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Two other Nobel Prize winners

/ 05:02 AM October 31, 2021

Amid unusual interest in this year’s Nobel laureates, we should not miss that other significant winner of the much-coveted accolade. To be clear, just like countless Filipinos, I am incredibly proud of our very own Maria Ressa for snagging the Nobel Peace Prize. But the good news does not end there.

Less noticed, at least in our fair shores, is another group of winners that may benefit our nation profoundly. I am referring to two of the three laureates for physics, Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann. The duo was recognized “for the physical modelling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming.” In other words, their research was fundamental in alerting us to the dangers of a runaway climate. Without their work, the planet would have been hurtling to a scorching future in our blissful ignorance.

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The Nobel-awarding body has long recognized the threat posed by a warming planet. Almost 15 years ago, it gave the peace prize to Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), composed of hundreds of scientists around the globe, including a handful of Filipino academics. I have witnessed the dramatic impact of this award on how people view climate change, both in the Philippines and globally. There was a meteoric rise in awareness and action to address climate risks among state authorities, development workers, private entities, and ordinary people.

My hope is that the latest Nobel recognition will spur a similar uptick in commitment to curb greenhouse gas emissions and build climate-resilient societies. The IPCC has recently warned that we are running out of time to prevent sweeping changes in our climate. The august Nobel awarding committee has added its voice by recognizing the scientists who helped elucidate what’s happening.

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The need for concerted climate action will be especially relevant as we approach the annual gathering of nations this November in the UK under the so-called COP26 of the UNFCCC. As one of the most vulnerable nations to climate-related risks, it behooves us to engage in the COP26 negotiations with a sense of urgency.

One thing worth noticing is that Manabe’s research started about 50 years ago, while that of Hasselmann begun 10 years later. Their experience reminds us that exceptional science does not happen overnight, but its fruits could benefit millions of people not only now but even in generations to come. Investing in science and technology research should therefore be pursued as a matter of state policy.

The hoopla surrounding the latest round of Nobel prize winners will slowly fade away. But I hope the messages and warnings implicit in those awards will transform our society and planet for the better.

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Dr. Rodel D. Lasco is an author of several IPCC reports since 2000, including the forthcoming sixth assessment report. He is the executive director of The OML Center, a foundation devoted to discovering climate change adaptation solutions (http://www.omlopezcenter.org/).

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TAGS: Commentary, Klaus Hasselmann, Maria Ressa, Nobel Prize, Rodel D. Lasco, Syukuro Manabe
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