Physics Nobel Prize Decides Climate Change is Worth the Fight

Climate change is a steep hill battle, but the tree on the hill bears the sweetest fruit. 

The Prize Winners

The Nobel Prize is five separate prizes that are awarded to ”those who, during the preceding year, have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind,” according to Sir Alfred Nobel’s will from 1985. This year’s Nobel Prize in Physics was handed out last Tuesday and split into two parties.

The first party, Syukuro Manabe, originally hailing from Japan, and Klaus Hasselmann of Germany. They were awarded for their work in developing forecast models of Earth’s climate and figuring out how to reliably predict global warming. 

The second party is Giorgio Parisi, a scientist out of Italy. He won his half of the prize for explaining disorder in physical systems. This means, being able to predict the chaotic systems of the natural world, from those as small as the insides of atoms to the planet-sized ones. 

The Problem We Face

Manabe, 90, and Hasselmann, 89, both took the opportunity to point out that climate change is a serious problem. Hasselmann went as far as to say he “would rather have no global warming and no Nobel Prize.”

Manabe went on to state that figuring out climate change, and all the work that was done, was easier than trying to get the world to actually do something about it. 

Even Parisi, whose Nobel Prize was won for different reasons, pointed out that the world needs to do something about climate change. 

“It’s very urgent that we take very strong decisions and move at a very strong pace,” Parisi stated. 

Parisi’s share of the Prize was for work mainly focusing on subatomic particles and their behavior. He developed a way to predict the chaotic movement of these particles and why they move that way. Though this work is not of large scale, it is important that we observe complex systems. Trying to understand them as the same philosophies could be applied in others’ work. 

Working and Winning

Having started in the 1960s, Manabe has been dubbed the “Michael Jordan of climate”. Manabe created the first climate models that would predict what could happen as carbon dioxide gathered in our atmosphere. This work gave specifics as to how this would affect our atmosphere. It laid the groundwork for other scientists to show how climate change would damage our world in the coming years. 

Manabe, along with a scientist named Richard Wetherald, wrote a paper in 1967 that would later be called “the most influential climate paper ever”. 

Hasselmann, a decade after Manabe’s initial start, helped bring some more credibility to Manabe’s work. He explained how climate models like Manabe’s were in fact reliable and were true warnings of the future. Mr. Hasselmann also figured how to spot when humans affect climate. 

A Hopeful Payoff

Understanding complex systems can have dramatic results in not just one field of study. Parisi accomplished such a feat by first studying a metal alloy, spin-glass. Spin-glass has unpredictable behavior, and for a long time, confused scientists. Parisi’s theories that came out of this study were then applied to other fields such as mathematics, biology, and more. 

In less than 3 weeks, there will be negotiations between world leaders where they will be discussing how committed they are to fighting climate change. One can only hope these leaders see the importance of the work these Physicists have done and actively work for a strong solution.