Mario J. Molina (b. 1943) is one of the leading scientists in the world, dedicated to atmospheric chemistry. He co-authored with Frank Sherwood Rowland the 1974 Nature article predicting the depletion of the ozone layer as a direct consequence of the emissions of certain industrial gases, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The “CFC-ozone depletion theory” led to their earning the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry jointly with Paul J. Crutzen. Professor Molina’s research and publications on the subject also influenced the United Nations Montreal Protocol, a landmark international agreement designed to protect the ozone layer. He is a former MIT Institute Professor and at present, he presides over the Mario Molina Center for Strategic Studies on Energy and Environment in Mexico, which conducts research and promotes public policies. The Center focuses on strategic studies of energy and the environment, particularly in the field of climate change and air quality.
Steven Chu (b. 1948) served as secretary of the United States Department of Energy from 2009 to 2013, and was co-winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize for Physics for his work in methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light. Dr. Chu was born in St. Louis, Missouri, into a family of scholars who placed an enormous value on education. Both his father and mother studied at MIT, in chemical engineering and economics, respectively, and they nurtured intellectual curiosity in their children. As a young child, Dr. Chu built model airplanes and warships, graduated to Erector Sets, and later, spent his school lunch money on parts for homemade rockets that he constructed with a friend. He matriculated to the University of Rochester, where he developed a love for physics and mathematics, and from which he graduated in 1970. In 1976, after completing his graduate and postdoctoral work at the University of California at Berkeley, Dr. Chu spent nine years at Bell Laboratories. The atmosphere at Bell Labs during that period (1978–1987) was one “permeated by the joy and excitement of doing science,” according to Dr. Chu, and his work there led to the laser cooling and trapping of atoms for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize.
For those seeking reassurance that American politicians take climate change and clean energy seriously, look no further: Jeff Bingaman (b. 1943) wraps his arms around this enormous issue, and sets forth an ambitious national agenda to address the challenge. Bingaman sees a new attitude emerging in Washington. Politicians have begun to grasp that reduced dependence on foreign oil is not enough, and that today’s energy challenge requires an overhaul in the way the entire world produces, stores, distributes, and uses energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This urgent, immense challenge is happening “in a world of growing demand for energy as billions of people are rising out of poverty.”
Robert M. White advises on environment, energy, and climate change, and development and management of organizations and research programs. Dr. White was President of the National Academy of Engineering from 1983 to 1995. Prior to that, he was President of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, and has served in scientific leadership positions under five U.S. Presidents.