Tang Prize Laureate Ramanathan Vows to Raise A New Generation of “Climate Defenders”
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Much of the world’s attention is now drawn to the ongoing UN Climate Change Conference COP25 in Madrid. Among the concerned audience is Prof. Veerabhadran Ramanathan, 2018 Tang Prize winner in Sustainable Development. Writing to the Tang Prize Foundation about his response to this important meeting, Prof. Ramanathan stated that the lack of action on climate change is the result of the lack of public awareness of this crisis. He pointed out that “the underlying issue why we are not solving this problem in spite of overwhelming evidence is that most people are still not aware and educated on the true risks they face.” The solution, he proposed, is to start with basic science education in order to raise a new generation of “climate defenders.”


Prof, Ramanathan has been very active in promoting the public’s climate change literacy and in setting up foundational education projects. He collaborated with a group of like-minded educators, scientists and environmentalists to support “key stakeholders” by providing them with the professional training, specifically designed curricula, and learning resources they would need. Emphasizing the importance of “literacy, the capacities and motivation required to make real change to our impact on the natural systems that sustain us,” they are endeavoring to empower “500,000 high school students who graduate each year in California” to “succeed as 21st century environmental activists and as global citizens.” They are fully aware that only after these students “learn about climate change and have the tools to affect positive social action” can our planet be effectively protected.


All these plans to improve “environmental and climate change literacy” are detailed in “Achieving Climate Stability and Environment Sustainability: PK-12 Education as Part of the Solution for Bending the Curve,” a report scheduled to be released during the “Environmental and Climate Change Literacy Summit,” taking place on 11 and 12 December in Los Angeles, California and organized by Prof. Ramanathan who intends it to be an occasion where high school students can become more literate in environmental and climate change issues.


To educate college students, Prof. Ramanathan and his team have “developed an education protocol,” and “co-authored a book,” Bending the Curve: Climate Change Solution. In addition, he has “teamed up with leading educators and submitted a proposal ($100m) to the Macarthur Foundation for an Education for All program to education all Americans” about climate change.


Prof. Ramanathan was the first scientist to discover the warming effects of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), a chemical widely used as refrigerants in the past. CFCs not only trap heat in the atmosphere but also deplete the ozone layer, thus producing very harmful effects on our climate. This research finding played a seminal role in the negotiations of the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which pledges to cut the production and consumption of CFCs. Moreover, his studies of the devastating impact of non-CO2 greenhouse gases became the incentive for the governments of Bangladesh, Canada, Ghana, Mexico, Sweden and the Unites States to work together with the United Nations Environment Program and form “The Climate and Clean Air Coalition,” aimed at reducing short-lived climate pollutants. So far 68 countries have joined this initiative.   


The 2018 Tang Prize in Sustainable Development was jointly award to Prof. Ramanathan and Dr. James E. Hansen for making significant contributions to our fundamental understanding of climate change and its impact on environmental sustainability.


For more information about Prof. Ramanathan’s book on climate change, please go to: https://escholarship.org/uc/item/6kr8p5rq