A Lehigh University professor contributed to three of four assessment reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which on October 12 was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with former vice president Al Gore.
Dork Sahagian, professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences
and director of the Environmental Initiative
, served as a contributing author for the Second Assessment Report which was released in 1995, a reviewer of the Third Assessment Report released in 2001, and a contributing author for the forthcoming Fourth Assessment Report.
Authors from across the globe have written and peer-reviewed each of the assessments. These reports presented new and then stronger evidence which showed that human activity has contributed to global warming over the last 50 years.
“Through the scientific reports it has issued over the past two decades, the IPCC has created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming,” said The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which awarded the prize.
“The importance of the results of the IPCC process is in the degree to which it represents consensus of a huge community of scientists, social scientists, and other scholars,” said Sahagian. “While there is no specific political agenda in IPCC, I certainly hope that the results will be incorporated in policy-making throughout the world, as they affect everyone living now or yet to be born.”
The IPCC was established 20 years ago to assess scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant for the understanding of climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. Next week, the IPCC will meet in Valencia, Spain to adopt the fourth and final volume of the climate change assessment report.
“People have already created enough greenhouse gas emissions (and land use changes) to impact climate in ways that could disrupt fragile social and economic systems,” said Sahagian. “However, the potential for much more severe human-induced alterations looms large, and is inevitable if we do not immediately take major steps to reduce and soon curtail completely greenhouse gas emissions.”
As director of the Environmental Initiative, Sahagian is working to create a leading program for environmental science, technology, economics, education, policy, and the myriad interactions between people and the environment. He conducts research in paleoclimatology, volcanology, stratigraphy, geodynamics and tectonics, global hydrology and sea level.
“My own contribution to the IPPC has been only very minor, involving humanity’s effect on sea level rise,” said Sahagian. “Nevertheless, I am glad to have been able to provide even the smallest insights into a critically important process.”