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Berkeley's claim to a soupçon of Nobel pride

17 October 2007

It was a quiet Nobel Prize season for Berkeley this year, with the prestigious awards honoring breakthroughs in chemistry, physics, economics, physiology and medicine, and literature going to distinguished scholars elsewhere, in the U.S. and abroad.

Inez Fung
Inez Fung
(Peg Skorpinski photo)
William Collins
William Collins
(Roy Kalschmidt/
LBNL photo)
Norman Miller
Norm Miller
Dan Kammen
Dan Kammen
(Peg Skorpinski photo)
But Berkeley, and its peers among great universities around the globe, can lay claim to a sliver of the Peace Prize pie this year on the strength of gracious remarks made by Rajendra Pachauri, the Indian engineer and energy expert who chairs the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shared the honor with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. "All the scientists who have contributed to the work of the IPCC," Pachauri told the Associated Press following the prize announcement on Oct. 12, "are the Nobel laureates who have been recognized and acknowledged by the Nobel Prize committee."

Four Berkeley faculty members are among the more than 2,000 scientists worldwide who have conducted groundbreaking research for the IPCC: Inez Fung, professor of atmospheric science and co-director of Berkeley's Institute of the Environment (BIE); William Collins, professor of earth and planetary science; Norm Miller, adjunct professor of geography; and Dan Kammen, professor in the Energy and Resources Group and the Goldman School of Public Policy and co-director of BIE.

The IPCC, established in 1988, has issued three major studies that analyzed the causes and impacts of climate change and made recommendations about what can be done to alleviate them.

Berkeley's Collins says he hopes that the IPCC researchers use the Nobel recognition to spur further investigation of climate change, its consequences, and possible mitigation measures. "The award is a very important recognition of a sizable international effort to understand climate change," he says. "There are huge challenges ahead, but they are challenges that humanity can address."

Professor Miller also expresses hope that this Nobel Prize "helps to raise awareness, especially among public-policymakers, about the very real problem of climate change, and how we as a society need to act more conservatively with our diminishing natural resources."

In addition to his campus position, Collins is a senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where he chairs its department of climate science. He also is on the staff of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. Fung and Miller are also researchers at LBNL.