PALO ALTO, California (Reuters) - Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, said he was getting straight back to work on the “planetary emergency” of climate change.
But he refused to answer reporters’ questions on whether the award would make him change his mind and enter the U.S. presidential campaign as a Democratic candidate before the November 2008 election.
“We have to quickly find a way to change the world’s consciousness about exactly what we’re facing,” Gore said, appearing in public nearly nine hours after the award was announced in Oslo.
Gore shared the Nobel prize with the U.N. climate panel for their work helping galvanize international action against global warming.
“It is the most dangerous challenge we’ve ever faced but it is also the greatest opportunity that we have ever had to make changes that we should be making for other reasons anyway,” said Gore, standing with his wife, Tipper, and four Stanford University faculty members who work with the U.N. climate panel.
“This is a chance to elevate global consciousness about the challenges that we face now.”
“I’m going back to work right now. This is just the beginning,” Gore added, leaving the 70 journalists hanging by not taking questions.
That left unanswered a question on the minds of many in the United States after his Nobel win: would Gore, who narrowly lost the 2000 presidential election to Republican George W. Bush, jump in to join a crowded Democratic field of candidates ahead of the presidential election next year.
Gore has made it known he is not interested, although some Democratic activists are campaigning for him to get into the race, and the Nobel award on Friday further fueled their hopes.
Gore has campaigned on climate change since leaving office in 2001 after the bruising and disputed election result that put Bush in the White House.
Gore, who appeared somber rather than elated over the award, said, “For my part, I will be doing everything I can to try to understand how to best use the honor and recognition of this award as a way of speeding up the change in awareness and the change in urgency.”
“It truly is a planetary emergency and we have to respond quickly,” he said.
Gore carried on with his plans despite the life-changing announcement, attending a scheduled meeting in Palo Alto in the heart of the Silicon Valley, where innovators are eager to jump start the clean technology industry.
Stanford biology professor Chris Field said the prize “adds tremendous momentum” to work on conservation, efficiency, new technology and carbon capture and storage.
“I think we are seeing there is no single solution ... but there are great opportunities in all four areas,” Field said.
Gore said in a statement earlier that he would donate all of his share of the Nobel prize winnings to the Alliance for Climate Protection — a nonprofit group Gore founded last year to raise public awareness of climate change.
“This award is even more meaningful because I have the honor of sharing it with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — the world’s pre-eminent scientific body devoted to improving our understanding of the climate crisis — a group whose members have worked tirelessly and selflessly for many years,” Gore said in his earlier written statement.
Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington