Agents of Impact | October 8, 2021

Climate scientists

Amy Cortese
ImpactAlpha Editor

Amy Cortese

ImpactAlpha, Oct. 8 – Climate scientists are having a moment, decades overdue.

Private investment funds are seeking out climate soothsayers to inform decision-making. Prescient climate wonks mixed it up with Jimmy Kimmel as part of September’s late-night spotlight on the climate crisis. This week, three scientists received the Nobel Prize for work on climate modeling that laid the scientific foundation for this year’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Syukuro Manabe of Princeton University, Klaus Hasselmann of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany, and Giorgio Parisi of the Sapienza University of Rome shared the physics prize for their contributions to understanding the complex dynamics driving climate change.

The IPCC report landed with a bang in August and showed that human-driven climate change is widespread and intensifying. The report itself was produced by hundreds of volunteer scientists who toiled for four years to synthesize the latest research.

The IPCC itself shared the Nobel Peace prize, with former vice president Al Gore, in 2007. (Climate activist Greta Thunberg is again in the running for this year’s peace prize, to be revealed on Friday). But this is the first time the committee has recognized scientific contributions in the fight against climate change.

Dr. Manabe’s 1967 model linked CO2 with planetary warming, predicting that the Earth would warm by 2 degrees Celsius for every doubling of atmospheric carbon (CO2 levels have already increased 50% from pre-industrial times). Hasselmann pinpointed connections between short-term weather events and deeper climatic changes. Parisi helped make sense of chaotic systems, such as weather.

The award is a reminder that scientists have been sounding the alarm on global warming threats for more than five decades. “It is clear that for the future generation, we have to act now in a very fast way,” Parisi said in a message for world leaders, who are set to convene later this month for COP26, the pivotal “conference of parties” follow-up to the 2015 Paris Agreement. Let’s hope this time they’re listening.