Acceptance Speech – Rome, 21.11.2008


Wallace Broecker

2008 Balzan Prize for the Science of Climate Change

For his extraordinary contributions to the understanding of climate change through his discoveries concerning the role of the oceans and their interactions with the atmosphere, as well as the role of glacial changes and the records contained in ice cores and ocean sediments. His contributions have been significant in understanding both gradual and abrupt climate change.

Mr. President,
Members of the Balzan Foundation,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I was pleasantly surprised to receive a telephone call at 8:40am one morning from Professor Enric Banda in Barcelona informing me that I was to receive the Balzan Prize. While I was aware that two of my friends, Wolf Berger and the late Harmon Craig had received this award, it had never occurred to me that I would join them as a recipient of this great honor. Nor did I realize how large its monetary value.

As I live as a widower fairly simply and as a year ago I received the Crafoord Award, my immediate thought was that I should donate much of the prize to a worthy cause. But what cause? Then it occurred to me that it was an opportunity to pay back a bit for all the wonderful things the late Gary Comer had done for my field (abrupt climate change), for my institution (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory) and for me personally.

Hence I have decided to accept personally only ten percent of the award and to donate the other ninety percent to the Comer Science and Education Foundation. The foundation’s executive officer has to this end created a separate fund named the Global Climate Research Foundation to house this donation. It will be spent for small research grants focused on several key areas that I deem important to our understanding of the consequence of the ongoing global warming created by the release of CO2 generated by the burning of fossil fuels.

In conclusion, I would like to express my sincere thanks to members of the General Prize Committee and to the Balzan Foundation for bestowing on me this great honor.

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