100+ Climate Experts at the Earth Institute

by |September 11, 2019

Editor’s note: This list was updated on September 16, 2019.

Earth Institute researchers work all over the world and across every aspect of climate change.

Climate change touches every corner of the planet and nearly every aspect of the human experience. So does our work at the Earth Institute. If you’re a journalist covering climate change, chances are we’ve got the experts you are looking to interview. Here is just a small sample of our researchers working on climate and related topics.

Adaptation, Mitigation, and Resilience

  • Mélody Braun studies mitigation strategies in developed countries as well as adaptation strategies in developing countries, from advancing adaptation policies at country level to the implementation at community level.
  • Patricia Culligan is working on a multi-year, field-monitoring program that aims to understand the role of green infrastructure in urban stormwater management and climate resilience.
  • Former congressman Carlos Curbelo was the co-founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus in the House of Representatives and introduced the first carbon pricing legislation by a Republican member of Congress in more than a decade.
  • Alex de Sherbinin maps social vulnerability to climate change, and studies climate change impacts on migration and displacement, including managed retreat from coastal inundation.
  • John Furlow previously led the Climate Change Adaptation Program in USAID’s climate change office. He now helps researchers apply their research and expertise to decision making in public health, agriculture, infrastructure planning and other vital sectors.
  • Radley Horton’s research focuses on climate vulnerability, extreme weather events, the limitations of climate models, and adaptation to climate change. He is co-chair of Columbia’s Climate Adaptation Initiative.
  • As the former director of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, Nilda Mesa directed OneNYC, the city’s long-term sustainability plan which, for the first time for a major US city, tied environmental initiatives with economic development, equity and resilience.
  • John MacWilliams and Sarah La Monaca are examining how companies are addressing the physical and transition risks posed by climate change, and considers how markets can be better engaged to reorient capital toward low-carbon assets.
  • Kate Orff uses planning and design to help communities and ecosystems adapt to the pressures of urbanization, inequality, and climate uncertainty. Her Living Breakwaters design, which will bring oysters back to New York Harbor to filter water and buffer against storm surges, has received international attention.
  • Diego Pons is interested in communicating climate information to vulnerable communities in mountainous regions. He also studies the interactions of medium-term climate processes and their impacts on agriculture and food security.
  • Cynthia Rosenzweig co-chairs the New York City Panel on Climate Change, a body of experts convened by the mayor to advise the city on adaptation for its critical infrastructure.
  • Amy Turner is working with city legal departments and sustainability offices to provide key resources to efficiently and effectively address legal questions confronting the urban climate transition.

Agriculture/Food

Photo: Kevin Krajick

  • Walter Baethgen works to improve climate risk assessment and risk management in agriculture, health, water resources, and natural ecosystems. Baethgen co-leads a project called Adapting Agriculture to Climate Today, For Tomorrow (ACToday), which works to make food systems healthier and more resilient to fluctuations in climate.
  • James Hansen’s research has included: farm economic risk and sustainability analysis, land use under conflicting goals; spatial scaling in agro-ecosystem modeling; climate-based crop forecasting; and tropical soil fertility and intercrop ecology.
  • Nicolas Hernandez-Aguilera aims to identify mechanisms by which tropical farmers adapt to increasing climate variability. His latest research focuses on making coffee farming more sustainable.
  • Elisabeth Ilboudo-Nébié conducted her dissertation research on farmer-herder livelihoods, challenges and adaptations in Burkina Faso. She is now documenting the relationship between the ‘re-greening’ of the West African Sahel and food security trends.
  • Carolyn Mutter coordinates the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP), which places regional agricultural impacts of climate change into their global economic context to assess uncertainties, vulnerability, and world food security.
  • Daniel Osgood leads a team that has helped hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers purchase index insurance contracts that they themselves have helped design through farmer-driven, science-based processes.
  • Michael Puma studies global food security, focusing on the susceptibility of the global network of food trade to natural (e.g., megadroughts, volcanic eruptions) and manmade (e.g., wars, trade restrictions) disturbances.
  • Wolfram Schlenker focuses on the potential impacts of climate change on agriculture, migration. He also looks at the effect of pollution on agricultural yields, agricultural markets, pollution and human health.

Air Quality

  • Róisín Commane is measuring carbon dioxide, methane and carbon monoxide around New York City, as well as in the most remote areas of the world.
  • Arlene Fiore studies how anthropogenic and natural pollutant emissions influence atmospheric chemistry, climate, and air pollution on regional to global scales
  • Dan Westervelt studies climate modeling, aerosol-climate interactions, and air quality in many places, including Africa and China.

Carbon Capture and Sequestration

Peter Kelemen in Oman, where he studies carbon-capturing minerals. Photo: Kevin Krajick

Cryosphere (Arctic, Antarctica, Glaciers)

Polar scientist Robin Bell during field work in Antarctica.

  • Robin Bell studies ice sheets in Antarctica, focusing on ice sheet dynamics and mass balance, continental dynamics, estuarine processes, and linkages between ice sheet processes and subglacial geology.
  • Timothy Creyts explores how water and ice interact in and around glaciers and ice sheets.
  • Pierre Dutrieux deploys autonomous robots that roam under thick ice to study the interactions between oceans and the polar ice sheets.
  • Jonathan Kingslake models and observes the flow of ice and water in ice sheets and glaciers. His work spans glacier hydrology, glacier geophysics, remote sensing and mathematical modeling.
  • Christine McCarthy performs small-scale physics experiments to better understand how massive ice sheets and glaciers move.
  • Benjamin Orlove examines climate change and glacier retreat, with an emphasis on water, natural hazards and the loss of iconic landscapes.
  • Joerg Schaefer is interested in the response of ice on earth to climate change. His lab is working on improving estimates of how much melting ice sheets and mountain glaciers contribute to sea level rise.
  • Marco Tedesco explores ice melt in Greenland and Antarctica, and how climate change is altering snow in the U.S.
  • Kirsty Tinto works to understand the dynamics of ice in all its form, including sea ice, glaciers and ice sheets.

Ecology

Maria Uriarte records damage to trees in puerto rico

Maria Uriarte collecting data on how Puerto Rico’s forests were altered by Hurricane Maria. Photo: Kevin Krajick

  • Natalie Boelman is investigating the cascade of changes that are triggered when Arctic vegetation and seasonality are altered. Among other things, she is currently studying how climate change is impacting migratory songbirds in Alaskan Arctic tundra.
  • Ruth DeFries examines human transformation of the landscape and its consequences for climate, biogeochemical cycling, biodiversity and other ecosystem services that make our planet habitable. A particular focus is tropical deforestation and its impacts on atmospheric carbon emissions.
  • Hugh Ducklow studies the marine ecosystems of the West Antarctic Peninsula, and how they are changing.
  • Joaquim Goes focuses on climate change and its impacts on ocean biota — including harmful algae blooms — and biogeochemical processes.
  • Andrew Juhl studies how algae and plankton in oceans, lakes, streams, and Arctic sea ice are changing as the world warms.
  • Dorothy Peteet analyzes pollen, spores, and plant and animal macrofossils in bog cores to understand past climate change and to study carbon storage in wetlands.
  • Maria Uriarte studies tropical forests and their response to natural disturbances and human land use. She recently discovered that more frequent big storms whipped up by a warming climate could permanently alter forests in Puerto Rico and across much of the Atlantic tropics.

Energy

  • Jason Bordoff is one of the world’s top energy policy experts. His research and policy interests lie at the intersection of economics, energy, environment, and national security.
  • Jingguang Chen designs and optimizes fuel cells and electrolyzer catalysts for seasonal energy storage.
  • Erica Downs focuses on Chinese energy markets and geopolitics.
  • Jonathan Elkind worked on international energy and climate issues at the U.S. Department of Energy, helping to coordinate energy policy and leading climate and energy programs with global partners.
  • Antoine Halff has worked as chief oil analyst at the International Energy Agency and lead industry economist at the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
  • Vijay Modi’s areas of expertise are energy resources/access, energy planning for access and renewable integration, demand estimation, and the role of novel payment systems in breaking barriers to upfront costs.
  • David Sandalow served as acting secretary of energy for the U.S. Department of Energy. He writes and speaks widely on energy and climate policy, including the financing and geopolitics of renewable energy.
  • Katherine Spector is a longtime energy market analyst, focusing on traded and financial energy markets, with an emphasis on oil and natural gas.
  • Mike Waite’s research focuses on energy issues, from local building scale to larger regional-level grid scale. His particular focus is identifying technologies and developing computational models to optimize renewable energy utilization.
  • Yuan Yang explores novel materials and devices for advanced energy storage, such as solid state batteries, flexible batteries, and safe liquid electrolytes.

