Japanese-born American academic Syukuro Manabe said Tuesday he is intrigued with what the climate will be like in a post-global warming world after winning this year's Nobel Prize in physics with two other scientists.
Manabe, 90, a senior meteorologist at Princeton University, said winning the prestigious award was a "great surprise."
Recognized for creating physical modeling of the Earth's climate and predicting global warming, Manabe shared the prize with Italian Giorgio Parisi, 73, and German Klaus Hasselmann, 89.
He said the question of how "climates are going to change in the next 10 million years" is "fascinating."
"We have to think about how to mitigate climate change, it is one thing, but we have to find out how to adapt to climate change which is happening right now, like drought, flood and all sorts of things. We are facing a very difficult problem," he said.
"Some people say if we have the right prediction in climate change, the problem is solved, but this is far, far from (the truth)."
Manabe led the development of physical models of the Earth's climate and was the first person to explore the interaction between radiation balance and the vertical transport of air masses in the 1960s, laying the foundation for the development of current climate models, according to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
"I never imagined that this thing I would begin to study had such huge consequences. I was doing it just because of my curiosity," he said, adding that this kind of inquiry can often bear the most interesting outcomes.
Using an atmospheric model he developed, he published a research paper in 1967 estimating that a doubling of the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere would raise the global temperature by 2.3 C. Two years later, he presented a new model which connected conditions in the ocean and atmosphere.
The work done by Manabe and his fellow laureates has become increasingly vital as the planet faces a climate emergency, their modeling helping to predict and understand the impact of unchecked global warming.
"He has contributed fundamentally to our understanding of human-caused climate change and dynamical mechanisms," Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University, said of Manabe in the New York Times.
Manabe said during the press conference he believes there is "less curiosity-driven research than before" in the Japanese research environment and university system.
"I think the U.S. is doing much better with the National Academy of Sciences, which is advising the government very effectively," he said, calling for an improvement of communications between policy makers and scientists in Japan.
After receiving his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Tokyo in 1958, Manabe, a native of Ehime Prefecture, western Japan, left for the United States to join the National Weather Service, the predecessor to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
He joined the Princeton University faculty in 1968, according to the university.
Asked about his decision to take U.S. nationality, Manabe explained he was able to find more freedom in his research in the United States, joking he is "not capable of living harmoniously" in Japan where avoiding conflict is considered an essential skill.
He thanked his wife Nobuko, 80, for her support in life and in his research.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida described Manabe as a "pioneer in the study of global warming" when speaking to reporters Wednesday at the prime minister's office.
"He has made a tremendous contribution to humanity...I want to congratulate him directly," said Kishida, suggesting he will make a phone call to Manabe.