Dr. Mario Molina’s Insight on Mexico’s EmissionsBy Cas Biekmann | Tue, 10/13/2020 - 17:57
With the passing of Dr. Mario Molina, who died at age 77, the world lost one of its most recognizable and influential scientists. Nevertheless, Molina was much more than a one-time Nobel Prize winner. He remained in the public sphere to discuss pollution and climate change, using a strong scientific approach as the basis for consultation. His influential viewpoints continue to be of relevance, as countries like Mexico have plenty of decarbonization left to accomplish.
A chemical engineer from UNAM, Dr. Molina was a pioneer in the area of atmospheric chemistry. Together with F.S. Rowland, he predicted how the ozone layer would become thin due to the use of chlorofluorocarbons often found in spray cans. Following this discovery, his work focused on the chemistry of pollution processes that occur in the lower layers of the atmosphere, as well as promoting action to diminish pollution in larger cities.
Molina was a professor and researcher at UNAM, Postdoctoral Associate at the University of California, Professor at the University of California at Irvine, as well as Researcher at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1989 to 2004.
El Universal reported that Molina’s findings were certainly not well received by research groups and society alike. Nevertheless, by working hard to offer explanations to the media and politicians about the scope of the problem, Molina was able to establish a consensus and that is how the basis for a worldwide environmental revolution came to be.
In 2005, the Mario Molina Center for Energy and Environment was founded. Mexico Energy Review interviewed Molina as part of the Center in 2014, when he highlighted the importance of keeping scientific evidence central. “The fact is that the media brought attention to both sides of the debate and that is not always justified, particularly when one side is not providing evidence supported by scientific consensus. They succeeded in misinforming society saying that scientific findings are not entirely certain, particularly when talking about possible risk projections,” he said.
Molina’s views clashed with the current administration’s objective to make use of its national resources as a lever toward social development. Before the López Obrador administration came into power, he had already outlined his views on the issue. “It is not wise for a country to depend on a single natural asset, particularly a non-renewable resource. We know that we will run out of fossil fuels and we have a situation in which the country is very vulnerable to climate change. There are some simple minds that think that decreasing fossil fuels would leave society unable to address poverty. But it is actually the other way around, as climate change will impact poor people more directly,” Molina explained. However, he did not completely oppose PEMEX, instead suggesting the NOC to focus on extracting other fossil fuels such as natural gas, leaving its petrol for industrial applications rather than large-scale energy generation. With the government’s current policy direction going against such recommendations, the future of Mexico’s carbon footprint remains unclear.
Dr. Molina did not only focus on climate change, however. One of his latest studies was presented in public together with another famous Mexican scientist in the environmental area, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum. In the study, evidence supported the use of facemasks to fight the spread of COVID-19, which was still somewhat disputed in the public sphere.