“Bayer Climate Award” presented to polar researcher Peter Lemke

Thu, 04/22/2010 - 7:21am
Berlin, April 22, 2010 – Professor Peter Lemke from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) in Bremerhaven has been presented with the “Bayer Climate Award 2010”. He is being honored for his fundamental and pioneering contributions to establishing the relationship between sea ice and the climate. The leading international polar researcher received the EUR 50,000 prize awarded by the Bayer Science & Education Foundation from Werner Wenning, Chairman of the Board of Management of Bayer AG, at an official ceremony in Berlin on April 22, 2010, attended by around 300 guests from the worlds of academia, politics and business. The ceremony took place during the international climate conference “Continents under Climate Change” which is being held to mark the bicentenary of Humboldt University Berlin.

“Through his work, today’s award-winner has made a significant contribution to the scientific principles that form the basis for proving climate change,” said Wenning, referring to the pioneer in sea ice research. “We are thus recognizing the tremendous importance to society as a whole of climate science as a field of research,” he continued, adding: “In the same way as with climate policy, public interest must also continue to be focused on climate research. For there is still an urgent need for scientific discussion of the causes and effects of climate change and of how to tackle these.” The goal must be to achieve a profound, assured understanding of global climate change and to draw the right conclusions from this, he said. Climate research has already made good progress on the path toward this goal.

Thinking about the difficulties currently being encountered in the negotiations on a new climate agreement, Wenning said: “The main objective remains the same – there needs to be global consensus on clear, ambitious and feasible goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Wenning stated that Bayer is prepared to meet its special corporate responsibility. With materials for insulating houses and for lightweight components for vehicles the Group is already helping to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As one of many examples of measures integrated into to the Bayer Climate Program, Wenning cited the EcoCommercial Building initiative. Through the partnership network it has built up, the company arranges for energy-optimized construction solutions in the commercial and public sector that can be adapted to the Earth’s different climate zones.

As a further example, the Bayer CEO mentioned the introduction of a new technology for chlorine production capable of reducing energy usage and thus CO2 emissions by 30 percent. Bayer is also offering the technology globally to other companies so that its climate protection potential can be more fully utilized. If just 15 percent of the chlorine manufacturing facilities of all market players were to be converted to this new technology, it would be possible to cut global CO2 emissions in chlorine production by five million metric tons per year. The Chairman of the Bayer Board of Management made it clear that as an emitter of greenhouse gases Bayer was naturally part of the climate problem but, as the examples showed, was playing an increasingly important role in finding the solution.

“I am delighted to have won the Bayer Climate Award,” said prize-winner Lemke. “First, I very much appreciate the recognition of the contributions my colleagues and I have made to climate science. Second, an award of this kind also encourages me to keep going and continue my research to obtain a better understanding of the links between sea ice and the climate.”

In his celebratory lecture, Professor Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, Secretary General of the International Human Frontier Science Program Organization, remarked that Lemke’s research work has focused for more than 30 years on issues that have been brought to the center of the general public’s attention as a result of the ongoing debate on climate change: Changes in sea ice serve as a barometer for climate change. Referring to the skepticism that the results of climate research and the challenges of climate change sometimes meet, Winnacker aptly noted: “While misleading information from some other quarters may generate an atmosphere of hysteria and confusion, it's clear that the data gathered by Lemke on the links between sea ice, ocean and the atmosphere are scientifically grounded. For what will soon be over four decades, Peter Lemke has carried out outstanding, solid scientific work that has proved to be absolutely unshakeable.”

Explaining the scientific committee’s decision to choose Lemke for the award, Dr. Wolfgang Plischke, member of the Bayer AG Board of Management responsible for Innovation, Technology and Environment and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Bayer Science & Education Foundation, said: “Professor Lemke’s research into sea ice has led to the development of key principles for today’s climate models that are used by the scientific community to analyze climate change. The results also create a decision-making basis for climate policies.”

Pioneering research into sea ice

Lemke began to observe climate-relevant processes in the atmosphere, sea ice and oceans back in the 1970s. Pronounced natural variability and long-term trends in the atmosphere and oceans are reflected in sea ice because the formation or melting of ice depends primarily on air and water temperatures. However, it is difficult to differentiate between action and reaction, because sea ice also changes the atmosphere and ocean and thus impacts on the very variables that affect it in the first place. The winner of the Bayer Climate Award 2010 has taken part in seven polar expeditions on the German research icebreaker “Polarstern” – each lasting several months – and headed up five of them. In addition to the scientific findings he made there, Lemke also drew some very practical conclusions. Due to the poor monitoring conditions in the polar regions, he was strongly committed to lobbying for new measuring technology, particularly remote sensing via satellite, for example through his involvement in the team of scientists responsible for the ESA “CryoSat-2” satellite, which was recently launched to survey the ice masses in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Professor Lemke is 63 years old and was born in Soltau, Germany. He has worked at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research since 2001, where he is currently Head of the Department of Climate Sciences. He is also Professor for Physics of Atmosphere and Ocean at the Institute of Environmental Physics of Bremen University. His academic career has included periods at Kiel University, Princeton University in New Jersey, United States, the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Hamburg University (degree in physics, doctorate and postdoctoral qualification in meteorology) and the Free University of Berlin (studies in physics and mathematics).

Key contributions to international research policy

Lemke has sat on a number of committees. Between 1995 and 2006, for example, he was an active member of the Scientific Committee for the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP). This is the highest international committee for climate research and Lemke was the first German to head the committee, a position he held for six years. One result of his work is that the WCRP is now geared towards longer-term climate forecasts, based on initial successes with much improved seasonal climate forecasts in the Tropics, which came about, among other things, through its monitoring of the “El Niño” phenomenon. El Niño is characterized by the unusual warming of water in the Pacific Ocean that occurs every few years. These developments regularly lead to storms in Latin America and droughts in both Australia and Indonesia with catastrophic consequences.

At present, Peter Lemke is concentrating on the development of models for analyzing and predicting regional climate change. This is very important because it is only by understanding how the climate will develop in particular regions that it is possible to prepare for and adapt to the consequences appropriately. This task is being tackled by the “REKLIM (Regional Climate Change)” climate initiative organized by the Helmholtz network, headed by Lemke and in which eight research centers are collaborating.

Professor Lemke played a key role in preparing the World Climate Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. In 1991 he received the Georgi Award for polar meteorology from the Alfred Wegener Foundation (now the Geo Union). And in 2005 he was appointed Honorary Professor of the China Meteorological Administration.

An independent scientific committee made up of international experts selected the winner from 16 candidates, who had been nominated by the presidents of major European research associations. The Bayer Climate Award is the first international prize established by a company to be awarded for pioneering contributions to fundamental climate science research. Professor Lemke is the second person to be presented with the award after the energy efficiency expert Professor Eberhard Jochem. The award was launched in 2008 as an integral part of the Bayer Climate Program and is presented every two years.

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