OSLO (AFP) — Former US vice president Al Gore and the UN's top climate panel shared the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, in a major boost to the international campaign for action against global warming.
Gore, who has reinvented himself as a climate warrior since failing in his bid to become US president in 2000, said he was "deeply honoured" by the award and warned of the "planetary emergency" posed by climate change.
The White House sent its congratulations on the "important recognition" for Gore's work, but stressed there would be no change in the US administration's environmental policies.
The 2007 prize was jointly awarded to Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -- a UN body of about 3,000 experts which has highlighted the human role in steadily mounting global temperatures.
The Norwegian Nobel committee cited the recipients for their work "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."
The committee said it wanted to contribute to efforts "to reduce the threat to the security of mankind. Action is necessary now, before climate change moves beyond man's control."
Gore, 59, is bound to attract most of the attention when the winners claim their 10-million-Swedish-kronor (1.5-million-dollar, 1.1-million-euro) prize in December.
Bill Clinton's vice president has helped put global warming high up the international agenda with his Oscar-winning 2006 film "An Inconvenient Truth", based on years of lectures on the subject.
The Nobel committee described Gore as "probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted."
After hearing the news, Gore pleaded for a greater sense of urgency.
"We face a true planetary emergency," he said. "The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity."
"I will be doing everything I can to try to understand how to best use the honour and recognition of this award as a way of speeding up the change in awareness, and the change in urgency," he added later.
Some experts say Gore's campaign, the Oscar and now the Nobel Peace Prize could persuade him to make a last minute bid for the Democratic nomination for the 2008 US presidential election. He has previously discounted the idea.
The IPCC, set up in 1988, is tasked with giving policymakers a summary of the latest knowledge about climate change.
Its fourth report, published this year, gave the starkest view yet, warning that climate change was already on the march and that rising temperatures fuelled the risk of drought, flooding and violent storms.
The Nobel committee said the IPCC had "created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming", and had worked "to achieve greater certainty as to the scale of the warming."
IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri said winning the Nobel Peace Prize would underline the importance of the panel's work.
"The message should go out to everyone -- developed and developing countries -- we are all in this together. We have to make sure that climate change does not afflict the inhabitants of this planet," the Indian scientist told a cheering crowd outside his office in New Delhi.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hailed Gore's commitment to the issue and the IPCC's work to establish "beyond doubt" that climate change is a fact.
"As a result, there is now unprecedented momentum for action on climate change around the world, and recognition of the UN as the forum for reaching agreement on it," Ban said.
The Nobel committee's decision to award the peace prize to a climate campaigner continues the trend of broadening its scope beyond the traditional fields of conflict prevention and resolution and disarmament.
Over the years, winners have been honoured for humanitarian aid work and human rights. Kenyan ecologist Wangari Maathai won in 2002, and Bangladeshi microcredit pioneer Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank won last year.
Not all the reaction was positive, however, with Czech President Vaclav Klaus casting doubt on Gore's contribution to the cause of peace -- the ostensible purpose of the Norwegian prize.
And in France, a leading French climate sceptic, former Socialist education minister and award-winning geochemist Claude Allegre, said the prize was "a political gimmick."
The peace laureates will receive a gold medal and a diploma at a formal ceremony in Oslo on December 10, the anniversary of the death in 1896 of the prize's creator, Swedish industrialist and inventor of dynamite Alfred Nobel.
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