(CBS/AP) Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to spread awareness of man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures needed to counteract it.
In a statement, Gore said he is "deeply honored" and finds the award even more meaningful because he has honor of sharing it with Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Gore calls the U.N. panel "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."
"We face a true planetary emergency," Gore continued, seizing the opportunity to get out his message. "The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity. It is also our greatest opportunity to lift global consciousness to a higher level."
Gore adds that the cash which accompanies the Nobel prize will be donated to the Alliance for Climate Protection.
In Washington, Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto offered the first White House reaction to news that Gore has won the Nobel Peace Prize. Fratto told CBS News: "Of course we're happy for Vice President Gore and the IPCC for receiving this recognition."
Gore, who won an Academy Award this year for his film "An Inconvenient Truth," a documentary on global warming, had been widely expected to win the prize.
The former vice president had been nominated jointly with Canadian Inuit activist Sheila Watt-Cloutier. Nobel watchers and bookmakers had figured both nominees as good bets, along with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its leader, Rajendra Pachauri.
Others who were thought to be in the running this year were Finnish peace mediator Matti Ahtisaari, Vietnamese monk Thich Quang Do and Irena Sendler, who saved Jewish children in Poland during World War II.
The five-member Norwegian committee that awards the Peace Prize works in secret, releasing only the number of candidates - 181 this year. "We stake our pride on keeping it secret," Geir Lundestad, the committee's non-voting secretary, said as speculation abounded the day before the prize winners were announced.
This year, climate change was high on the international agenda. The U.N. climate panel has been releasing reports, talks are set to resume on a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol, and there is concern about the melting Arctic.
Jan Egeland, a Norwegian peace mediator and former U.N. undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, called climate change more than an environmental issue.
"It is a question of war and peace," said Egeland, now director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs in Oslo. "We're already seeing the first climate wars, in the Sahel belt of Africa." He said nomads and herders are in conflict with farmers because the changing climate has brought drought and a shortage of fertile lands.
The committee often uses the prize to highlight a person or cause.
Even before Gore's Nobel prize was announced in Oslo Friday, speculation began over whether a Nobel medal might cause Gore to consider becoming a candidate for president - one more time. Wednesday, a group of Gore supporters paid for a full-page ad in Wednesday’s New York Times asking him to enter the race.
"Winning a Nobel Peace Prize is a life changing event," Dylan Malone, who runs a Web site called AlGore.org, which advocates a Gore presidential run, told CBSNews.com’s Brian Monotopoli. "He's done the slideshow, made the movie, won every accolade that our society has to give. There's nowhere else to go to take it to the next level in my mind."
In recent years, the Norwegian committee has broadened its interpretation of peacemaking and disarmament efforts outlined by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel in creating the prize in his will. The Peace Prize, first awarded in 1901, now often recognizes efforts to foster human rights or democracy, to eliminate poverty, or to share resources and protect the environment.
The Peace Prize is presented in Oslo while the Nobel prizes for medicine, chemistry, physics and economics are handed out in Stockholm, Sweden. The ceremonies are held Dec. 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death in 1896. The prizes include a gold medal, a diploma and a $1.5 million cash award.
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