Nairobi -- Professor Mario Molina, a member of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition's Science Advisory Panel and a former winner of the UNEP Sasakawa Prize, has been named as a recipient of the US Presidential Medal of Freedom.
President Barack Obama named Prof. Molina as one of sixteen people who will later this year receive the medal at the White House. The medal is the US's highest civilian honour and is presented to individuals who have 'made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavours'.
'The Presidential Medal of Freedom goes to men and women who have dedicated their own lives to enriching ours,' said President Obama said. 'This year's honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent, but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world.'
Prof. Molina's pioneering contributions to the field of atmospheric chemistry have established him as one of the world's leading authorities on the effect of human activities on the atmosphere, and have led to a better understanding of the issue.
As a result Prof. Molina was in 1999 awarded the UNEP Sasakawa Prize, which recognizes outstanding individuals and organizations for their significant contribution to the protection of the environment and the promotion of sustainable development.
'I feel very honoured to have been selected to receive the Medal ... it is an encouragement to continue my activities related to improving society globally through the protection of the planet's environment, especially with my work in Mexico and the United States,' said Prof. Molina.
Prof. Molina's recognized expertise also saw him appointed to the Science Advisory Panel of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition?a global movement to significantly reduce emissions of black carbon, methane and other substances known as short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs).
The Coalition, whose secretariat is hosted by UNEP, has been collaboratively spearheading international efforts to raise awareness of the major environmental and economic benefits that can be achieved by lowering emissions of SLCPs alongside catalyzing action.
Since its launch last year, dozens of countries, non-state organizations and the European Commission have joined the Coalition to express support for scaled-up actions across a range of economic sectors, including transport, oil and gas, and waste, to ensure reductions of emissions from SLCPs.
According to studies by UNEP, fast action on black carbon and methane have the potential to slow global temperature rise by up to 0.5°C by 2050, reduce air pollution-related deaths by as much as 2.4 million, and avoid around 30 million tonnes of crop losses annually.
In 1974, Prof. Molina published with F. Sherwood Rowland a seminal paper on the threat to the ozone layer from chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Under laboratory conditions, he and his colleagues demonstrated a previously unknown chemical reaction whereby chlorine is activated on the surface of ice cloud particles in the polar stratosphere.
Thanks to his leadership, the Montreal Protocol was made a reality. The speed with which countries ratified this international agreement was due in great part to the role he played in communicating the implication of his scientific research. He took the issue to policy makers, the media and to the general public.
For his work, Prof. Molina was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry with professors Rowland and Paul Crutzen. He donated two thirds of his share of the prize money to set up fellowships to help scientists from developing countries conduct research in environmental sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and other institutions in industrialized nations.
In addition to the Nobel Prize, Prof. Molina is the recipient of the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement, the Pew Scholar Award on Conservation and Environment, the Willard Gibbs Medal and the American Chemical Society's Award for Creative Advances in Environmental Sciences.
Prof. Molina is a professor at the University of California, San Diego; Director of the Mario Molina Center for Energy and Environment; and a member of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.