Written by Ewa Krukowska, CNN
Kyoto Protocol architect Paul Crutzen won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his groundbreaking work on endocrine disrupting chemicals, a group of toxins that interfere with the function of endocrine systems, in particular the thyroid gland.
His groundbreaking work raised the importance of protecting people’s environment and living systems, and placed sustainability of ecosystems and food production at the core of sustainable development. In 2009, he said he regretted not giving the award to the Kyoto Protocol.
“It didn’t win the public opinion much because at the time no politician wanted to face what appeared to be very unpopular. There wasn’t the popular reaction to change with regard to climate change that there is today.”
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Climate change mitigation is still at the forefront of his mind. “Unfortunately we have moved a very long way forward in certain areas and still a lot of work needs to be done to reduce emissions,” he said in an interview with CNN in Shanghai this week.
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Crutzen’s Nobel Prize decision is one of many that could have influenced his career. Aside from his discovery of endocrine disrupting chemicals, another is his work on fusion power.
“I began as a scientist, and then I met a very interesting professor from the theoretical physics department in the university who completely changed my view, in many ways,” he said. “As a result I discovered that if you do fusion power you might reach a point that you might solve the climate problem.”
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The professor’s real motivation, however, was to take that a step further. “I always ask myself if one day we have developed fusion power, if we knew how to control that power, what will be the power we could achieve?” he said. “I have come to the conclusion that we could be able to eliminate all dangerous and pressing problems such as global warming, other dangers including nuclear weapons.”
Crutzen’s works have also helped to build strong scientific and policy groundswell around the need to protect the world’s environment and boost sustainability.
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He even dedicated the Nobel Prize Prize to the issues he had raised. “We know where to go. We know how to prevent the damage and how to change,” he said. “Now we have to tell the politicians who we can trust to take measures to correct the situations for the better.”
Crutzen is now focusing on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its contribution to the search for solutions to climate change.
“It is the most important body in the world when it comes to science,” he said. “We know which emission technologies are the most effective, which are the least effective.”