WASHINGTON – Former Vice President Al Gore completed a remarkable political renaissance Friday when he won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his relentless and sometimes controversial crusade against global warming.

Sharing one of the world’s most coveted prizes with a United Nations-sponsored scientific group on climate change, the loser of 2000’s razor-thin presidential election suddenly gained new stature, sparking speculation that he might use the award as a springboard to take another run at the White House.

Gore avoided that question at a news conference in California, but his spokeswoman, Kalee Kreider, said in an e-mail that he “has no intention of running for president in 2008. He is involved in a campaign of a different kind, to educate people about the climate crisis and what they can do to solve it. That’s what today is about.”

Indeed, Gore told reporters that he would try to use the award and recognition to speed up awareness about the dangers of climate change. “It truly is a planetary emergency,” he said. “We have to respond quickly.” Still, he did not rule out getting into the race.

The former vice president said he would donate his half of the $1.5 million prize to the Alliance for Climate Protection, an advocacy group he helped found. The Norwegian Nobel Committee also said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN-sponsored group of some 2,500 scientists from around the world, would share the prize with Gore.

In various reports this year, the IPCC concluded that it is 90 percent certain that global warming is caused by human activity and that it could cause catastrophic results in the 21st century.

The Nobel committee cited Gore’s political activity, films and books, and concluded that “he is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted.”

With Friday’s announcement of the prize in Oslo, Norway, skeptics also stepped up their criticism of the former vice president and the IPCC, saying that they have exaggerated the future risks of a general rise in world temperatures in recent years.

“The decision by the Nobel Foundation to award this year’s prize to Albert Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is very disappointing,” said Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based research group. “Neither deserves this recognition.”

Bast called Gore “an environmental alarmist whose views have been repeatedly contradicted by scientists, economists, and policy experts.” He said the IPCC’s reports “reflect the views of a small cabal of ideologically driven government scientists.”

And, in a case cited by other critics, Bast noted that a British court ruled this week that Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary on climate change, “An Inconvenient Truth” contained nine errors and exaggerations and should be shown in classrooms only with appropriate warnings. Martin Parry, co-chair of the IPCC, said in an online session that the Gore film “is broadly correct. There are some factual errors but these are few and do not affect the main argument.”

A White House spokesman, Tony Fratto, said President Bush was “happy” that Gore and the IPCC were chosen. “Obviously it’s an important recognition and we’re sure the vice president is thrilled,” Fratto said. Democratic presidential candidates praised Gore, as did Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who supports a plan to curb “greenhouse gas” emissions that contribute to climate change.

Gore, 59, who narrated “An Inconvenient Truth” and also won an Emmy award, would face a major challenge if he decided to get into the presidential race. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., is far ahead in the polls for the Democratic nomination and has raised millions of dollars. And Gore has conceded that he is “not very good” at politics.

If he does have an opening to get into the race, it is a narrow one with major primaries coming up early next year, but a Gore entrance could shake up the race and potentially divide the party. Gore, who served two terms as vice president under President Bill Clinton won the popular vote in 2000 but lost in the election when a disputed recount in Florida went Bush’s way.

“There is no market for another Democratic candidate for the presidential nomination,” said Tom Mann, a political analyst at the Brookings Institution. “Democrats are pleased with their choices and optimistic about winning the general election. If he chose to run, Gore would likely lose and greatly diminish his public standing and influence.”

Carter Eskew, a close Gore adviser, said he had a “strong sense” that the former vice president would not run in 2008 and would instead devote his time to his global-warming campaign. But among many Gore supporters, there is a strong feeling that he could win the presidency if he got into the race – and avenge the 2000 loss.

Supporters paid for a full-page “Draft Gore” advertisement in the New York Times earlier in the week. Monica Friedlander, who heads the “Draft Gore” movement, said the Nobel award would “only add to the tremendous tidal wave of support” and demands that he become a candidate in 2008.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said the prize was awarded to Gore and the IPCC for “their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.”

Some saw this statement as an indirect slap at Bush, who has rejected mandatory steps to control carbon dioxide emissions that get trapped in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.

But at a press conference in New Delhi, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, said he did not read any “such implications” in the Nobel committee’s announcement.

Pachauri added that developed countries like the U.S. “have not done enough” in combating climate change…It is for this reason the developing economies have been hesitant to accept any conditions that might apply to their development and thus their emissions of greenhouse gases.”

(Chicago Tribune foreign correspondent Laurie Goering contributed to this report from New Delhi.)

(c) 2007, Chicago Tribune.

Visit the Chicago Tribune on the Internet at http://www.chicagotribune.com/

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


PHOTOS (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): GORE

GRAPHICS (from MCT Graphics, 202-383-6064): GORE

AP-NY-10-12-07 2058EDT

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