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).
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

Why Europe and the US may be "whistling past the graveyard?" More

Egyptian Court Jails 23 Pro-Morsi Supporters

Meanwhile, Egyptian officials say gunmen have killed two members of the country's security forces More

Pakistani Journalists Protest Shooting of Colleague

Hamid Mir, a host for private television channel Geo, was wounded after being shot three times Saturday, but is expected to survive More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid