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Tang Prize winner advises Pope on climate change

2018/08/14 21:08:52

Veerabhadran Ramanathan (CNA file photo)

Taipei, Aug. 14 (CNA) A Tang Prize winner's professional advice, as a member of the council of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences that reports to Pope Francis, on the possible impact of climate change, is probably behind the Pope's recent calls for oil business leaders around the world to act on important environmental issues, according to the Tang Prize Foundation.

The foundation quoted Veerabhadran Ramanathan, who shared the 2018 Tang Prize on sustainable development with James E. Hansen, as saying the Pope issued an encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si, for the third year in a row, stressing it is imperative for the world to acknowledge climate change as an ethical issue not just for this generation, but future generations.

The scientific community assigns blame for 50-60 percent of climate change to the richest 1 billion people in the world, with 35-45 percent caused by 3 billion mid and low-income people, while the poorest 3 billion are responsible for 5-10 percent, according to the foundation.

If global warming goes unchecked, all life on Earth will face dire consequences, with the poorest suffering most from the worst disasters caused by climate change, it noted.

Pope Francis said the problem is urgent. "Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last 200 years ... We must all change our day-to-day actions to live more sustainably."

More broadly, he said "our leaders must be held to account" adding that "Those who will have to suffer the consequences... will not forget this failure of conscience and responsibility."

Solving climate change means protecting the planet and vulnerable people, and "we must hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor," the Pope said.

Ramanathan was the first to point out the very significant greenhouse effects of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). His research on the effect of CFCs on the zone layer and the ramifications for climate was a major impetus for the language of the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer in 1985, and negotiations for the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in 1987.

Ramanathan, Hansen and six other Tang Prize winners - on biopharmaceutical science, Sinology and rule of law - will visit Taiwan in September to attend the awards ceremony and give lectures on their respective areas of expertise.

(By S.C. Chang)