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Nobel Prize

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Martin Parry
Co-Chair, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Friday, October 12, 2007; 12:00 PM

Former vice president Al Gore and a United Nations panel that monitors climate change were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize today for their work educating the world about global warming and pressing for political action to control it.

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a joint project of the United Nations Environment Program and the World Meteorological Organization, has been monitoring evidence of climate change and possible solutions since 1988.

Martin Parry, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was online from London on Friday, Oct. 12, at Noon ET to discuss award, the impact of winning the Nobel Peace Prize and what it means to the global community.

A transcript follows.

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Martin Parry: The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the IPCC is very important for 2 reasons:

1. It recognizes that climate change is a potential threat to the security of mankind, and thus requires our urgent attention, and

2. It recognizes the work done by the mc. 1,000 scientists in the Assessments of the IPECAC. Often this work is additional to scientists' work program, an add-on to the 'day job', and it can be quite a strain. This will encourage them to continue their work

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Washington, D.C.: Climate change here in the U.S. seems to be somewhat political. Is it there in Europe? Do most people believe that global warming is a definite threat and all the seriousness that goes along with that?

Martin Parry: Here in Europe there is a broad consensus amongst politicians that action is needed; and countries are developing action plans.

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Fairfax, Va.: Why do you think you were awarded the prize? How much of winning it do you attribute to Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth"?

Martin Parry: I think IPCC was awarded the prize because the Nobel Committee judged climate change to be a global security issue, and the IPCC to be the leading science assessment of the issue.

I think Gore's contribution is a separate, but also important one...about communicating our knowledge.

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College Park, Md.: This might be an insignificant question, but what does the panel plan to do with its share of the money?

Martin Parry: Probably, the IPCC Plenary (made up of 150 governments which meet next in Spain next month), will discuss this. Probably they will add it to the IPCC Trust Fund which supports scientists in less developed countries.

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Reading, Pa.: Sir:

How do we encourage emerging giants like China and India to cooperate in finding alternative energy sources? Won't their growing energy use throw us over the edge no matter what we do?

Martin Parry: This is a huge problem. Need to develop and transfer new technologies (e.g. clean coal burning ) so that China et al can grow in energy use without increasing GHG emissions proportionately; also increase efficiency in energy use. It's the biggest problem we have; but it is soluble.

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College Park, Md.: Congratulations on winning the Nobel Peace Prize. It seems that some are having a hard time with the connection between man-made climate change and peace. What do you think you, your colleagues, and regular citizens can do to make that connection most salient to people? Thank you for your answer and all of your work.

Martin Parry: I think this is potentially a peace issue because climate change can affect security at the global level...e.g. access to water and food; and lead to large scale migrations and consequent instability at the global level. The most negative impacts are expected in semi-arid poor parts of the world, so this argument is not so far-fetched.

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Purcellville, Va.: How do you respond to accusations that Mr. Gore's book is inaccurate and overblown?

Martin Parry: I have just been watch Gore's film again; It is broadly correct. There are some factual errors but these are few and do not affect the main argument

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New York, N.Y.: It's not often that I weep when I hear the Nobel Prize announcements, but I did just that this morning. Thank you for your very important work, and congratulations to you and your colleagues!

Martin Parry: Thanks

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Seattle, Wash.: How do you recommend countries build their plans for slowly or stopping global warming? In order to get done, a plan will have to be a big affair and take lots of work or else people will put it off indefinitely, but that leaves us open new developments, new technologies that change the picture. I just wonder how to deal with the long time-span and changing nature of the problem and solutions.

Martin Parry: This needs high-level cooperation both within and between countries; something that has been very difficult to achieve so far....but we have to achieve it.

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Washington, D.C.: So, please explain to me what climate change has to do with the Nobel Peace Prize. I certainly believe that human beings are destroying our planet, however, I would argue that the whole "climate change" debate actually is a negative drag to fixing the planet and focuses on the wrong issues.

Al Gore made a movie...I really hope that someone else has done something much more noteworthy that has been overlooked in favor of political correctness. If not, that says more about the fate of the world than I ever could.

