The Volvo Environment Foundation takes great pleasure in awarding its 2009 environment prize to Dr Susan Solomon. Dr Solomon is an outstanding atmospheric chemist and physicist, whose pioneering scientific contributions have had major impact on crucial environmental policies.
The greatest challenge we face today is understanding how the earth’s systems will respond to climate change. Identifying the presence of resilience, tipping points and the likelihood of irreversible changes in the environment are all crucial steps in defining policy options and actions to secure the future of the planet.
Dr Susan Solomon’s pioneering scientific contributions in this area exemplify the major impacts that this type of research can have on global environmental policies.
Dr Susan Solomon is an outstanding atmospheric chemist and physicist, who has published extensively in many leading scientific journals. Dr Solomon was one of the first scientists to take seriously reports in the 1980s of deterioration of the planet's ozone layer. In 1986 and 1987, she led expeditions to Antarctica, to gather evidence for her subsequent theoretical and experimental work on the explanation of the Antarctic ozone “hole”, and the fact that chemicals known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were causing it. Her work was an important contribution to the scientific basis for the Montreal Protocol for the protection of the ozone layer, which led to a global ban on CFCs.
As a co-chair with Dr. Qin Dahe of Working Group 1 of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), she played a key role in producing the report that has helped the world understand the severity of global warming. She was among the IPCC scientists who, together with the former Vice President Al Gore, were awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
Dr Solomon’s current work, using improved atmosphere-ocean general circulation and earth system models, shows that the carbon dioxide concentrations expected in the 21st century will lead to significant irreversible changes in rainfall in drought-prone areas, and unavoidable inundation of many small islands and low-lying coastal areas. The latest results underline the need that we will require even more concerted climate policy efforts than have been anticipated thus far.