Scripps Professor Ram Ramanathan Will Receive Prestigious Climate Prize
KPBS Midday Edition Segments / June 17, 2021
Veerabhadran "Ram" Ramanathan, the renowned professor and researcher in climate science at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, is being honored for his work on climate change.
Speaker 1: 00:00 The Tang prize and the blue planet prize are two distinguished international awards that San Diego researcher, professor Ron Roman othen has been honored with the recognition cited ramen, Athens, pioneering work on climate change and its impact on the sustainability of the earth, which shaped global policies and our understanding of climate change. Joining me is professor Ron. Ramanathan a researcher and professor at Scripps institution of oceanography at UC San Diego, professor Rama, Nathan. Welcome.
Speaker 2: 00:32 I'm pleased to be here. Thank you. So
Speaker 1: 00:35 This has been quite a week for you winning two major international prizes in climate science. Tell us about the blue planet prize. I mean, who bestows it and what's it for
Speaker 2: 00:46 It's a Japanese foundation. It's large theme is sustainability and protecting the environment, but it has predominantly gone to, uh, scientists working on climate change.
Speaker 1: 01:02 What was your reaction to receiving it?
Speaker 2: 01:06 A total surprise? Anytime I receive such a wards, it's always the mixed emotion for me. One is of course, a surprise happiness about being recognized by your colleagues. But the other part of the emotion is the climate is warming rapidly. And I feel a side that as scientists, we have been warning about this problem, at least for the last 40 years, the actions are slow incoming. Although I would say I'm much encouraged by what's happening now, worldwide.
Speaker 1: 01:53 That gives insight to my next question. How would you say we, the people of earth are doing in the effort to stop global warming or at least mitigate climate change? I mean, have we had any success to speak of
Speaker 2: 02:07 Quite a bit of success, but not commensurate with what we need to do just to talk about, you know, uh, solar power, which is one of the solutions to switch away from fossil fuels. The solar power deployment has increased by a factor of 15 in the last 10 years. And wind power has increased by more than a factor of three. All of these are good science, but to tell you the amount of work that we need to do in terms of a green revolution and climate actions, we have to accelerate them by at least a factor of two to three. That's about a hundred to 200% increase is what's needed in the next 10 years. Hmm.
Speaker 1: 02:57 You know, how much warmer has the planet been since the Dawn of the 20th century and what happens if it warms to another degree or so?
Speaker 2: 03:07 Excellent question. As of, uh, 2014, this is based on my own work with my students and colleagues. Uh, the planet crossed a one degree warming, okay. Compared to the pre-industrial, which is on 18 contract. I published a study in 2018 with my colleagues here at the university of California, San Diego in Mitsubishi concluded the warming would amplify by 50% by 2030. At the time we publish it, we, it in 12 years now it's just in nine years. So you can see why I'm worry about another half a degree when the weather and climate is changing day to day, month to month, when the planet reaches a degree and the half the planet would be warmer than any temperature climate we have experienced in the last 150,000 years, climate change would move into all of our living rooms. Just like COVID the positive way to look at it is we have a 10 year warning to prepare people to cope with this and adapted this. Um,
Speaker 1: 04:20 You know, one of your main current concerns is super pollutants. Can you talk to me about what they are and how harmful they could be in terms of climate change?
Speaker 2: 04:31 When I got into this field about, uh, 4 45 years ago in 1975 scientists thought the main human may pollutant warming the planet is carbon dioxide. That must based on a hundred years of research. So what I showed was, uh, these super pollutant chlorofluorocarbons, which were used as sort of fridges those days were about 10,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide. So what do I mean by that at ton of these compounds in the air, this chlorofluorocarbon, which is used as refrigerant at the same warming effect us 10,000 tons of CO2, many such super pollutants were added to the list to the top. One is methane, which comes to us natural gas leaks out from our fossil fuel transmission comes from agriculture and comes from our landfills. The next is black Carmen sucked. That's what the dark smoke coming from diesel. And then there is ozone in the lower atmosphere, you know, which would be known as, or put Newton to causing asthma.
Speaker 2: 05:43 But it's also a powerful greenhouse gas and, and their lifetime is on the order of a few weeks to 10 years compared to carbon dioxide, which stays in the air for centuries to thousands of years, which means if you take actions to cut them down there quickly, uh, their heating effect would come down and we can bend the warming curve within the next 10, 15 years. So that is the hopeful sign Bihar. And, and I want to mention to you, uh, I had worked with governor Jenny brown, thanks to him. We know ha uh, upon the, uh, bill passed bill first in the world to cut down the super Peduto and via technologies, particularly California is a pioneer in developing these technologies. We have technologies to bring them down quickly. And, uh, the third thing is we have to take some of the carbon out of the air by natural mechanical pains. So by bringing down the superpower, your returns, you also bring down air pollution. And the core benefits of that is avoiding millions of deaths. Worldwide America alone loses about 200,000 lives every year to this air pollution. So we bring them down by bringing down the S
Speaker 1: 07:17 I've been speaking with Ron Robinson and researcher and professor at Scripps institution of oceanography at UC San Diego and the recipient of the blue planet prize professor ramen nothin. Thank you so much for joining us and congratulations to you.
Speaker 2: 07:32 Thank you so much. Thank you. [inaudible].