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Pioneering climate researcher: Schellnhuber receives highest-ranking awards

09/08/2011 - For his world-leading contributions to Earth system science and for the transfer of scientific insight into policy, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), will this autumn receive several awards. The Volvo Prize, considered to be the highest-ranking distinction for environmental research, will be presented to Schellnhuber in early November in Sweden. The President of Germany will bestow upon him the Federal Order of Merit, first class, in October in Berlin’s Bellevue Palace. And the renowned University of Copenhagen will honour him with an Honorary Doctorate.
Pioneering climate researcher: Schellnhuber receives highest-ranking awards

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber (Foto: Hollin 2009)

"In the creation of diverse, interdisciplinary research that can take on the most frightening climate challenges facing humanity, there is no one better than Hans Joachim Schellnhuber to contribute with international leadership in the development and application of scientific findings for politicians and decision-makers," the Volvo-Prize Jury statement says. As a physicist, Schellnhuber “has applied the rigorous, quantitative background to Earth System science,” thereby setting the stage for the development of this strand of research. He is the first German to receive the prize.

"The Volvo Prize in fact is something like the Nobel Prize for environmental sciences, since unfortunately up till now there is no Nobel Prize for this kind of interdisciplinary approach," says Paul Crutzen, Nobel Prize Laureate for chemistry. Before winning this in 1995 for his research on ozone layer depletion, Crutzen had himself been one of the very first recipients of the Volvo Prize. "It is more than well deserved that Hans Joachim Schellnhuber now receives this eminent award. He is a researcher who has changed the way we look at all the complex processes between heaven and earth. But he is more than just a brilliant brain - he is a brain with a conscience. Schellnhuber is incessantly building bridges between science and society, like hardly anyone else does."

Schellnhuber’s interest in complex systems and nonlinear dynamics, often called chaos theory, led him from fundamental physical research to climate science. He developed several iconic concepts, for instance the analysis of “tipping elements” in the climate system, that have given impulses to international research. The two-degree-target for limiting climate change – which later on got taken up by policy-makers worldwide –  was conceived under the leadership of Schellnhuber by the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU). Schellnhuber has published more than 250 scientific articles and over 50 books or book chapters. He is, amongst other things, a member of the American National Academy of Sciences and the German Academy of Sciences (Leopoldina) as well as a professor at the University of Potsdam, Germany, and the influential Santa Fe Institute in the US.

It is on this basis that Schellnhuber became an important interlocutor of policy-makers: in the WBGU that he is a member of since 1992; in the experts team of EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso; as the chief advisor on climate issues for chancellor Angela Merkel during the German presidency of G8 and EU Council in 2007; or for the state government of Brandenburg.

The prize is funded by Volvo but awarded by an independent foundation.The Jury of the Volvo Prize consists of Gita Sen, professor at the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore and Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the European Environment Agency, and others. The prize has previously gone to figures like Susan Solomon from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the US or Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus from Bangladesh. The award comes with a cash sum of about 160,000 Euro.

The official statements on the Federal Order of Merit and on the Honorary Doctorate of the University of Copenhagen will be published later this year.

Weblink to the Volvo Environment Prize
Weblink to a short biography of Hans Joachim Schellnhuber

Pictures are available upon request

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