Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and the U.N. climate panel won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize today for their international work as crusaders for climate change.
Gore's panel walked away with the Nobel nod — and $1.5 million prize — over 181 other nominees.
During today's news conference at his California-based nonprofit, the Alliance for Climate Protection, Gore thanked the Nobel Committee and said he was "deeply honored" to share the award with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
"I will be doing everything I can 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," Gore said.
Gore announced his intent to donate his share of the Nobel award to his bipartisan nonprofit and reiterated his environmental charge speaking to the "urgency of the climate crisis."
"It is the most dangerous challenge we've ever faced, but it is also the greatest opportunity we've ever had to elevate global consciousness on the challenges that we face now," said Gore.
In its award statement, the Norwegian Nobel Committee called Gore "one of the world's leading environmentalist politicians" and said in awarding the former vice president and the IPCC it seeks "to contribute to a sharper focus on the processes and decisions that appear to be necessary to protect the world's future climate, and thereby to reduce the threat to the security of mankind. Action is necessary now, before climate change moves beyond man's control."
A Candidate Gore?
While the eight Democrats vying for the presidential nomination scramble around the country seeking the office he aspired to as many years ago, Gore's 2007 has been a breezy stroll down the red carpet, and a near endless loop of will-he-or-won't-he speculation surrounding a potential second run for the White House.
For the former vice president's legion of grass-roots supporters, the suspense has been agony as they wait for the "Gore-acle" to divine, what they deem to be, an infallible political future.
After the Oscars, the Emmys, the release of yet another book and the Live Earth concerts on July 7, Friday's long-awaited, much-anticipated Nobel Peace Prize announcement could provide the most "climatic" and climactic opportunity to date for the Democratic presidential nominee of 2000 to announce White House intentions for 2008.
Will He or Won't He?
Former Gore strategist Chris Lehane said though his former boss's entrance to the presidential race would be more than fashionably late, he "would be uniquely positioned" if he chose to contest the Democratic nomination.
There are, Lehane said, "few people like him in name ID, with a base of support, who have the experience of having run before," all qualities that "would allow him to get into the game much later than anyone else."
Still, Lehane cautioned, "There are a couple basic logistical challenges," particularly fundraising, staffing and "items as simple as qualifying for the ballot."
For the most part, Lehane dismisses the notion of a Gore candidacy.
"Never say never in politics," Lehane said, but insists Gore is "happy and comfortable with where he is right now, appreciates that he is having a huge impact, and recognizes once you become a candidate that changes."
ABC News consultant Donna Brazile, who managed Gore's 2000 bid, shares the sentiment that the former vice president could have one-of-a-kind appeal in the candidate pool.
"Al Gore will always be a viable contender as long as he's alive and has the desire," said Brazile. "I don't believe the Nobel Prize will alter his current plans or what he's doing now in terms of climate change."
A Movement Beseeches Their Leader
Gore's grassroots support still believes Gore can make a bid -- and win.
"I have no doubt that if the people rise up and ask Al Gore to lead them that he would ever turn his back on his country," said Eva Ritchey, a member of DraftGore.com, the grassroots Internet movement that placed a $65,000 full-page ad in The New York Times this week pleading with the former vice president to enter the 2008 presidential race.
Ritchey calls Gore the "the most undervalued public servant in the country;" DraftGore.com founder Monica Friedlander said Gore is "a visionary."
Both point to the 136,000 signatures their petition amassed in support of a Gore candidacy and the fact that they were able to raise the $65,000 necessary for the NYT ad in six days as a sign of Gore's vibrant ground strength.
DraftGore.com chair Friedlander said most contributions came in small donations in the $20-$50 range.
Both Ritchey and Friedlander insist the grassroots movement to draft the former vice president is separate from Gore's office.
Friedlander insisted, "This is our effort, no way driven by him or encouraged by him." But she added, "They also don't try to stop us."
Gore spokeswoman Kalee Kreider told ABC News that Gore "understands and appreciates the sentiment behind the ad and hears what people are trying to say to him" but reiterates that Gore "does not have any plan to run for president."
Gore as Political Gamesman
Gore has played coy with his presidential aspirations, managing to simultaneously diffuse rumors and spark interest with the skill of a true political gamesman.
The Oscars came and went; only accolades, no announcements, filled the air.
Gore strutted the red carpet, stole the spotlight and bantered onstage with Leonardo DiCaprio while his documentary on climate change, "An Inconvenient Truth," picked up two golden statues.
Gore's latest book, "The Assault on Reason," launched a scathing attack on the Bush presidency.
After its release in May, the former vice president told ABC News' Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America", "I'm not a candidate, and this is not a political book, this is not a candidate book," but it did little to dampen speculation.
And on the morning of July 7, before the Live Earth global concert series for climate change, Gore told ABC News' Kate Snow that his political mission "is to change enough minds at the grassroots level so that whoever is elected will make [the climate crisis] the No. 1 issue" without ever indicating who he thought that elected official should be.
Gore's careful choice of words and lack of endorsement in the Democratic candidate pool leave a window open for an element of political surprise.
Crusade for the Climate
Gore's spokeswoman insisted, "His efforts right now are clearly in another direction. He's working to educate Americans and people around the world about the climate crisis and the way he's chosen to serve is as a private citizen."
Strategist Lehane thinks Gore's crusade for the climate "would potentially be impacted if he became a candidate."
Ultimately, Brazile said, "it has everything to do with the will and the passion to get out there and do it." And in regard to fundraising and ground strength, she added, "Gore could do it tomorrow."
But the former strategist reminds the Democratic field, "Al Gore doesn't have to put his hat in the ring in order to impact the race in 2008."