Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize in part because “the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting.” Looks like he’ll be going to Copenhagen after all!

UPDATE:  Since Obama is in a media down-cycle, the herd has been falling all over itself to turn this amazing honor into some sort of a millstone.  Please, give me such millstones.  The winner of the most inane statement by a major news outlet is also the winner of the most inane headline, “The Last Thing Obama Needs Is the Nobel Peace Prize,” by Time’s Nancy Gibbs, who writes, “At this moment, many Americans are longing for a President who is more bully, less pulpit.” Yes, “many” Americans are longing for bullies like George Bush and Dick Cheney.  We call them conservatives.

In a stunning announcement (full text below), “The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize  for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

Obama won, in part, for reversing the immoral efforts of the Cheney-Bush administration to block and subvert international climate negotiations:

Thanks to Obama’s initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting.

We already knew that “Obama was willing to attend Copenhagen climate talks,” if he were invited.  In an exclusive interview, Andrew Light, Center for American Progress Senior Fellow and an expert on international climate talks, explained to CP that now, effectively, he has been:

Barack Obama is now the third sitting president to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  This is an enormous honor. The timing on this for those following the future of a new international climate treaty could not be more critical.  The Peace Prize is presented in Oslo on December 10th.  The UN climate talks, where the agenda will feature decisions on replacing the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012, start in Copenhagen on December 7th.  The expectation that President Obama will now go for at least part of  the UN climate talks is enormous as he’ll already be in Scandinavia.

Light coordinates CAP’s participation in the Global Climate Network, focusing on international climate change policy and the future of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. He is also director of the Center for Global Ethics at George Mason University.  He adds some historical perspective:

Remember that Al Gore went immediately to the UN climate meeting in Bali after accepting the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007.  Gore’s speech at the Bali meeting, and closed door sessions with climate negotiators for two days following, is credited by some as having saved  those talks from failure.  Before Gore arrived the EU was about to walk out over protests that the US was holding up progress on the “Bali Action Plan,” the document that set the parameters for what success at Copenhagen is supposed to look like this December.  It’s hard to imagine a more directed appeal for President Obama to come to Copenhagen and achieve a similar success.

While some may argue that this award is premature, I disagree.  This is a clear statement by the Nobel Committee not merely of the importance of US multilateralism to genuine progress toward global peace, but also of their understanding that climate change has become a critical international issue.

Unrestricted emissions of GHGs represent perhaps the gravest, preventable threat to future world peace — a growing source of future strife, refugees, conflict, and wars (see “Memorial Day, 2029“).  Al Gore and the IPCC won in 2007 “for their work to alert the world to the threat of global warming.”  Alerting the world was and is vital.  Taking action is even more crucial.

Obama and his international negotiating team led by Secretary of State Clinton have helped create the first genuine chance that the entire world will come together and agree to sharply diverge from the catastrophic business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions path.  This award simultaneously acknowledges what they have achieved and pushes them and the world toward delivering on Obama’s promise.  It is well deserved.

Here is the Nobel committee’s full statement:

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama’s initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.

Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.

For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world’s leading spokesman. The Committee endorses Obama’s appeal that “Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.”

Kudos to President Obama for inspiring the world and for starting to deliver on his unprecedented agenda of change.  Kudos to the American public for rejecting the narrow, unilateralist, climate-destroying policies of his predecessor.

Note:  I’m trying something new with this post.  Rather than doing a second post, since this one has generated a good discussion, I’m just moving this update to the top of the page overnight.  That does mess up the dateline, which originally was 8:06 am.

31 Responses to Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize in part because “the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting.” Looks like he’ll be going to Copenhagen after all!

  1. David Stern says:

    I think it is premature. He’s been in office for less than a year. The other two US presidents who got it while in office were in office for 5-6 years when they won.

  2. Frankly I think it is great and not very surprising. The Peace Prize has tended to be proactive, promoting peace building efforts while they are still underway with the hope of building momentum and enhanced credibility for those awarded the prize. It really operates quite differently from the other awards that tend to be more retrospective.

  3. Gail says:

    I take this as a recognition that climate stability is an imperative for peace and security, and that Obama is the best chance Earth has to achieve it. It’s not premature. It’s a strong signal that a global shift to clean energy is the most important issue, ever.

