Nobel goes to scientists at UCI

Nine honored for Nobel Prize-winning report on climate change. They plan to share $1.5M prize with activist Al Gore.

October 13, 2007|By Joseph Serna

They won’t be invited to Stockholm, but that’s OK with the nine UC Irvine scientists who have contributed to the environmental reports that won the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change its share of a Nobel Peace Prize. They were never really after the glory, just the work.

Michael Prather, a UCI earth system science professor, researcher and a lead author for the panel’s reports dating back to 1995, said he appreciated how the Nobel committee named the entire organization as the beneficiary of the award.

“I was really impressed that they didn’t give any names,” Prather said. “My joke is that all we want is a dollar check from Nobel to put on our walls.”


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is made up of 2,500 researchers from more than 130 countries with a singular purpose: to give the United Nations a neutral, scientifically based assessment of man-made climate change.

The nine scientists felt a collective gratitude for the award.

“We all feel a small part of it. I’m just a small part of this large thing, so I’m very proud of it. It’s the only Nobel prize I’m ever likely to get,” said Sue Trumbore, laughing.

Some see this year’s peace prize, which also honored Al Gore, as a political statement.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the prize for “their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.”

The committee said it is trying to bring focus to things that endanger the world’s climate and thereby reduce the threat.

The award validated what Prather and his colleagues worked for, he said.

Prather sees the award as validating all he and his colleagues have worked for.

“[Winning this] says ‘You were right, you fought long, you fought hard,’” he said. The scientists were humble in their contributions to the award, which they see as a culmination of the panel’s work since its inception in 1990.

“It’s nothing to have other people who aren’t your peers tell you this was a major accomplishment,” Prather said.

“It’s hard not to have a little bit of pride,” Trumbore said. “I contributed to something that it turns out matters to people.”

The panel is sharing the award, and its $1.5 million prize money, with Gore.

Other UCI faculty who have worked on the panel include Donald Blake, Michael Goulden, Gudrun Magnusdottir, James Randerson, Soroosh Sorooshian, Stan Tyler, Jin-Yi Yu and Charlie Zender.

JOSEPH SERNA may be reached at (714) 966-4619 or at

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