Extreme Weather and Natural Disasters

hurricane irma from space

Hurricane Irma forming over the Atlantic Ocean in September 2017. Image: NASA

  • Michela Biasutti focuses on monsoons and climate in the tropics, in particular on what controls the location and intensity of rainfall.
  • Suzana Camargo studies tropical cyclones (hurricanes) and their relationship with the climate. She is executive director of Columbia’s Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate.
  • Robert Chen works on exposure and vulnerability to natural hazards and climate change, in particular interdisciplinary data analysis and integration.
  • Robert Field has helped develop fire danger rating systems for Canada, Indonesia and Malaysia. He currently studies the effects of the water cycle on fires, and the cause, fate and effects of emissions from fires.
  • Tim Hall’s primary research interest is tropical cyclones (hurricanes in the Atlantic), their relationship to climate, and the hazards they pose to coastal communities.
  • Winslow Hansen studies how climate change and fires affect forests and their ecosystems, and what forests of the future may look like. He has worked in Alaska and Yellowstone National Park.
  • Kai Kornhuber investigates drivers, impacts and future risks of extreme climatic events such as heatwaves, droughts, heavy rainfall and floods.
  • Chia-Ying Lee uses models to study tropical cyclones (also known as hurricanes).
  • Marc Levy identifies the human security implications of climate change.
  • Richard Seager analyzes the causes of multiyear droughts around the world and how climate change will impact global hydroclimate. This work has led him into studies of megadroughts in the American West and studies of the hydrological future of the West.
  • Adam Sobel is director of Columbia’s Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate, and author of a book on superstorm Sandy. He studies weather and climate, with a focus on extreme weather events and phenomena such as tropical cyclones, precipitation and severe convection.
  • Park Williams studies how human-caused climate change is impacting droughts and wildfires, especially in the American West and California.
  • Yutian Wu studies atmospheric general circulation, climate dynamics, and climate change. One of her recent studies showed how warming taking place in the low and mid-latitudes leads to cold air (so-called “polar vortices”) breaking out of the Arctic.

Disaster Response

  • Jaishree Beedasy is deepening the understanding of the human consequences of disasters and the complexities of recovery and resilience. Her research interests include the spatio-temporal dimensions of disasters and the growing role of social networks in disaster response and recovery.
  • Andrew Kruczkiewicz has developed algorithms to monitor inundation and land cover in East Africa. He is interested in integrating remote sensing into early warning systems for extreme events such as floods, storm surge, wildfires and landslides, to inform preparedness actions and risk assessment within the humanitarian sector.
  • Marc Levy maps the interaction between humans and earth’s surface, generating global images vital for assessing hazards and risks ranging from sea-level rise to forced migration.
  • John Mutter‘s research focuses on the role of natural disasters in constraining development opportunities for poor and emerging societies. He is author of the book The Disaster Profiteers, about how the rich often benefit from disasters, and the poor suffer.
  • Irwin Redlener works to understand and improve the nation’s capacity to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. He is a nationally recognized expert on disaster preparedness policies and the impact and consequences of major natural disasters and related issues.
  • Jeffrey Schlegelmilch has broad expertise relating to disaster preparedness and response, including their application to wildfires.

Health

  • Earth Institute faculty member Matthew Neidell specializes in environmental, health, and labor economics. Recently he has studied how climate change and rising temperatures affect cognitive performance, labor supply, and outdoor leisure.
  • Jeffrey Shaman investigates how hydrologic variability affects mosquito ecology and mosquito-borne disease transmission, how atmospheric conditions impact the survival, transmission and seasonality of pathogens, and how meteorology affects human health. His work has shown that malaria and encephalitis might increase under climate change.

Justice and Equality

Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier

  • Alison Bridges is studying how disasters such as Hurricane Sandy can exacerbate gentrification in some neighborhoods.
  • Jully Meriño Carela is director of the Women in Energy Program, which elevates women in energy by advancing equality and opportunity.
  • Tatiana Gumucio has worked on integrating gender in climate change adaptation and mitigation policies in Latin America. She has also analyzed women’s and men’s access to information on production and crop management for the adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices.
  • Malo Hutson studies urban equity, racial and ethnic inequalities and urban policy, as well as the built environment and health.

Law, Policy and Economics

  • Scott Barrett is an economics professor whose research focuses on international agreements and institutional remedies to transnational challenges, including global climate change and the control of infectious diseases.
  • Michael Burger leads a team that is at the forefront of domestic and international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote climate change adaptation through pollution control, resource management, land use planning and green finance.
  • Mauricio Cárdenas focuses on energy and climate issues in Latin America. He previously served both as Colombia’s energy and finance minister.
  • Steve Cohen is an expert in environmental policy and sustainability management. He’s often tapped to speak on EPA regulations, New York City, US federal policy and education initiatives.
  • Jesse Coleman focuses on investment law and policy, natural resources, and the intersection between human rights and sustainable development.
  • Ama Francis specializes in developing legal solutions to disaster displacement and climate migration. She also analyzes and supports the implementation of adaptive measures in small islands and least developed countries.
  • Michael Gerrard, one of the nation’s top environmental lawyers, directs the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. He and colleagues monitor climate-related legal developments, and government efforts to thwart action against climate change. He co-wrote the book Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization and is leading an initiative that provides legal support for renewable energy projects.
  • Geoffrey Heal studies the economics of climate change.
  • Marianne Kah previously served as president of the U.S. Association for Energy Economics and chief economist at ConocoPhillips in Houston, where she was responsible for developing the company’s market outlooks for oil and natural gas.
  • Noah Kaufman is an economist who has worked on energy and climate change policy in both the public and private sectors. He has studied carbon pricing, the economic impacts of climate policies, and long-term decarbonization strategies.
  • Moira O’Neill specializes in local government law, land use, and city planning
  • Jeffrey Sachs is a world-renowned economist and focuses on many different aspects of sustainable development including public health, economic development, social inclusion and food security.
  • Shiv Someshwar is an expert in climate and sustainable development policy. He has led numerous multidisciplinary efforts to build resilience to climate risks in developing countries, particularly in Asia.

Oceans

Photo: U.S. Coast Guard

  • Ryan Abernathey studies the strength and structure of global ocean circulation, and its implications for climate.
  • Robert Anderson focuses on the ocean carbon cycle and its sensitivity to global change.
  • Arnold Gordon looks at ocean stratification, circulation and mixing and its role in Earth’s climate system.
  • Baerbel Hoenisch’s research is focused on understanding the role of the ocean and in particular the role of marine carbonate chemistry in global climate change. She has particular expertise in the history of carbon dioxide levels and ocean acidification.
  • Galen McKinley studies the mechanisms of the carbon cycle in both the global oceans and the Great Lakes. Her work includes understanding the mechanisms of carbon uptake in the North Atlantic and assessing how future change in ocean carbon fluxes will impact allowable emissions.
  • Jerry McManus studies a wide variety of climate-related ocean processes, including past and potential changes in circulation patterns and biological cycles.

Paleoclimate

billy d'andrea pulls up sediment core on easter island

D’Andrea (blue cap) pulls up a sediment core from a wetland on Easter Island. Photo: Andrea Seelenfreund

  • Edward Cook heads the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Tree Ring Lab, which uses tree-ring data networks to study regional climate, global climate teleconnections and anthropogenic impacts on forest growth. He has assembled atlases of tree-ring history for much of the planet.
  • William D’Andrea analyzes the remains of living organisms, preserved in the geological record, to examine past environmental change. He works mainly on islands spread across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans.
  • Steven Goldstein has been quantifying the timing of climate changes through dating of sediments thousands to millions of years old, in the Mideast and on the ocean floors.
  • Paul Olsen is interested in the patterns, causes and effects of climate change on ecosystems and mass extinctions across geological timescales going back hundreds of millions of years.
  • Maureen Raymo’s research currently revolves around understanding the history of the ice ages and particularly how sea level has changed in the recent past.
  • Linda Sohl is interested in trying to understand the global climatic conditions that may have had an impact on, and/or evolved in conjunction with, life on this planet.
  • Gisela Winckler studies paleoceanography, climate change on timescales ranging from decades to thousands of years, and large-scale processes controlling global cycling of biogeochemical and physical tracers in the ocean.

Prediction and Modeling

  • Lisa Goddard’s research focuses on understanding and predicting climate change on the 10-20 year horizon. She is a globally recognized expert on El Niño and La Niña, decadal prediction and near-term climate change.
  • Alexey Kaplan examines climate variability, predictability and prediction, and methods to study such things. His research involves historical climate analyses and paleoclimatic reconstructions.
  • Simon Mason works on seasonal climate forecasting and verification, climate change, and southern African climate variability.
  • Ángel Muñoz studies the predictability of extreme events at subseasonal-to-decadal scales. He also works to apply climate forecasts in ways that enhance food security.

Water

groundwater irrigation

Groundwater irrigation. Photo: Columbia Water Center

  • Upmanu Lall is a world-renowned expert in statistical and numerical modeling of hydrologic and climatic systems and water resource systems planning and management. He has pioneered statistical methods and their application to the prediction of hydrologic and climate conditions, and advanced tools for decision analysis and risk management.
  • Paulina Concha Larrauri focuses on water management for agriculture, urban water supply and climate adaptation.
  • Laureline Josset works on water management optimization, conjunctive use of surface and groundwater, and integrated modeling.

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