Former U.S. Vice President and Senator Al Gore has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work against global warming.
Gore does have a long history of speaking out on the issue of global warming. His film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” has played a role in bringing the issue of climate change to broader masses of people.
However, Gore is no prophet of peace. He is a thoroughly imperialist politician who has supported numerous deadly U.S. attacks on oppressed nations. And while his environmental advocacy has promoted a scientifically accurate view of the causes of global warming, the solutions he advances are market based and do not address the root cause of the problem, which is untrammeled capitalist development.
An imperialist politician
As VP, Gore supported the dismemberment of the former Yugoslavia and advocated U.S. military attacks on Serbia. The Clinton-Gore administration supported a U.S. invasion of Somalia that was sold as a “humanitarian” intervention, and which ended in a rout as the Somali people fought back in the “Black Hawk Down” battle of Mogadishu.
As vice president, Al Gore was architect of the Clinton administration’s Iraq policy. In response to an alleged Iraqi plot to assassinate George Bush the father, Gore advanced a retaliatory plan that resulted in the bombing of the Baghdad suburb of Mansour, killing Leila al-Attar, a prominent Iraqi artist.
Prior to the 2000 election, Gore called for expansion of the no-fly zones in Iraq and said that Iraqi planes entering the zones should be shot down.
Gore expressed no remorse for the U.S.-backed sanctions that killed 1.5 million people in Iraq. A Counterpunch article by Alexander Cockburn recounted the following story:
“On June 29, 2000, Gore was in Chicago to talk about ‘energy policy incentives for cities.’ Danny Muller of Voices in the Wilderness went to Navy Pier, where the event was being held. Gore was at the podium amid wild ovations. Muller remembers the scene: ‘I raised my voice and asked ‘Mr. Gore, why should anyone vote for an administration that kills 5,000 innocent children a month through sanctions in Iraq?’ Gore stopped. And he laughed. He actually laughed. He said he would discuss this later in the day. I responded by saying that every ten minutes a child dies in Iraq due to sanctions and we do not have the time to wait.
“Muller was still protesting as Gore’s security goons hauled him off.”
Pro-capitalist global warming solutions
Gore’s environmental film and other public discourse have increased public knowledge of the scientific consensus on the causes of global warming through carbon emissions.
However, Gore’s solution to the problem of global warming is a “green capitalist” approach. His foundation supports programs like carbon trading and carbon offsets. With carbon offsets, individuals or corporations can pay money towards a project which might reduce carbon, such as planting trees somewhere, to “offset” carbon emissions they have created.
While this might seem logical because trees absorb carbon, (and tree-planting is generally a good thing) there is no proof that planting trees somewhere on the planet will offset the carbon emissions created by a specific airplane flight, or by a coal-fueled energy plant.
Carbon trading works in a similar fashion. Companies get credit to emit a certain amount of carbon. If a company does not emit carbon as much it is allowed to emit, that company can sell its left over carbon emissions credit to another company, which can then emit more. Both schemes are sort of like the old system of the Catholic Church selling “indulgences” for various sins.
Gore has also been a proponent of bio-fuels, which are heavily and confusingly promoted on the website of his foundation, the Alliance for Climate Protection.
Most bio-fuels are currently made from food crops such as corn, resulting in an increase in prices for corn, milk and other foods. For countries where corn is a staple, like Mexico, the increase in corn prices has hurt working-class people and led to street protests.
Elsewhere, as in Colombia, peasants and farmers are being pushed off their land so that palm oil plantations can expand to meet the demand for bio-fuels. Expanded bio-fuel crop planting has actually resulted in forests being cut down, which actually increases the level of carbon emissions.
Gore’s Nobel Prize is being hailed in the corporate media and many liberals as a validation of Gore as a “leader.” Some say it portends another run for the White House for the former vice president.
But for working people, for peace and environmental activists, Gore simply joins the ranks of imperialist political figures who have received the Nobel Peace Prize—from South Africa’s apartheid leader F.W. De Clerk, to Israeli Zionist Yitzak Rabin, to war criminal Henry Kissinger.