Five local professors from Scripps Institution of Oceanography shared today in the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Former Vice President Al Gore also shared in the prize for his global warming advocacy.

The IPCC, which includes hundreds of contributing scientists from across the world, released a scientific assessment earlier this year that concluded that the planet’s warming was unequivocally occurring — and that humans were the likely cause.

Several Scripps professors contributed: Richard Somerville, a theoretical meteorologist; Lynne Talley, an oceanography professor; Mario Molina, an atmospheric chemist; Jeff Severinghaus, a geosciences professor; and Veerabhadran Ramanathan, an applied ocean sciences professor. Molina was already a Nobel laureate, sharing the 1995 prize for chemistry for his work in identifying the correlation between chlorofluorocarbons and the ozone hole.

Somerville, who was the coordinating lead author of a chapter of the report, said the Nobel Prize was a tribute to the IPCC’s 20-year history. Since it was formed in 1988, the panel has increased its certainty that humans are influencing global warming.

“I think it’s marvelous to divide the prize between someone who’s been a communicator and a group that has provided the science,” Somerville said. “I hope it will help the world — media, politicians — understand that there is solid climate science. The fact that this is now going to get broadcast and endorsed worldwide is a marvelous step.”

Somerville said his cell phone began ringing about 4 a.m. with a call from the BBC and has been ringing non-stop since. Somerville was effusive in his excitement. He called the award a “total surprise.” While Gore had prominently been in the running, the IPCC had not.

“I’m absolutely thrilled,” Somerville said. “To have this very high level of very well respected recognition is absolutely stupendous.”


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