Martin Parry: Climate change potentially affects our access to key resources such as water and food. It could affect the lives of billions. That could affect global security. Hence it is a peace issue.

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Washington, D.C.: Can you please give us some examples of your actual measurable accomplishments?

Martin Parry: We now have a much better idea of what impacts worldwide are likely to occur for a range of global temperature increases; not just anecdotal but science-based; and we know what actions need to be taken to avoid these. It's is up to the public and politicians to decide what impacts they wish to avoid and thus what actions are needed.

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Coal Country, W.Va.: Congratulations on your award. I live in a state that depends heavily on coal mining for our economy. There are fewer people digging more coal than ever. I know there's a lot of research on clean coal technology but do you think it's realistic? Politically, our state would never support anyone who did not support the mining of coal. I hate to see our history and future so tied to this industry but it is what it is.

Martin Parry: Afraid I do not know much about the economics of clean coal. But it is hugely important, not just for Virginia but for China and India, that it is economically competitive with orthodox methods

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Vienna, Va.: Are you at least willing to acknowledge that in the effort to convince everyone about the need to take action, that the movie and other efforts sometimes exaggerate causes and potential effects, as the judge in Britain clearly ruled?

There seems to be such an effort to demonize anyone who raises questions about details, as if anyone who does so is denying everything about climate change.

washingtonpost.com: U.K. Judge Rules Gore's Climate Film Has 9 Errors ( Weekend, Oct. 12)

Martin Parry: Skepticism is always welcome. Keeps scientist on their toes.

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Newfoundland, Canada: Big question, but I'm curious: October 2037. What to you honestly see given your knowledge of science and politics?

Martin Parry: I regret I am not that optimistic, given that 10 years have passed without significant action to reduce emissions. It is now urgent.

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Pickens, S.C.: We are already witnessing the trashing of Nobel winners on Fox News and right-wing radio.

Why do you suppose that the Climate Change deniers feel the need to be so abrasive toward those who call for corrective action by the people and the nations of the world?

Martin Parry: For some reason, and I do not know why, the issue has somehow become one of belief rather than reasoning. We need to keep our heads on this, not get locked into ideological corners.

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Kensington, Md.: First congratulations, and thank you for appearing on the Web site of a newspaper that has shown an astonishing loyalty to climate change skeptics and other questionable characters in its choices of commentators on the subject.

Now a general question. While your work in assembling and coordinating discussion of the world's top scientists on this subject was a remarkable step, I happen to know that the consensus on this issue was in place years ago. Your organization is only the latest national (U.S.) and international scientific body to come out in agreement. Unfortunately, there are a large number of (mostly) conservatives in this country who are so virulently opposed to the U.N. that I'm afraid your statement may have only steeled their resolve to keep their heads buried. What do you think can be done to get past this provincial antipathy and make them realize that it's not about the U.N., but about all of us?

Martin Parry: Two things: 1. Build from the bottom up (e.g. action in towns, cities, states) 2. Write to your senator and congressman

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Pittsburgh, Va.: I've read that Portugal's Azores Islands are aiming to become the first energy-sufficient jurisdiction in the E.U. in the next several years, through use of such abundant renewable resources as geothermal, wind and tidal energy (not sure re solar, however). Do you know much about this effort, and do you see them as a microcosm for the rest of the world, or merely an exception?

Martin Parry: This sort of bottom-up action is increasing, especially since international agreements have been slow to happen. Do not know much about this Azores initiative. But here in the U.K. we have towns and districts trying to reduce their carbon footprint.

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Annandale, Va.: What is the next step for the panel, what are you working on now that would interest us?

Martin Parry: We need core information about how much climate change we can adapt to and what would be the cost of adaptation. Then we can make a balanced judgment about how much to reduce emissions and how much climate change to leave for adaptation. We cannot avoid all climate change by emissions reductions, the effort would be too huge, so we will have to adapt to some. But what is the best balance between the two is something we need to know much more about.

I am sorry but I have to go now. It has been a pleasure trying to answer your questions

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Martin Parry: Sorry, but I have to go now. Many thanks for your questions ; keep up the probing! Martin parry

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