Research Highlight: Gore, IPCC Win Nobel Peace Prize


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations-sponsored body of scientists that includes several from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize along with former Vice President Al Gore.

The Nobel Prize committee cited the IPCC and Gore for their efforts to “disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.” The IPCC, formed in 1988, has released four reports that synthesize climate change research. The most recent of these reports, the Fourth Assessment Report, was released this year.

Among the 2,500 scientists who participated in writing the report were more than a dozen from Scripps. Climate researcher Richard Somerville served as a coordinating lead author and oceanographer Lynne Talley served as a lead author. In addition, two Scripps experts in atmospheric chemistry, V. Ramanathan and Mario Molina, served as review editors. These roles required hundreds of hours of work assessing and coordinating reviews of published scientific papers.

Ten other Scripps scientists took part as either contributing authors or reviewers in the document, which termed the evidence for man-made climate changes “unequivocal.”

Tim Barnett, a Scripps research marine geophysicist, played a lead role in the IPCC’s First Assessment Report issued in 1990 and participated in two subsequent reports.

Somerville said that given the IPCC’s mandate that panel contributors represent a broad range of scientific disciplines and countries, the size of the Scripps contingent was impressive. He also noted that much of what is referenced the IPCC’s reports on the state of climate change research is work that is done at Scripps.

“The IPCC report is the authoritative, definitive summary of the findings of climate science. It's the gold standard,” said Somerville.  “The experts know this, and my hope is that the award of the Nobel Prize will help everybody else realize it too.”

The Nobel committee recognized Gore’s ongoing work to inform the public about human-caused climate change. The 2000 Democratic nominee for U.S. president has most prominently done so through his 2005 film and book, “An Inconvenient Truth,” and through an international speaking tour.

Gore, who in May attended the opening of the Birch Aquarium at Scripps exhibit “Feeling the Heat: The Climate Challenge,” has frequently cited the influence of former Scripps Director Roger Revelle. Revelle was a professor of Gore’s at Harvard University, where Revelle taught after leaving UCSD in 1964. Gore has also featured prominently in his film and presentations the Keeling Curve, a measure of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, named after its originator, Scripps researcher Charles David Keeling.  Scripps and several other science agencies will mark the 50th anniversary of the Keeling Curve next year.

The three working group reports are viewable online at The IPCC will release a final synthesis report in November.

— Robert Monroe

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