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Photo: PIK/ Klemens Karkow
Main Research Interests: Condensed matter physics, complex systems dynamics, climate change research, Earth System analysis, sustainability science
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber has made numerous important contributions to theoretical physics, both to the foundations of the field (condensed matter, complex dynamics) and to its applications (climate & environmental systems analysis). His research in solid state physics (inter alia, at UC Santa Barbara’s ITP) focused on the behaviour of electrons in almost periodic/fractal fields and generated crucial results on the Fibonacci Hamiltonian and the Frenkel-Kontorova chain.
Schellnhuber conducted his more applied research particularly at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, which he founded in 1992 and which he has headed ever since (partly in parallel to engagements abroad, such as the director post at the British Tyndall Centre). The topical foci in this context are stability analysis of the Earth System, climate impacts assessment and sustainability science. Schellnhuber’s ideas have been seminal for the international development of those areas. Only recently, he was able to demonstrate (together with colleagues from several countries) that unabated anthropogenic global warming is likely to activate large-scale tipping elements, thereby triggering irreversible environmental impacts.
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