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Mario Molina receives Presidential Medal of Freedom for helping save ozone layer


Washington, DC 9 August 2013 - President Obama announced yesterday that Dr. Mario Molina has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, along with former President Bill Clinton, and 14 others.  The Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor in the US, given to acknowledge those who have made especially meritorious contributions to the country’s security or national interests, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant endeavors.

The White House announcement stated, "Mario Molina is a visionary chemist and environmental scientist …  [who] earned the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering how chlorofluorocarbons deplete the ozone layer.  Dr. Molina is a professor at the University of California, San Diego; Director of the Mario Molina Center for Energy and Environment; and a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology." Dr. Molina, who is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Mexico, told the U-T San Diego that he "was stunned" and "very humbled" to learn that he was receiving the medal.

"Dr. Molina's career has been a combination of brilliant science and wise and heroic policy action," said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development.  Molina and Zaelke are currently collaborating on efforts to show the importance of reducing hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, using the Montreal Protocol, the treaty that previously phased out CFCs.  (Several papers they have co-authored are listed below.)

President Obama and President Xi Jinping reached an agreement at their summit earlier this summer to phase down HFCs using the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol. "The HFC phase-down will provide climate mitigation equivalent to 100 billion tones of CO2 by 2050, and avoid up to 0.5°C of warming by the end of the century," Zaelke added.  More than 110 countries are supporting this approach. The Medal of Freedom will be presented at the White House later this year.