“Building a new, cleaner economy is an absolute necessity, so the sooner we get started, the better.” These warning words were pronounced by physicist and mathematician Klaus Hasselmann: “It is important that government action to overcome the present economic crisis looks to the technologies of the future, particularly renewable energy technologies”, Hasselmann urges. “So after the recovery, we are set on a new development path with lower atmospheric emissions of CO2, and not back on the old heavy emissions path. That way we can use the crisis to mitigate climate change.”For Hasselmann, the transition to a “clean” economy does not mean sacrificing our standards of living: “The technology is there, and if we invest in it wisely, we can combat climate change without major changes in our way of life. Paradoxically, the main obstacle is that neither politicians nor the public are aware that this is a problem we can solve.”
Hasselmann is the author of pioneering models to simulate climate change, and has also developed techniques that reliably identify the “human imprint” on today’s climate. “This landmark research overcame the prior difficulty of distinguishing human impact in observed climate change”, in the opinion of the jury. Thanks to Hasselmann’s method, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) could commit to paper in its 4th Report (2007) that climate change was attributable to human factors.
Hasselmann is a physicist and also an oceanographer. It was in this last facet that he developed the mathematical model that is currently used – in its improved form – by some 200 institutions worldwide to draw up their daily wave forecasts for coastal waters. In 1972, he moved into the climate field as a member of the organizing committee of the World Climate Research Program. Not long after, he formed the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg which he led over a period of 25 years, later staying on as Emeritus Professor. In 2001, he founded the European Climate Forum (ECF) bringing together seven prestigious research centers – among them ETH Zurich, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Tyndall Centre – as a platform for dialogue and joint working between scientists, industry and a wide range of social agents, from NGOs to political leaders.
Hasselmann was honoured by the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards honor world-class research and artistic creation across eight prize categories. Their uniqueness lies in their close alignment with the scientific, technological, social and economic challenges of the present century. Thus categories are reserved for Development Cooperation, Information and Communication Technologies, Ecology and Conservation Biology, and Climate Change, alongside the awards going to outstanding contributions in Economics, Finance and Management, Basic Sciences, Biomedicine and Contemporary Music.