Nobel Laureate Who Helped Save Ozone Layer Dies at 77

Mario Molina's discoveries 'saved life on Earth', the UCI Department of Chemistry chair explained.
Chris Young
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Mario Molina, a chemist who earned a Nobel Prize in 1995 for his work in helping to reverse the depletion of the ozone layer, died on Wednesday, Oct. 7 in Mexico City at the age of 77.

The Molina family formally announced Mario's death in a short statement published by the institute that carries his name. No cause of death was given.


Molina's discoveries 'literally saved life on Earth'

Molina's work played a crucial role in enacting the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

Molina, alongside American scientist Frank Sherwood Rowland, published a paper in 1974 detailing their discovery that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), chemicals widely used in a variety of household aerosol products, were destroying the ozone layer.

The study was targeted and lambasted by chemical corporations, but it successfully raised public awareness about the harmful effects of CFCs and directly led to the implementation of the Montreal Protocol.

Molina's work on ozone depletion made him the first Mexican scientist to win the Nobel Prize, which he shared with Rowland and Dutch scientist Paul Crutzen in 1995.

In a letter following Molina's death, Professor Douglas Tobias, the Department of Chemistry chair at UCI, where Molina was a postdoctoral researcher said that "it is safe to say that Molina and Rowland made discoveries that literally saved life on Earth."

A vital contributor to climate protection

In his later years, Molina was a consistent proponent of the Montreal Protocol, which was transformed, through various amendments, into a more wide-ranging climate treaty.

The treaty now bans over 100 different substances, including highly potent greenhouse gases such as hydrofluorocarbons.

"He's one of the single most important contributors to climate protection in world history," said Paul Bledsoe, via Science Mag, a former climate adviser in the White House under former President Bill Clinton who worked with Molina over the years in several capacities.

Molina was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013 for his contributions towards protecting the climate and our natural world. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1972 and, later, years rejoined as a professor at the University of California, San Diego.

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