Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan, An atmospheric scientist cited for fundamental contributions to our modern understanding of climate change, Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan was the first to discover the greenhouse effect of halocarbons and to predict global warming.
Dr. Ramanathan has written that “the effect of global gases on global warming is, in my opinion, the most important environmental issue facing the world today.”
Dr. Ramanathan was born in Madurai, India. At the age of 11, he moved with his family to Bangalore. Unfortunately, the classes at the school he attended were taught in English and not his native Tamil. He admits that he “lost the habit of listening to my teachers and had to figure out things on my own.” He received his bachelor’s degree in engineering from Annamalai University and a master’s degree from the Indian Institute of Science. In 1970, he arrived in the United States to study interferometry (the analysis of electromagnetic waves) at the State University of New York at Stony Brook under the direction of Dr. Robert Cess. Before Dr. Ramanathan could begin working on his Ph.D., Dr. Cess decided to change his research from interferometry and focus on planetary atmospheres.
Dr. Ramanathan’s first major findings were in the mid-1970s and were related to the greenhouse effect of CFCs (clorofluorocarbons). Until that time, carbon dioxide was thought to be the sole greenhouse gas responsible for global warming.
His focus then shifted to the radiative effects of clouds on the climate. This was done using the Earth Radiation Budget Experiment, which showed that clouds have a large cooling effect on the planet.
Dr. Ramanathan is also interested in the impact of climate change on agriculture in India. In March 2007, he co-authored a white paper on Project Surya (“sun” in Sanskrit), in which inexpensive solar cookers will replace highly polluting cookstoves, traditionally employed in rural India. The byproducts of biofuel cooking and biomass burning are significant contributors to global warming, and results from the project will document the reductions in carbon dioxide and soot emissions.
Dr. Ramanathan was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2002 and is currently a Distinguished Professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD, and a UNESCO Professor of Climate and Policy, TERI University, Delhi, India.
He was co-organizer of a 2014 Vatican meeting on “Sustainable Humanity, Sustainable Nature” attended by social and natural scientists, philosophers and policy makers.