  4. Ed says:

    Beating the McCain/Palin package is in itself wearth a Nobel peace price. Now lets hope he get’s back on track with his Change program. But I see more and more signs that change is meant for “them” and not for “me”, whilst true change needs no presidential backing. Change is proces of selfexamination, reflection and emotional and intellectual progres. Turning away from old values and embracing new. And rearranging your life so it stops fitting the old on’s and starts fitting the new.

    That cannot be done by politics that is only done by person for person. 300 million strong should change their lifestyle within a decade.

    Greetings, Ed

  5. mike roddy says:

    I think Obama was given this award was because of his determination about climate change, but this isn’t the way it’s being spun in the US press. The big papers are talking about his reaching out to Muslims as the reason for the prize.

    Actually, Obama doesn’t deserve it for his Middle East policy, since he added troops in Afghanistan, is slow footed about Iraq, and is perpetuating rendition and mercenary subcontracting. So the award really could only have been for his climate change goals. Once again, our mainstream media is blowing it.

  6. Vinod says:

    Going by Gail’s comment, the Nobel prize for Physics, Chemistry and Medicine should have gone to bright undergrads who will hopefully in the coming years contribute a lot to their respective fields. A prize is for what you have achieved and not for what you could in the future. (climate change or otherwise). With due respect to Mr. Obama, he enjoys the power of the US presidential office to bring about change more effectively than individuals who do not share the same privilege. And I believe it is these lesser privileged individuals who should be recognized for their efforts. In any case, I do not think Mr. Obama has in his 8 month tenure achieved anything that deserves a Nobel.

  7. Leland Palmer says:

    Well, he’s done a lot, and looks like he will do more in the future.

    Good choice for the peace prize, IMO.

    The MSM gets it wrong deliberately, IMO.

  8. Gail says:

    Obama has done something. He has put climate change front and center. That’s the most important thing anybody could do. The UN and the Nobel committee have made their priority clear.

  9. Jeff Huggins says:

    Congratulations President Obama. Bravo! Well-deserved!

    Yet, most of the work is still ahead, as I’m sure you know. We need to effectively address the climate and energy problems, with emphasis on the words ‘effectively’ and ‘address’.

    Congratulations again!


  10. Jeff Green says:

    This shows the frustration the world had under president Bush for during his 8 years. WHat surprises me is that how just the beginning of change is so significant when there is so much more to do.

    But it also the American people that voted for him that also deserve a part of making his change possible.

    The griping people such as the teabaggers are becoming more and more marginalized by this recognition. Conservatives historically are the last to get on board with change. It is so true of todays global movement.

  11. Mike D says:

    I hear they are going to give him the Cy Young Award for his pitching at the All Star Game

  12. Mike D says:

    “Conservatives historically are the last to get on board with change. It is so true of todays global movement.”

    That’s the definition of conservatism…

  13. paulm says:

    Brilliant news :)

  14. Setting a new direction in foreign policy is enough to warrant this recognition.

    Encouragement of a better climate policy in the future is a worthwhile statement by the Nobel Committee.

    Now it is time to actually start to think about what can be made to work. Wind and solar systems are not projected to come close to giving us reserve electric power capacity to respond to new loads even in the far out future. Hence, fossil fuels will burn to provide electric power for the Volt, Fisker, and Tesla. Even at its lowest price point this past summer, natural gas could not significantly displace coal as the preferred choice for responding to new loads. Now that natural gas is at $5 and headed to $7 per MMBTU, that is even more set as the reality choice for the future. (So much for natural gas abundance — at least those who are on the line to provide power in the future do not see it.) So it comes down to coal juice (electric power) as the fuel for Volt, Fisker, and Tesla to guzzle, not to mention the plug-in Yukon and its friends that are on the way. The plug-in Prius conversions are no help since they are a step backwards over the otherwise well designed production Prius.

    Hopefully the Aptera will get some of the funding gravy so at least there will be some movement in the direction of real energy efficiency. Apparently an amendment is going through to remove the restriction that funding had to be for four wheeled cars only.

  15. Brewster says:

    I feel it’s premature.

    I have nothing but admiration for a lot of what he’s trying to do, and wish him all the luck in the world, but it AIN’T DONE YET.

  16. Wes Rolley says:

    If this is what he takes to Copenhagen, we all lose. And, it is not in his hands, but those of the US Congress. You know, the group that killed Kyoto.

