Hansen, Ramanathan win Tang Prize in sustainable development (update)

2018/06/18 12:01:21 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Hansen, Ramanathan win Tang Prize in sustainable development (update)

Taipei, June 18 (CNA) James Hansen and Veerabhadran Ramanathan, both from the United States, were named the winners of the third Tang Prize in sustainable development Monday for their pioneering work on climate change and its impact on the earth's sustainability.

Hansen, director of the Program on Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions of Columbia University's Earth Institute, is known for his scientific achievement and forthright public communication of science that has led to action for the benefit of humanity, the Tang Prize Foundation said.

He was awarded the prize "for sounding the alarm on climate change, elucidating the physics of climate forcings and feedbacks, quantifying the dangers of global warming, and tirelessly advocating for meaningful action and solutions," the Tang Prize citation said.

Ramanathan was born in India and currently holds the positions of Victor C. Alderson Professor of Applied Ocean Sciences and director of the Center for Clouds, Chemistry and Climate at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego.

Ramanathan won the prize "for making seminal contributions to our fundamental understanding of climate change and impacts of air pollution, and taking direct action to advocate and facilitate effective mitigation policies," the citation said.

Hansen, 77, is a pioneer in several sustainability-related fields. For example, he developed the GISS model - one of the first two global three-dimensional climate models.

He was also the first to analyze and quantitatively explain the climate system's global temperature response in terms of specific changes caused by water vapor, cloud and surface-albedo feedback interactions.

Further, Hansen was the first person to compile temperature records from around the world and detect signs of greenhouse warming.

He has also made seminal contributions on climate forcing and evaluated model uncertainties, noting that the effects of greenhouse gases on climate are dependent not on current emissions, but rather accumulated emissions.

In addition to scientific achievement, Hansen is also a man of uncommon courage and conviction, according to the foundation.

In 1988, when Hansen was the director of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, he famously announced in televised testimony before the U.S. Congress that "global warming is here" as the observed temperatures record exhibited an anomalous rise above the statistical noise of natural fluctuations.

Hansen's testimony "was an important turning point in the history of global climate change," the foundation pointed out.

Hansen's work has also won the recognition of world leaders, including former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.

In a review of Hansen's book "Storms of My Grandchildren," Gore wrote in Time Magazine: "When the history of the climate crisis is written, Hansen will be seen as the scientist with the most powerful and consistent voice calling for intelligent action to preserve our planet's environment."

Ramanathan, 73, was the first to point out the very significant greenhouse effects of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

In 1975, he discovered the greenhouse effect of halocarbons, particularly CFCs used in such applications as refrigeration and manufacturing.

This was a significant contribution that showed how gases such as CFCs that deplete the ozone layer could also have climate related ramifications.

His research also led to the discovery and characterization of the so-called "atmospheric brown cloud," demonstrating through filed measurements the impact of Asian pollution on an international scale, across the Pacific Ocean.

This work established the extremely important role played by atmospheric black carbon as a greenhouse compound, second only to carbon dioxide.

His findings established the scientific foundation of the crucial role played by non-CO2 gases in affecting the earth's climate.

As a result, the governments of Bangladesh, Canada, Ghana, Mexico, Sweden and the U.S., together with the United Nations Environment Programme, created the "Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-lived Climate Pollutants," with 33 countries subsequently joining the coalition.

Ramanathan also works to help people ill equipped with resources or knowledge to combat climate change and air pollution.

He now leads Project Surya, which is mitigating soot emissions to improve the health and lives of people, and at the same time reduce the climate-warming impacts of these emissions from solid biomass cooling in South Asia and Kenya.

The laureates will each receive a cash prize of NT$20 million (US$665,900), a research grant of NT$10 million, a medal and a certificate.

An awards ceremony will be held on Sept. 21, and the laureates will give a series of lectures at universities around Taiwan from Sept. 25-27.

The biennial award was established by Taiwanese entrepreneur Samuel Yin (尹衍樑) in 2012 to complement the Nobel Prize. The first Tang Prize award ceremony was held in 2014.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)
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