This year’s winner makes clear that the Nobel peace prize can be awarded to organizations just as easily as to individual persons. Past winners include Médecins Sans Frontières (1999), Amnesty International (1977), the European Union (2012) and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has been awarded the prize more than three times in 1917, 1944 and 1963. Another past winner includes the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007 joint winner with 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”. Having working in the area of environmental security studies for the past ten years I am all too familiar with the linkage between war and/or insecurity and climate change/large scale environmental degradation. Yet at the time of the award I remember reading many editorials asking what the linkage between peace and climate change is, and whether the IPCC was the right choice. Scholars of environmental security do not agree on the exact linkage between climate change and war, but many now believe that climate change in the forms of droughts, water scarcity, extreme weather events, can a be contributing variable to violent conflicts specifically in weak states. While others stress that even if climate change and environmental degradation does not lead to overt violent conflict it can harm individuals in ways comparable to the harm and hardship caused by wars. Protection of the global commons is thus a pivotal step towards a more peaceful and secure world.
In my view the choice of the IPCC ties in well with the theme of agenda setting discussed in yesterday’s post. Thus in giving the award to the IPCC and Gore the Nobel Committee did not only acknowledge the links between climate change and peace, but at a more elementary level it acknowledged that climate change is real and anthropogenic in origin. Today, only six years later this may no longer seem a ground-breaking claim, but at the time climate sceptics were more prominent still. The Nobel Peace committee has helped to push such dangerous sceptics further into the margins.