The name Veerabhadran Ramanathan may not sound familiar, but this atmospheric scientist of Indian origin has been doing wonders around the globe for many years and has recently been nominated to receive 'Champions of the Earth award', the UN's highest environmental award, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced on Tuesday.
Ramanathan, who hails from Madurai, India received his bachelors degree in engineering from Annamalai University, India in 1965 and his masters degree from Indian Institute of Science, India in 1970. Later he completed his Ph.D. from State University of New York at Stony Brook on Planetary Atmospheres in 1974.
Dr. Ramanathan is a Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric and Climate Sciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego. He currently chairs an international science team from Asia, Africa and Latin America under the Atmospheric Brown Clouds Program sponsored by the United Nations Environmental Programme.
For over 30 years, he has been conducting original research in Climate and Atmospheric Science.
As Director of the Center for Clouds, Chemistry, and Climate at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, he conducts International field campaigns, develops unmanned aircraft platforms for tracking atmospheric brown cloud (ABC) pollution worldwide, and educates and trains the next generation of scientists.
His major focus now is on developing practical solutions for mitigating global climate change and slowing down the retreat of the Himalayan glaciers.
Project Surya, a cook-stove project which attempts to eliminate climate warming pollutants from traditional bio-mass cooking, is his first climate mitigation project.
His landmark research showed that cutting emissions of ‘black carbon’ or soot can significantly lessen the impacts of climate change, improve the health of millions of rural poor, and avoid crop losses.
Ramanathan has been among the most prominent scientific voices calling for collective action to cut emissions of short-lived climate pollutants to slow the pace of global warming, and achieve multi-billion dollar health benefits.
A major UNEP study in 2011, on which Ramanathan acted as vice-chair and senior contributor, presented 16 actions to cut black carbon and methane emissions, which, if implemented, would save close to 2.5 million lives a year through reduced respiratory illnesses, avoid crop losses amounting to 32 million tonnes annually, and deliver near-term climate protection of about 0.5 °C by 2050.
The prize is awarded annually to leaders from government, civil society and the private sector, whose actions have had a significant and positive impact on the environment. Other winners to receive Champions of the Earth award are Google Earth; Carlo Petrini, the founder of the Slow Food Movement; Izabella Teixeira, Minister of Environment, Brazil; Jack Dangermond, founder of the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), and Martha Isabel Ruiz Corzo from the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve in Mexico.