Approximately 12 years ago the Nobel Peace Prize was equally shared between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Al Gore “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.”
In 2007 the message was clear that indications of climate change needed to be treated seriously and consideration given to the precautionary principle. The concerns expressed related to extensive climate change threatening living conditions for the global community. The effects considered included large-scale migration and greater competition for the earth’s resources. It was thought at that time that climate change would place a heavy burden on the world’s most vulnerable countries resulting in increased danger of violent conflicts and war.
The IPCC through the available scientific information connected human activities and climate change. Al Gore was found to be one of the world’s leading environmentalist politicians at that time. In awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 to the IPCC and Al Gore the Norwegian Nobel Committee sought to contribute to a sharper focus on the processes and decisions necessary to protect the world’s future climate and reducing the threat to the security of mankind.
In 2018, Professor William D. Nordhaus, an economist from Yale who has dedicated more than forty years attempting to convince governments to address climate change through the imposition of a tax on carbon emissions, was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. Professor Nordhaus has been called “the father of climate-change economics” and developed models to suggest how governments can combat global warming. One key step endorsed by Professor Nordhaus is a universal tax on carbon, which would require polluters to pay for the costs that their emissions impose on society.
Professor Nordhaus shared the prize with Paul M. Romer an economist at New York University, who has demonstrated that government policy is critical in the development of technological innovation. Both economists researched the unintended side effects of economic activity that includes climate change, and it impacts growth over the long term. Professor Nordhaus developed an integrated method assessing economic activity and advocated carbon tax as a way to address the environmental consequences caused by economic activity.
This award followed the United Nations’ scientific panel, an intergovernmental panel on climate change (“IPCC”) confirming that significant changes in public policy are urgently needed to limit the catastrophic consequences of rising temperatures. The IPCC set out an appalling picture of the imminent consequences of climate change that are more extreme than previously thought. The position of the IPCC at that time was that to avoid damage the world economy must be transformed in a manner and scale that has “no documented historic precedent.”
What was clearly set out in the report is that the world needed to immediately reduce its GHG emissions and limit global warming to no more than 1.5ºC. Merely a couple of hours prior to awarding the Nobel Prize to the two economists, the UN issued its dire warning about global warming. Professor Nordhaus stated: “The policy is very simple. If you just commit to a tax [carbon tax] on usage of fuels that directly or indirectly release greenhouse gases, and then you make that tax increase steadily in the future … people will see that there’s a big profit to be made from figuring out ways to supply energy where they can do it without incurring tax.”
More recently, on December 11, 2019 Greta Thunberg a 16-year old teenager from Sweden was named Time magazine’s person of the year for 2019. Greta Thunberg continues to urge immediate action to be taken to address what is a global climate crisis. Greta Thunberg has criticized and continues to criticize, world leaders for relying on loopholes and public relations to make it appear that they are reaching bold climate targets. Greta Thunberg urges governments to take immediate action to combat climate change.
The 2007 Nobel Peace Prize co-winner Al Gore stated “Greta embodies the moral authority of the youth activist movement demanding that we act immediately to solve the climate crisis. She is an inspiration to me and to people across the world.”
The one thing that has become abundantly clear over the last 12 years is that without a doubt enhanced climate action is needed at the local and international level. Perhaps the statements made by Greta Thunberg gives people the initiative and drive to start putting pressure on governments to implement the necessary changes to counteract climate change. Greta Thunberg’s message is clear – it is time that countries work together to solve the climate crisis.