Dip a toe into the Nobel Peace Prize news and next thing you’re drowning in commentary. Here’s an attempt to distill what it means for greens, by which I mean the types of people who rely on air, water, soil, and other naturey elements.

Obama’s nuclear disarmament work won him the award. A member of the Nobel selection committee says so. His reengagement with the international community was the broader reason. Much as we’d like to say his climate-change leadership was a key factor, that would be overstating things–even though his climate work got a mention in the official announcement.

Obama is going to Copenhagen for the U.N. climate conference in December. He has to–the prize ramps up expectations for everything on his foreign agenda. Plus, he’ll be in the neighborhood, accepting the prize in Oslo, Norway, on Dec. 10. Today White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said a heads-of state portion of the climate conference was under discussion.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations DOUBLED!

What can Obama really do on the world stage? The Council on Foreign Relations has a story on this question. Matt Yglesias explains how Americans are prone to placing too much stock in the President’s problem-solving ability and giving too little attention to the rest of the political system.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

This year’s award isn’t going to a long-lasting, unsung activist. Duh, but this is a lost opportunity for celebrating someone who doesn’t get Obama-level attention. Few fit this model as well as Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan tree-planting organizer who was a surprise winner of the 2004 peace prize. She offered her thoughts on Obama’s award today.

There’s a connection between peace and living within ecological means, in the eyes of the Nobel Committee. In awarding Maathai for her ecological work, the committee expanded the scope of what peace work can mean. Giving the 2007 prize to Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change fit the pattern. The (brief) mention of Obama’s climate leadership is further evidence.

For more analysis, commentary, opinions, spin, whatever … might we suggest the internet?

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.