Ozone man joins rogues' gallery
Simon Wells examines why Al Gore was awarded the Nobel prize
Al Gore, dismissively dubbed 'Ozone Man' in 1992 by the first president Bush, received his political rehabilitation when he was awarded this year's Nobel peace prize last week. There is even excited talk of him running for the presidency again.
On one level, Gore has been rewarded for doing no more that what other retired world leaders have always done. Ex-presidents and prime minister hop on the gravy train of the lecture circuit, pick up huge endorsements, mix with current world leaders, write books and set up think tanks. For example, Blair is now touring the Middle East attempting to get the Palestinians to accept a semi-state, a reservation, in exchange for accepting a greater Israel - will he be next in line for a Nobel peace prize?
Despite the remit to recognise an "individual who has done most to create greater worldwide under-standing", previous Nobel recipients have included: Woodrow Wilson, George Marshall, Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin, Jimmy Carter, Mikhail Gorbachev, the 14th Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Lech Walesa, Frederik Willem de Klerk, Nelson Mandela, David Trimble, John Hume, Yitzhak Rabin, Henry Kissinger and Mother Teresa (aka Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu). A veritable rogues' gallery of capital's trusted servants and dupes.
The Nobel committee justified its latest award by saying of Gore: "His strong commitment, reflected in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the struggle against climate change. He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted".
However inconvenient, the fact of the matter is, that since the 1970s Gore has been doing his damndest to perpetuate the myth that the environment can be maintained without challenging the socio-economic status quo. But what has he been doing recently that has caught the committee's eye? Well, he has delivered the same pale green lecture over 1,000 times - and charged $100,000 plus expenses for his 'environmental multimedia lecture'. His film, An inconvenient truth was awarded two Oscars, he released a bestseller book of the same name and set up a charity to advise corporations. So he no longer just an ex-vice president and failed presidential candidate. He is a self-made green celebrity.
Of course, not everybody approves. The Nobel committee has been criticised for making a vicious and underhand attack on George W Bush by the US right and climate-change deniers everywhere. "The Nobel peace committee is not so much a peace committee as a standard leftwing pressure group - sending these Mickey Mouse messages" said one contributor on National Review online. Another 'thinker' remarked that the prize should be shared with "that well-known peace campaigner Osama bin Laden, who implicitly endorsed Gore's stance".
Not to be outdone, Brendan O'Neill, editor of the British online journal Spiked, claimed that the Gore prize reveals an environmental campaign that is "political and moralistic ... based on misanthropic ideas about human activity and on demands for ... the rewiring of people's expectations and desires." Spiked is the present manifestation of Frank Frudi's Revolutionary Communist Party. His sect abandoned ultra-left posturing in the 1980s and nowadays it specialises in championing right libertarian causes and extolling the marvels of unrestricted capitalist economic development.
Chair of the Nobel committee, Ole Danbolt Mjoes, can easily laugh off such nutty rantings and ravings. Except that they are shared by the Bush administration in the Washington, an administration which presides over the world's largest economy and despite steady relative decline the US still acts as the global hegmon.
Clearly Mjoes and his committee are siding with those, crucially the European Union, who consider that the leading capitalist powers have to do something, or at least be seen to do something, by way of preventing dramatic climate change "¦ before it is too late.
The Nobel committee's language is diplomatic but clearly directed towards shifting ruling class opinion in the US: "We would encourage all countries, including the big countries, and challenge them to think again and to say what they can do to conquer global warming."
Here, in Britain, the courts got themselves embroiled in the pro and anti Gore dispute. Stewart Dimmock, a school governor in Kent and member of the rightwing New Party, challenged the government's decision to show An inconvenient truth in schools. His lawyer described the film as "50% political, 30% science and 20% sentimental mush - the mush being designed, along with the alarmist exaggeration, to persuade the viewer into accepting Gore's political viewpoint".
High court judge Michael Burton seems to have been fully persuaded. His honour found that screening the film in secondary schools violated the 1996 education act which bans the promotion of partisan political views in the classroom. He generously allowed the film to be shown but on the condition that it is accompanied by guidance notes to balance Gore's "one-sided" views. Judge Burton considers that the An inconvenient truth's "apocalyptic vision" is not an impartial analysis of climate change.
So the courts now decide what is taught in Britain's schools and how. And what is meat by 'balance'? The answer is simple - out and out rightwing politics. Judge Burton is certainly not demanding that Gore's film be 'balanced' by a CPGB speaker explaining that capitalism - because it produces for exchange and not need, because it relies on constant self-expansion for its own sake - is by its very essence antithetical to the environment.
Gore is not only a committed partisan of capitalism. He is a capitalist in his own right. He is chair and founder of a private equity firm called Generation Investment Management. GIM "appears to have considerable influence over the major carbon-credit trading firms that currently exist" (www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=22663). Eg, the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) and the Carbon Neutral Company (CNC) in Britain.
Gore also sits on the board of Apple computers. He and his wife Tipper are recognised members of America's aristocracy. Both are dollar millionaires in their own right and are due to benefit hugely from the 'trickle down' effect when elderly parents die. The day after receiving the $1.5 million award - shared equally with the scientists of the International Panel on Climate Change - Gore told an advertising conference: "Nothing can help your brand more than letting your customers join the conversation about your product." He then appealed to the assembled executives to back Current TV, the cable and satellite channel, launched by Gore along with Joel Hyatt. "Commit to Current TV. Take money out of your research budget and give it to Current."
A Gore endorsement now has especially high value for carbon-emitting corporations, governments and institutions because it carries the Nobel imprimatur. But nothing Gore proposes politically can alter the destructive dynamic and endlessly rapacious nature of capitalism. Gore exposes some of the dangers of runaway climate change with undoubted sincerity, some real hard science and doubtless a degree of sentimentality. But while he remains trapped within the framework of capitalism he can offer no workable solution. That is Gore's tragedy.