News Archive

Earth Institute Colleagues Share in the Nobel Peace Prize

2007-10-12

Al Gore and Jeffrey Sachs, 2007

The award of the Nobel Peace Prize jointly to Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) marks a watershed moment. It signals that people across the world and at all levels of society are recognizing that ongoing climate change is not only a long-term threat to the global environment, but also an immediate threat to peace and security.

As just one stark example, the violence and humanitarian disaster in Darfur, Sudan has deep roots in environmental degradation, declining rainfall, growing populations, and pervasive hunger and disease. Long-term climate change has probably played an important role in the long-term decline in precipitation experienced in Darfur in recent decades. While climate change alone does not trigger such disasters, climate change certainly adds to the stresses of impoverished and divided societies.

"I believe there are many places that are in, or on the edge of, conflict because of climate change already, and this prize is a warning that on our current trajectory of climate change the risk will get a lot worse — these will be the conflicts of the 21st century," Earth Institute director Jeffrey Sachs told The New York Times shortly after the award. Of the ongoing war in the Darfur region of Sudan, Sachs added: "But for environmental stress, I doubt this would have exploded."

Al Gore, 2007

We can, alas, expect similar adverse shocks as human-made climate change contributes to crop failures, droughts, floods, changing patterns of rainfall and snowmelt, more extreme tropical storms, rising sea levels, more damaging storm surges, shifting patterns of disease, and more. In these myriad ways, human-made climate change will add to the risks to peace around the world. We concur fully with the Nobel Peace Prize Committee for its excellent choices and powerful warnings in this year's Prize. Effective strategies of mitigation (reducing climate change) and adaptation (living effectively with climate change) will be needed to keep the peace and to reduce the adverse consequence of human-induced climate change.

The Earth Institute has been deeply and centrally involved for more than a decade with the global challenge of man-made climate change, and member institutions of the Earth Institute -- including the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies -- for longer than that. Among the 2,000-some scientists who contributed to the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Round reports this year are dozens of Earth Institute scientists from diverse fields: oceanography, atmospherics, geophysics, remote sensing, hydrology, epidemiology. Many students have also been involved in preparing materials for the IPCC.

In addition, the Earth Institute is proud to have hosted Al Gore for a wonderful discussion last spring and to be working with Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri, head of IPCC, in several ways. Dr Pachauri is a member of the Earth Institute's Commission on Education for International Development Professionals, which is co-chaired by John McArthur and Jeffrey Sachs, and serves as the Commission's regional coordinator for South Asia and lead expert on climate science. Dr. Pachauri also serves on the board of the Earth Institute's International Research Institute for Climate and Society. Dr. Pauchari and Dr. Sachs are also co-chairs of the Indian Commission on Sustainable Development.

Below is a partial list of Earth Institute scientists and others at Columbia who have contributed to the current IPCC report, or to the work of the IPCC in the recent past: 

Mark Chandler, Center for Climate Systems Research

David Major, Center for Climate Systems Research

Peter Neofotis, Center for Climate Systems Research

Robert Chen, Center for International Earth Science Information Network

Xiaoshi Xing, Center for International Earth Science Information Network

Joyce Klein Rosenthal, Center for Sustainable Urban Development

Beate Liepert, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Edward Cook, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Rosanne D'Arrigo, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Sidney Hemming, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Kevin Vranes, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Christopher Small, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Cynthia Rosenzweig, Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Gavin Schmidt, Goddard Institute for Space Studies

David Rind, Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Ben Chao, Goddard Institute for Space Studies

James Hansen, Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Gary Russell, Goddard Institute for Space Studies

George Tselioudis, Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Vivien Gornitz, Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Anthony Del Genio, Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Andrew Lacis, Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Ron Miller, Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Francesco Tubiello, Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Vivien Gornitz, Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Drew Shindell, Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Marta Vicarelli, Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Patrick Kinney, Mailman School of Public Health

Kim Knowlton, Mailman School of Public Health

Madeleine Thomson, International Research Institute for Climate and Society

Walter Baethgen, International Research Institute for Climate and Society

Lisa Goddard, International Research Institute for Climate and Society

Upmanu Lall, International Research Institute for Climate and Society

Arthur Greene, International Research Institute for Climate and Society

Neil Ward, International Research Institute for Climate and Society

David Nissen, School of International and Public Affairs