Örjan Gustafsson is Professor at Stockholm University in the Department of Environmental Science and the Bolin Centre for Climate Research. After pursuing a university degree in chemistry, he specialized in chemical oceanography and obtained a PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in 1997.
He is an elected member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (body responsible for Nobel Prizes in Chemistry and Physics), the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (focusing on sustainability and resilience) and serves as chair of the board of directors of the Future Earth Global Hub (Stockholm, Sweden). He is the director of the receptor observatory for atmosphere-climate studies of the pollution outflow from South Asia (on the island of Hanimaadhoo, the Maldives) and act as deputy director (to Prof. Abdus Salam) of the Bangladesh Climate Observatory on Bhola Island (intercepting the outflow of the Indo-Gangetic Plain). He leads a 15-pers research group with members from currently eight countries and five continents. He has published over 260 peer-reviewed research articles.
His fundamental interest is to understand how human activities are perturbing the climate and the related biogeochemical cycle in the global land-ocean-atmosphere system. He is also engaging in cross-disciplinary initiatives contributing towards a more sustainable and resilient stewardship of our planet. His research focuses on two challenges in climate change research that both may lead to climate overshoot. Thawing permafrost and collapsing methane hydrates in the Arctic and the links between severe air pollution and climate change in South Asia, East Asia, the Tibetan Plateau and the sub-Saharan Africa.
For the latter, Gustafsson’s group have with colleagues established atmospheric-climate observatories strategically located to intercept the outflow from e.g. India and China. These observatories are continuously operated with decadal perspectives at locations such as in rural S. Bangladesh (w. Prof. Abdus Salam) and on islands in the northern Indian Ocean and in SE Yellow Sea (w. Prof. Sang-Woo Kim). Placed within a comprehensive framework of satellite- and observatory data, we are for instance isotopically fingerprinting climate- and health-affecting aerosols and gases (e.g., CO, CH4) to provide observational constraints on both their atmospheric reactions and on the relative importance of different sources, to support air quality and climate modelling and to guide society’s efforts to mitigate emissions. As a recent example, we used the COVID shutdown in India as a large-scale geophysical perturbation experiment – a preview of what we may face when we go to net zero fossil emissions. While the skies got bluer and the air got cleaner, the climate also got warmer. While atmospherically long-lived CO2 only dropped by 1%, the loading of short-lived net climate-cooling aerosol pollution dropped drastically resulting in an aerosol demasking that enhances climate warming. This process may contribute to climate overshoot in current and coming decades and shows the complicated intertwining of air pollution, climate change and sustainable developments. IGAC is well positioned on these topics to contribute key scientific underpinning for guiding society towards a sustainable development.
He takes a large interest in cross-disciplinary initiatives both in education and in interactions with society and policy makers to contribute towards finding solutions for us to bend the curve of climate change.