Gore's Nobel Win Greeted With Cheers by Europeans

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The Washington Post

Gore's Nobel Win Greeted With Cheers by Europeans

by
Kevin Sullivan

LONDON  -- News of Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize was received with delight Monday across Europe, where President Bush is deeply unpopular, climate change is generally accepted as undisputed fact and the former vice president is widely seen as a welcome anti-Bush.

"He's the evidence that America is still capable of intelligent discourse," said Peter Kellner, who heads the British polling firm YouGov. According to Kellner, opinion polls show that British people generally admire America and Americans but strongly dislike Bush. He also said surveys routinely find that more than 80 percent of Britons agree with Gore that climate change exists and is man-made.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called Gore "inspirational," and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said he hoped Gore's honor would encourage world leaders to "approach this challenge even more swiftly and decisively."

John Noach, 69, a Dutch citizen who was sitting in a London Starbucks on Friday, said that in Europe, "most reasonable people" think of Gore as "a lifeline to sanity."

Respect for environmentalism crosses political and social lines in Europe; the 27-country European Union views itself as the global leader in addressing such issues as warming and pollution. The choice of Gore for the honor, conferred by an independent committee appointed by the parliament of Norway, reflected mainstream thinking in Europe as a whole.

Last October, Gore's Academy Award-winning film "An Inconvenient Truth" was shown to about 200 members of the French parliament to "sensitize deputies and senators" to environmental issues, according to the then-president of the National Assembly, Jean-Louis Debre.

Le Monde newspaper called the screening a "triumph," and its columnist Dominique Dhombres hailed Gore as "the American hero of the fight against global warming."

After the award was announced Friday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy praised Gore as "an outstanding personality" and said that "today's fight against climate change is a determining factor for tomorrow's peace. . . . I'm very happy that such a great American used his position to set an example."

In Italy, Prime Minister Romano Prodi said Gore's selection underlined the need for "everyone to combat climate change," a statement echoed by other political leaders. But climate change is not a major political issue in Italy, and Gore's movie received only limited distribution there.

Gore's Nobel met with applause in Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel has sought for months with limited success to persuade the Bush administration to do more about climate change under the auspices of the United Nations and the Group of Eight major industrial powers.

"Like no other, Al Gore has for many years through his personal commitment contributed to heightening global awareness of the need to develop effective strategies to counter climate change," Merkel said Friday.

Some Germans were wistful that the peace prize didn't go to one of their own -- former chancellor Helmut Kohl, an architect of German unification, was rumored to be in the running.

At a conference on global warming this week in Potsdam, many scientists were openly rooting for Gore to win. The German government had invited 15 Nobel Prize laureates from a variety of disciplines to attend the event, including Rajendra K. Pachauri, the U.N. climate scientist whose panel shared the peace prize with Gore on Friday.

Gore has critics as well in Europe, including a man who filed a lawsuit in Britain objecting to the film, which is being sent to 3,500 schools in England and Wales. The judge in that case ruled this week that while the basic premise of the film was correct, Gore had made nine errors of scientific fact.

"I say, Al Gore should go for it, but get your facts right first," said Billy Dunworth, 41, a construction worker browsing in a London bookshop. "He's like Princess Diana and gives attention to good causes. But he must get his facts straight."

Michael White, a political columnist at the Guardian newspaper who has written widely on American politics, said he suspected Gore was more popular abroad than at home. In his view, the former vice president doesn't appeal to a minority of Britons who are "pathologically hostile to the United States." But he said Gore is popular among the much larger number "who want to think well of America."

"Al Gore is like Michael Moore for grown-ups," White said, citing the controversial maker of the film "Fahrenheit 9/11." "For better or worse, he's the kind of priggish American we approve of."

Correspondents John Ward Anderson in Paris and Craig Whitlock in Berlin contributed to this article. Special correspondents Karla Adam in London and Sarah Delaney in Italy also contributed.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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