OSLO, Norway - Former Vice President Al Gore, accepting his Nobel Peace Prize yesterday, called on the United States and China, the world's two largest polluters, "to make the boldest moves" on climate change "or stand accountable before history for their failure to act."
"Both countries should stop using each other's behavior as an excuse for stalemate," Gore said, labeling the threat from rising temperatures and sea levels "a planetary emergency, a threat to the survival of our civilization that is gathering, ominous and destructive."
"The future is knocking at our door right now," Gore said, paraphrasing the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen during a regal, 90-minute ceremony at Oslo's City Hall.
Gore shared the $1.5 million prize, widely considered the world's most prestigious award, with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the U.N. panel, said in an acceptance speech that thousands of scientists had spent two decades documenting global warming. He said "myopic indifference" to the crisis threatened further disease and malnutrition and the swallowing of low-lying lands by rising seas.
Gore opened his acceptance speech by referring to the 2000 U.S. Supreme Court decision denying him the presidency in an election he lost to George W. Bush despite winning the popular vote.
"I read my own political obituary in a judgment that seemed to me harsh and mistaken, if not premature," he said. "But that unwelcome verdict also brought a precious if painful gift: an opportunity to search for fresh new ways to serve my purpose. Unexpectedly, that quest has brought me here."
Gore received a sustained standing ovation at the event.
In an interview before the ceremony, Gore criticized the Bush administration's stance on climate change. He said he believed the next president, regardless of who it is, would address the matter more urgently.
"I think it is unfortunate that our nation, which should be the natural leader of the world community, has been the principal obstacle to progress in solving the climate crisis," he said.