Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann, and Giorgio Parisi have spent the last 60 years decoding complex physical systems to predict how climate change is impacting our world. Now, their work has been rewarded with the Nobel Prize in physics.
Manabe and Hasselmann, who are 90 and 89 years old, respectively, carried out modeling work in the 1960s and 70s which sounded the earliest alarm on human-induced climate change. Their prize was awarded for “the physical modeling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming.”
Parisi, who is 73, was honored for “the discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales.”
Manabe’s work specifically demonstrated that increased levels of carbon dioxide were contributing to warming on earth, while Hasselmann created a model which linked warming with weather changes around the world.
All three award winners have been celebrated for their ability to accurately describe how tiny changes in the earth’s systems can contribute to large-scale changes in the physical world around us.
After a summer of tumultuous climate change-fueled events, this Nobel Prize emphasizes the continued urgency of addressing the climate crisis and celebrates the brave work of academics who pushed for climate action for decades before their work was acknowledged by mainstream academics, politicians, and citizens.
The timely award comes just before the start of the COP26 climate conference. Michael Moloney, CEO of the American Institute of Physics, told CNN, “I can’t say whether the Nobel Prize Committee had a political message, but what it does clearly show is that [the] Earth system science models on which we understand the trajectory and the predictions for our planet’s climate [are] sound, solid science.”