Syukuro Manabe, an American meteorologist and climatologist, won the 2021 Nobel Prize in physics. He was awarded “for the physical modeling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming” (All Nobel prizes 2021).
Experimenting with the effect of carbon dioxide on the Earth’s surface temperature since the 1960s, Manabe developed the world’s first credible three-dimensional climate model of the atmosphere in 1967 (Syukuro). He not only proposes the foundations of the Earth’s climate system but finds that “[i]f you double the carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere, the surface temperature would increase by 2 degrees Celsius.” (B. Guarino.). Through this model, Manabe has shown the harmfulness of carbon dioxide to the climate and can warn the world about the need for action to prevent the acceleration of temperature rising on the Earth. Because human activities like burning fossil fuels mainly produce carbon dioxide, Manabe’s theory has encouraged countries to reduce emissions.
Manabe makes vast contributions to our environment by acknowledging the existence of climate change and the severe damage human industry can cause. Nowadays, every nation is cooperating on solving the problem of global warming because we now understand the extreme weather and disturbance it could bring. Manabe is undoubtedly a worthy winner of the Nobel Prize.
Another winner of the Nobel Prize in the chemistry field this year is German chemist Benjamin List. He has been awarded “for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis” (All Nobel Prizes 2021). He shares this prize with British chemist David W.C. MacMillan.
Catalysts create a massive impact on people’s views on chemistry applications. To be specific, catalysis has contributed 35% of the world’s GDP, based on an estimate in 2015. Adding on the contributions of seven other chemists who were awarded the Nobel prizes for their achievements in the field of catalysis, Benjamin List has won this award for his work on Asymmetric organocatalysis.
Asymmetric organocatalysis is to use small organic molecules as catalysts are akin to mimicking enzymes. This technique is widely used, especially in pharmaceutical research and production. Asymmetric organocatalysis is an ‘elegant tool’ that is ‘simpler than one could ever imagine’, said Nobel committee member Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede. She explained that its discovery has allowed chemists to think of new and different ways of putting together molecules.
“I think [the Nobel committee’s selection] is an excellent choice because in chemistry, as we know, we value the ability to come up with new solutions and new ways of synthesis,” American Chemical Society president H. N. Cheng told C&EN. “Organocatalysis is a great advance and this is a fitting recognition of their contributions.”