Susan Solomon, one of the world’s leading atmospheric chemists, has received the Volvo Environmental Prize 2009 for her atmospheric research.
Susan Solomon was just 30 years old when she led her first expedition to the Antarctic in 1986 to conduct research into the hole in the ozone layer. At the time, she already had a theory regarding which chemical reactions caused the ozone layer to be so much thinner there.
“When I finally got to the Antarctic and conducted my research work I could see that my theory actually proved itself in practice – it was exactly as I had said. That was a fantastic time for me,” she recalls.
As a result of Susan Solomon’s discovery, chlorofluorocarbons, known in everyday speech as CFCs, are no longer manufactured or used, and her efforts eventually led to an international agreement to protect the ozone layer. Today she focuses her research on climate change, which she sees as the biggest threat to our planet.
“If we continue to discharge carbon dioxide at the same rate as before, the average temperature in the year 2100 will be 5-7 degrees Celsius warmer than it is today. It’s easy to imagine the enormous changes that would bring about for animals, plants and human beings. Skiing, for example, will be seen as an old fashion activity,” reflects Susan Solomon.
What do you feel a company like the Volvo Group can do?
“Between 10 and 35 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions in a country come from vehicle traffic, so emission standards in many countries, among them my home country the USA, must be tougher. That is where vehicle manufacturers will play a major role since we need new technology to tackle this problem. I believe that the whole world is now looking to the automotive industry to develop the new technologies we need. Renewable fuels such as biodiesel are one way of reducing carbon dioxide levels.”
Are you optimistic about the future?
“Yes, I am actually. People have begun to understand the problem of climate change over the past few years in a way that I feel is very inspiring. So now it is up to the industry to develop new solutions and it is up to society’s decision-makers to assist with the necessary investments,” says Susan Solomon.