Meet the Scientists

May. 30, 2020

Though scientists have been studying the effect of carbon dioxide on our atmosphere and climate for well over a century, here are some brief biographies of more current climate change scientists with links to videos and seminal publications.

Charles David Keeling began an extensive survey of the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration in background air, including air-borne and ship-board measurements, and measurements at Mauna Loa Observatory and other land stations- measurements which have continued to this day under his guidance. Within a few years of measurements, the Mauna Loa record had changed the notion of the atmospheric CO2 increase from a matter of theory to matter of fact. This was an achievement of tremendous social and political importance, and within the scientific community stimulated the involvement of climate researchers to quantify more precisely the impact of rising CO2 on global climate. The Mauna Loa record, or "Keeling Curve", as it is sometimes called, has become a standard icon symbolizing the impact of humans on the planet.

James E. Hansen retired in 2013 as Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, where he spent a career spanning some four and a half decades.His publication in 1981 in the journal Science, Climate Impact of Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, is a seminal work in climate science. In 1988, he catapulted into the national limelight as a result of testimony he gave before the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that is widely considered a turning point in the history of climate change as a public policy issue.

Michael E. Mann obtained his Ph.D. in geophysics in 1998 from Yale University. Mann is currently Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science with a joint appointment in the Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science and the Department of Geosciences at Pennsylvania State University. He is also Director of Penn State’s Earth System Science Center. The scientific focus of Mann’s career has been the improvement of methodologies for finding patterns in high-resolution paleoclimate reconstructions. Perhaps Mann’s single most famous scientific contribution has been his famous “hockey stick” graph.

Bill McKibben is an author and environmentalist who in 2014 was awarded the Right Livelihood Prize, sometimes called the ‘alternative Nobel.’ His 1989 book The End of Nature is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change, and has appeared in 24 languages. He is a founder of, the first planet-wide, grassroots climate change movement, which has organized twenty thousand rallies around the world in every country except North Korea. The Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he was the 2013 winner of the Gandhi Prize and the Thomas Merton Prize, and holds honorary degrees from 18 colleges and universities. Foreign Policy named him to their inaugural list of the world’s 100 most important global thinkers, and the Boston Globe said he was “probably America’s most important environmentalist.”