A Nobel for crystallizing the climate change crisis
The trio of scientists awarded this year’s prize for Physics gave us scientific clarity on the world’s biggest worry. As the reality of it can no longer be denied, it’s clearly action-time now
The award of this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics to scientists who played key roles in alerting us to climate change and helping us wrap our heads around its grim reality can only be faulted for coming so late. After all, it was the age of science and the industrial progress it kicked off that gave us what is finally being recognized as a crisis of life and death for future generations. If science must ride to the rescue and redeem itself as an ally of nature, then the scientific work done to achieve that should get the global attention conferred by the world’s top academic honour. The Nobel was awarded jointly, with half of it to be shared by Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann “for the physical modelling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming" and the other half given to Giorgio Parisi “for the discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales." That the discipline of Physics is in focus as we strive to get a handle on the planet’s oven-knob is not a surprise. Climate qualifies as a complex system, one that has so many elemental variables which interact to influence overall outcomes, that working out what carbon fumes and other emissions could do to life as we know it has been a painstakingly long haul. It took efforts both empirical and abstract across academia, but with much of its basis in theory drawn from physics.