred by an error in the IPCC report that exaggerated a thaw in the Himalayas, said that IPCC leaders should stick to science and not recommend policies.
     
    “Straying into advocacy can only hurt IPCC's credibility,” it said. The IAC found no reason to question the IPCC's main conclusions despite the Himalayan mistake.
     
    It is unclear who will succeed Pachauri when he retires in 2015. Jan Pascal van Ypersele, a Belgian physicist, is sometimes tipped.
     
    Leadership is an elusive quality on climate change.
     
    “In the run up to Copenhagen I was struck by the number of people talking about a lack of leaders who were meant to be leaders,” de Boer said.

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora