Charles Keeling receives the National Science Medal from President Bush in 2001. National Science Foundation photo

A $250,000 annual award that encourages climate change solutions has been named for one of Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s most famous research endeavors.

The Aspen-based Keeling Curve Prize is accepting applications through April 1 from entrants who devise products or strategies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or reduce existing quantities of greenhouse gases already present in the atmosphere.

Prize organizers said they drew inspiration from the Keeling Curve, a measurement of the concentration of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that ushered in the modern era of climate change research and became one of the iconic images of science.

“Fundamentally, the idea is to bend the Keeling Curve downward, so naming the prize after Charles Keeling’s work seemed ideal and I’m thrilled the Keeling family agreed,” said Jackie Francis, who co-founded the prize with with philanthropist Michael Klein.

The late geochemist Charles David Keeling began the Keeling Curve measurement in 1958 at a monitoring station atop Hawaii’s Mauna Loa. The data series draws its name from the trend of steadily rising, seasonally fluctuating CO2 readings that exceeded 400 parts per million for the first time in human history in 2013.

Prior to the onset of the Industrial Revolution, CO2  levels had fluctuated over millennia but had never exceeded 300 parts per million at any point in the last 800,000 years.

Carbon dioxide is called a greenhouse gas for its ability to trap solar radiation and keep it confined to the atmosphere. It is the most prevalent among all greenhouse gases produced by human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels.

The Keeling Curve. Courtesy Scripps Institution of Oceanography
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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.