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Nobel Prize Winners Call for Governments to Take Action on Climate

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Giorgio Parisi, one of three winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2021, has urged governments to step up their fight against climate change. Credit: Queens University, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Italian Nobel Prize winner Giorgio Parisi urged governments to step up their battle with climate change on Tuesday.

The 73-year-old physicist, who works at the Sapienza Università di Roma, is one of three people awarded the 2021 Noble Prize for Physics. Although three people were awarded the prize, the other two winners do not work with Parisi. The prize was split into two quarters for Japanese-American Syukuro Manabe and German Klaus Hasselmann.

Parisi was awarded the prestigious prize for discoveries he made in 1980, of hidden patterns in disordered complex materials. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences described this work as “among the most important contributions to the theory of complex systems.” His innovative work has been credited with “the discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales,” and helping other scientists describe random materials in the fields of mathematics, physics, biology, neuroscience, and machine learning.

Parisi gave his statements during the Academy’s half in-person, half-virtual ceremony to honor its winners:

“It is very urgent that we take a real, very strong decision and we move [at] a very strong pace,” Parisi said via video from Italy with members of the press who were physically present at the ceremony. “It’s clear for the future generation we have to act now in a very fast way — and not with a strong delay.”

Nobel Prize winners in physics offer warnings on the future of climate change

Although it was Parisi who used his platform to draw attention to the urgency of climate change, both Manabe and Hasselman share a passion for the issue as well. The research they were recognized for contributes directly to: “the physical modeling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming.” The total prize amount is 10 million Swedish kronor (about $1.1 million).

“What is quite clear is that the effect of climate changing is that more energy is emitted in the atmosphere, and if you have more energy in the atmosphere, the chance of extreme events is going to increase very strongly,” Parisi explained to reporters.

Hasselmann has spoken openly to the press about the dangers of energy consumption in the past. The physicist warned the world all the way back in 1988 of the impending difficulties that could come, a time frame we now find ourselves in:

“In 30 to 100 years, depending on how much fossil fuel we consume, we will face a very significant climate change,” Hasselmann said in an interview given over thirty years ago.

“Climate zones will shift, precipitation will be distributed differently. Then we will no longer be able to talk about random results,” he continued. “We should realize that we are entering a situation where there is no turning back.”

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