Questioning Authority: Alan Pounds on Al Gore

Alan Pounds, resident scientist at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve in Monteverde, Costa Rica, will be on campus October 24 to speak about the causal links between global warming and the disappearance of the golden toad and other species. We asked him for his thoughts on the recent award of the Nobel Peace Prize to former vice president Al Gore and the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

QA: The announcement that Gore had won this year's Nobel Peace Prize was greeted with both cheers and jeers. Some of the response is undoubtedly politically motivated, but how much of this reflects the controversy still surrounding the science of global warming and climate change?

AP: Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change greatly deserve the Nobel peace prize. At this stage, anyone who argues that global warming is not really a problem is refusing to look at the science that's on the table. Some people are trying desperately to keep the debate alive to maintain an illusion of uncertainty. Such denial may reflect politics, but ultimately it comes down to vested financial interests.

QA: Some of the critics of the Nobel Committee argue the choice is inappropriate for an award intended to honor those working towards world peace. Is there any link between peace and climate change, or is this a valid criticism?

AP: No, this is not a valid criticism. There are indeed major links between world peace and climate change. How can we expect humans to live together in peace and harmony if many millions become displaced, or if they realize that their livelihoods and chances for health and happiness are deteriorating? Anyone who doubts that peace depends on stabilizing the climate must think that humanity is above nature.

QA: Will this prestigious recognition of Gore's campaign to educate people about global warming put new pressure on the United States and other countries to take more aggressive steps to control climate change?

AP: Hopefully, by drawing new attention to the problem, it will lead more voters and consumers to realize that our life-support system is crumbling and that the clock is running. These are the people who have the power to demand accountability and to bring about the much-needed changes in energy policy.

QA: Given your own work, do you agree with Gore that global warming is "the most dangerous challenge we've ever faced?"

AP: Yes, I do agree that global warming is the most dangerous challenge we've ever faced. Our own work has focused on the biological impacts. What's striking is the complexity; the effects of climate change on living systems are manifold. If the Earth's climate continues to deteriorate, we cannot expect nature to continue providing us with the vital services that we take for granted.

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