    [JR: Your comment is too cryptic to be understood.]

  17. Mike#22 says:

    Today, the MSM is puzzled, as they struggle to reconcile their vacant opinions of this President with his receipt of the world’s highest honor.

    The award merely recognizes the man for what he is, and what he is doing.

    The world sees it very clearly, as this 10/05/09 Anholt-GfK Roper poll shows: “What’s really remarkable is that in all my years studying national reputation, I have never seen any country experience such a dramatic change in its standing as we see for the United States in 2009,” explains Simon Anholt, NBI founder and an independent advisor to over a dozen national governments around the world”

  18. BBHY says:

    Tweety was just showing approval rates for Bush and Obama for various European countries. The numbers run like 11% Bush, 88% Obama, 7% Bush, 92% Obama, etc.

    The Nobel committee is mostly European. I think this is mostly just a great big Thank You!

  19. pete best says:

    Yes the world will take you herculean 2.5% cuts on offer measly though it is. Its better than the 3% year on year increase I suppose.

    [JR: It isn’t a 2.5% cut. Try again.]

  20. ken levenson says:

    I was struck by his starck language:

    “We cannot accept the growing threat posed by climate change, which could forever damage the world that we pass on to our children — sowing conflict and famine; destroying coastlines and emptying cities.”

    Emptying cities….

    If only more public officials spoke to such direct consequences!

  21. Bill Woods says:

    Wes Rolly: “And, it is not in his hands, but those of the US Congress. You know, the group that killed Kyoto.”

    [JR: Your comment is too cryptic to be understood.]

    The US Senate voted 95-0 against the terms of Kyoto.

    [JR: Cleverly phrased, but essentially false and misleading.]

  22. Bill R says:

    If this award places extra pressure on Obama to get things done and he follows though by placing himself politically on the line to get it done and we get a world agreement in climate change then this move has been worth it.

    For me, his actions have not shown the true conviction necessary to get a climate deal done and to get climate legislation at home. I’m sorry but true conviction would not have left this to any chance by distracting the US with health legislation. It’s not that the latter is not important…. its just not as important IMHO.

  23. David B. Benson says:

    Congradualtions to BHO!

    Soon to be Nobelist BHO.

  24. Gail says:

    Bill R, I have said all along that Obama is playing chess, not checkers. The early focus on health-care is to create a stepping stone, a necessary win for him to build on that momentum for the really big struggle to convert to clean energy. Big pharma and insurance companies are like mewling kittens compared to the snarling tigers of oil and coal.

    Buckle your seatbelts!

  25. SFB says:

    Gail is right. My recollection is that over 50% of US voters are in favor of health care reform and about 1% of US voters are fomenting for comparable attention to climate extinction. Politics is, first and foremost, about counting votes. Obama may be able to muster the votes for health care reform because the polls support him. If he waded in now with a soup-to-nuts overhaul of US energy policy, and everything else necessary to roll back GHG emissions et cetera, he’d be a non-starter in the next Presidential primary. All you have to do is look at all the hoo hah he’s had to face from the health care lobby – and imagine what would happen if he took on the energy industry and all those who have a vested interest in the status quo.

  26. paulm says:

    I have agree, Gail is right. So are the Nobel committee. It’s all very scary.

  27. HighTest says:

    The very people who try to stop Obama from doing anything now say he hasn’t done anything, and so he doesn’t deserve the Peace Prize.

    Oh, the wisdom of the Nobel committee. You can hear their relief, their gratitude, at Obama’s , turn-around, can-do leadership. They understand exactly that his are the giant first steps necessary for the daunting tasks ahead, without which there will be little peace anywhere in the world..

    This is a measure of how truly worried– alarmed– our allies have been over the American conservatives’ policies. UnAmerican policies. The world is so glad to have us back where we belong–wise, pragmatic leader of the free world.

