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Veerabhadran Ramanathan

Scripps Climate Researcher Among 100 Foreign Policy Global Thinkers of 2014

Veerabhadran Ramanathan recognized by Foreign Policy magazine for promoting dialogue with religious, political leaders to advance environmental stewardship

Foreign Policy magazine has named Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a distinguished professor of climate and atmospheric sciences at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, as one of its 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2014.

Veerabhadran Ramanathan

Ramanathan has over the course of more than 40 years achieved several breakthroughs in the understanding of the effects of aerosols—particularly air pollution—on climate. In recent years, he has advanced the control of what are termed short-lived climate pollutants as a means of slowing the advance of global warming in the near term. He has also advocated for religious leaders to take up the cause of environmental stewardship as a moral imperative and interacted with figures such as the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis toward this end. His efforts have included the co-authoring of several essays intended for the international diplomatic community on ways to achieve success in combating climate change.

The magazine recognized Ramanathan and other Global Thinker honorees on Nov. 17, 2014, at “Transformational Trends,” a daylong program in Washington D.C. co-hosted by Foreign Policy and the U.S. Department of State that explores the future of international relations. Secretary of State John Kerry delivered the keynote address. A reception for the 100 Global Thinkers will follow.

“I am honored and overwhelmed by this recognition. I have come to appreciate the power of engagement and the exchange of ideas among diverse communities—whether they be religious, policy, or scientific,” said Ramanathan. “Journals such as Foreign Policy provide a great forum for such exchanges and inclusion in this select group of global leaders gives me more opportunity to advance the cause of the three billion people left behind with little access to modern sources of energy.”

“Each year our list of leading Global Thinkers spotlights those who have translated their ideas into actions, impacting millions worldwide,” said David Rothkopf, editor and CEO of The FP Group, which publishes Foreign Policy. “It is a chance to reflect on who and what are driving change today and who will shape it tomorrow.”

The list of Leading Global Thinkers includes leaders such as India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin; personalities such as television host John Oliver, and numerous artists, activists, and researchers.

Veerabhadran Ramanathan

Ramanathan and Somerville in a dialogue on climate with the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.

Among the other honorees is Partha Dasgupta, an economist at St John's College, Cambridge University, who co-authored with Ramanathan in September an essay in the journal Science entitled “Pursuit of the Common Good.” In it, they argued that safeguarding the well-being of all individuals, stabilizing climate change, and providing universal access to energy are “central to disrupting destructive feedbacks.”

The two were among the leaders who co-convened of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences in a May 2014 workshop considering the overlap between environmental justice and societal justice.

“Over and above institutional reforms and policy changes that are required, there is a need to re-orient our attitude toward nature and thereby toward ourselves,” said Dasgupta and Ramanathan in the essay.

Ramanathan’s earlier efforts led to the creation of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, an initiative announced by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2012. The coalition promotes control of short-lived climate pollutants—so named because of their relatively short lifespan in the atmosphere and correspondingly brief effect on climate—and has grown in the past two years to include 42 member countries.