Last week, the Nobel committee announced its annual Peace Prize, awarding it jointly to Al Gore and the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It is a significant recognition for Gore, who has been transformed from a presidential candidate who lost (even though he won) into an environmental evangelist who has changed public opinion on the threat of global warming. His response to the award was that he will use it to continue his work to increase awareness of "a true planetary emergency" and press the world's nations to combat its threats. "The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity," Gore told the press.
Gore spent years slogging through presentations to small audiences with a slide show. Now the slide show has become an Academy Award-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, and its author has won a Nobel Prize. His deep and passionate commitment led to his persistence, and that persistence is beginning to show results.
The issue of climate change was there all along, but it took the research of an international committee of scientists and an evangelist who publicized their research to make a difference. Critics say Gore is alarmist, but that's always the role of an evangelist. There is doom to come if you don't change your ways. But redemption is always possible with conversion leading to a change of mind and heart - that leads to a change in direction and life choices. Many of our most effective social change movements have been spurred by spiritual transformation.
There is more and more evidence that the warnings are not exaggerated. The polar ice caps are melting at a shocking rate. In September, the Guardian reported that in one week an area nearly twice the size of the UK had melted in the Arctic. In fact, I recently heard that over the past year, an area as large as the U.S. east of the Mississippi melted. It is indeed a crisis of biblical proportions.
I congratulate Al Gore for the Nobel Peace Prize. He deserves our gratitude and thanks. But more importantly, we need to respond to his altar call and change our lifestyles before it is too late and the doom is upon us.
Jim Wallis is the Editor-in-Chief of Sojourners and blogs at www.godspolitics.com.