  28. robert benson says:

    Naomi Klein’s take, on Democracy Now 10/9/09:

    “But what I’m working on right now is a piece for Rolling Stone about the
    climate negotiations leading up to Copenhagen. And one of the things that
    the Obama administration is being rewarded for with this prize or what
    Barack Obama is personally being rewarded for in this prize is his supposed
    breakthroughs on international relations. What we’re actually seeing, as we
    speak, in Bangkok-this is the final day of two weeks of climate
    negotiations-has been extraordinarily destructive behavior on the part of
    the United States government, on the part of the Obama administration,
    absolutely derailing the climate negotiations in the lead-up to Copenhagen.
    Developing countries are absolutely shocked by what US climate negotiators
    have done. They have gone into these talks saying, you know, “We’re back. We
    want to reengage with the world.” What they’ve actually done is made a
    series of demands that would destroy the Kyoto Protocol and the binding
    emission architecture that was set up under Kyoto. So, to reward the Nobel
    Prize in the context of destroying the climate, where the US is destroying
    the climate negotiations, or threatening to, to me, is just shocking.”

    [JR: The media gets a lot of stories wrong. Some people believe this, especially in the G77. It is, I think, bullshit. If the emissions architecture set up under Kyoto was binding, then please explain to me why so many countries failed to hit their target. Do you really think Hillary Clinton and Todd Stern are destroying the climate negotiations? Seriously.]

  29. We need to pay some attention to what international agreements actually mean. And they do not mean the same thing to the various parties involved. Thus, trying to influence the world with conferences might turn out to be frustrating.

    First, there is no such thing as International Law; only a bunch of agreements and treaties, none of which are enforceable without some strong arm country backing the decision. I recall the discussion of the Monroe Doctrine as a great pronouncement by the USA banning European countries from certain colonial activities. Wow, this little country seemed pretty powerful for the time; but then it was pointed out that it happened to coincide with British interests on the world stage in 1800, so it stuck due to the enforcing power of the British Navy. (I think I have this about right.)

    Getting back to Kyoto, while this was a generally agreed on doctrine, it was never binding. Those countries that adhered to it seem to have had energy interests that made the Kyoto plan desirable for them and the Kyoto ideal helped such countries to convince their own populations that it was important to implement. European countries have a particularly strong interest in reducing fossil fuel use since such fuels are not so plentiful there except at the whim of Russia; thus there is a balance of power issue looming over all this talk.

    I also note that the USA has a hard time getting any international agreement actually ratified as a treaty. We might sign an agreement and follow it, uh well mostly, like the 1935 agreement that regulates international radio frequencies, but still not ratify it as a treaty. Supposedly this reluctance to ratify is partly due to the legal force of a ratified treaty and the way it puts power in the courts to assure its enforcement.

    So our failure to ratify Kyoto is not entirely due to selfish interests. And comparing us to countries that signed but did not meet goals should not cast too much shame on us.

    So when Pres. Hu said that China would not allow binding agreements to hinder their development, I read this with the foregoing in mind. He actually could have been more disingenuous and pledged action, thereby gaining favor with the West, and then proceeded to do as they wish. At least we now know that there are limits to what we can expect from China.

    And even more importantly, there are limits to what can be done with international conventions.

    The fact is that USA, China, and India have a lot of coal. Cutting back on coal is going to be difficult. I submit that it is pretentious to deal with CO2 by using electricity as a means of shifting to coal as the fuel of transportation. The deception that electricity is not coal juice is not going to work out very well.

    My argument evaporates when there is reserve capacity from renewable sources of electricity such that the marginal response to new loads will be drawn from such renewables. That situation needs to be close to being the case before a great push for energy guzzling electric cars is appropriate.

    In the meantime it might be wise to work toward energy sipping cars. This might be a more effective way to lead in the right direction.

  30. Gail says:

    The federal government is…”the largest consumer of energy in the US economy.”

    Wow, think about the military!


    “The group of Cabinet secretaries and White House advisers who meet regularly to craft the president’s energy and environmental agenda now numbers 13, double what it was during the administration’s early days.”

    “Since the summer, when everyone else’s attention was focused on the heated town hall meetings over health care, Obama administration officials have been meeting with more than half the Senate, made calls to nearly 100 mayors in 17 states, and met with numerous governors, according to White House records. Their goal, according to Carol Browner, the president’s assistant for energy and climate change, “is to get the bill moving and keep it moving.”

  31. Stephan says:

    Although it is quite a controversial decission giving Obama the nobel price mainly based on his promises, it can be a good addition towards stimulating him further on continueing the chosen path. I’m curious to see where this will lead.

    For more info on the environment, have a look at this Green News.