Remembering Mario Molina, Nobel Prize-winning chemist who pushed Mexico on clean energy — and, recently, face masks

Molina talking about local weather alter at the Guadalajara International Reserve Reasonable in Mexico, Nov. 2018. Leonardo Alvarez/Getty Visuals

Dr. Mario Molina, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who died on Oct. 7 at age 77, did not grow to be a scientist to alter the world he just liked chemistry. Born in Mexico City in 1943, Molina as a youthful boy done household experiments with contaminated drinking water just for the entertaining of it.

But Molina arrived to realize the political great importance of his get the job done on atmospheric chemistry and ozone layer depletion, which gained him the Nobel in 1995, alongside with Paul J. Crutzen and F. Sherwood Rowland. Obtaining that shock connect with from Sweden totally altered how he saw his job in the globe, Molina claimed in 2016. He felt a duty to share his knowledge of cleanse energy, air excellent and local climate modify broadly and to press selection-makers to use that details to safeguard the environment.

As a Mexican, Dr. Molina was a issue of pleasure for me. Although I am a social scientist, not a chemist, his career impressed me to follow my dreams and to rely on science to show us all the correct path.

Clean air now

Mario Molina considered local weather modify was the biggest difficulty in the planet lengthy ahead of most men and women did.

His investigate was instrumental in spurring negotiation of the 1987 Montreal Protocol, an intercontinental treaty that successfully banned fluorocarbons – unsafe chemical compounds that damage the ozone layer. The arrangement is credited with supporting the ozone layer mend. He recognized that the environmental dilemma is international, and that what transpires in China or the United States has an effect on Mexico, too.

After a extensive a job in academia, Molina and his wife, Luisa T. Molina – also an an atmospheric scientist – founded the Centro Mario Molina in 2005, a Mexican heart focused to environmental study and community coverage. With each other, they co-directed the heart, which conducts in depth get the job done in Mexico Town.

The Molinas sounded the alarm in Latin America about air pollution and general public well being, which remains a obstacle in the region. But they also comprehended the purpose of economics in environmental defense – and, importantly, the centrality of fossil fuels to the Mexican economy – so the Molinas worked with Mexican economists to address concerns that environmentally friendly electrical power would hurt prosperity.

Four men toast each other
Molina (2nd-R) soon following successful the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, celebrating at a reception with earlier Laureates from M.I.T., Oct. 11, 1995.
Stuart Cahill/AFP via Getty Visuals

By means of his organization, Molina also promoted cooperation involving experts, goverment, sector and civil modern society until 2013, when then-Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto appointed him to head the country’s National Procedure for Weather Modify.

In 2018, when Mexico’s government changed, Molina was not invited to provide in the new administration. Mexico’s existing president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, arrived to electrical power promising to establish a new oil refinery in Mexico.

Molina urged Mexico to transition to clean up vitality sources “sooner alternatively than later,” promising this coverage improve would promote “public wellbeing, position creation and electricity stability for the country.” In a May 2020 interview, Molina pressured cleanse vitality “is an expenditure that society would make and really financially rewarding.”

“Mexico is going back to the preceding century or the a person prior to it, at a time when all the specialists on the world absolutely agree that we are in a local climate disaster,” he said of Mexico’s ongoing reliance on fossil fuels just months just before his death. Molina criticized López Obrador for limiting the use of thoroughly clean electrical power resources and pushed for more wind vitality in Mexico, a technology which is only just rising there.

Scientist until finally the finish

Molina defended the significance of science in policy-earning until the extremely conclusion.

When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, he was an early and adamant advocate for confront masks and was aghast that the presidents of both of those Mexico and the United States refused to put on facial coverings. He explained the government ought to “force the use of confront masks…because only in this way do we know that the curve can be flattened.”

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Mario Molina graduated from the Countrywide Autonomous College of Mexico, or UNAM, and accomplished his graduate reports at the College of Fribourg and the College of California, Berkeley. Though he taught at M.I.T., he remained faithful to UNAM, working with school and pupils til the conclude.

The a lot of Mexicans who, like me, have been inspired by his life’s operate mourn his passing.


Elena Delavega does not function for, check with, very own shares in or obtain funding from any company or group that would benefit from this write-up, and has disclosed no related affiliations further than their academic appointment.

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