Michael Oppenheimer

Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School and the Department of Geosciences at Princeton University

Why I'm Involved

The general thing about climate change is it increases the likelihoods of many types of extremes. It increases the likelihood of heavier rain and increases the likelihood of really intense storms like hurricanes. It increases the intensity of drought in some areas. And most of all, it increases the frequency of very high days heat waves. You have to remember, heat waves kill even in this part of the world. So if you look at the kinds of things that cause us trouble from the weather now, many of those things are just going to get worse in the future. And frankly, we stink at managing these extremes now.

Michael Oppenheimer Ph.D.

About Michael Oppenheimer

Michael Oppenheimer is the Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School and the Department of Geosciences at Princeton University. He is the Director of the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy (STEP) at the Woodrow Wilson School and Faculty Associate of the Atmospheric and Ocean Sciences Program,Princeton Environmental Institute, and the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies.

Oppenheimer joined the Princeton faculty after more than two decades with The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a non-governmental, environmental organization, where he served as chief scientist and manager of the Climate and Air Program.  He continues to serve as a science advisor to EDF.

Oppenheimer is a long-time participant in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, serving recently as a lead author of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report and now as a coordinating lead author of SREX, a special report on extreme climate events and disasters. He is currently a coordinating author of the Fifth Assessment Report .

Michael Oppenheimer has been a member of several panels of the National Academy of Sciences and is now a member of the National Academies’ Board on Energy and Environmental Studies. He is also a winner of the 2010 Heinz Award and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

His interests include science and policy of the atmosphere, particularly climate change and its impacts. Much of his research aims to understand the potential for “dangerous” outcomes of increasing levels of greenhouse gases by exploring the effects of global warming on the ice sheets and sea level, on the risk from coastal storms,and on patterns of human migration. He also studies the process of scientific learning and scientific assessments and their role in problems of global change.

In the late 1980’s, Dr. Oppenheimer and a handful of other scientists organized two workshops under the auspices of the United Nations that helped precipitate the negotiations that resulted in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (signed at the 1992 Earth Summit) and the Kyoto Protocol. During that period, he co-founded the Climate Action Network. His research and advocacy work on acid rain also contributed to the passage of the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act.

Dr. Oppenheimer has been a guest on many television and radio programs, including ABC’s This Week, Nightline, Alcove, The News Hour, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Charlie Rose , ABC News and the Colbert Report.

Prior to his position at The Environmental Defense Fund, Dr. Oppenheimer served as Atomic and Molecular Astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Lecturer on Astronomy at Harvard University. He received an S.B. in chemistry from M.I.T., a Ph.D. in chemical physics from the University of Chicago, and pursued post-doctoral research at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Oppenheimer is the author of over 120 articles published in professional journals and is co-author (with Robert H. Boyle) of a 1990 book, Dead Heat:The Race Against The Greenhouse Effect.

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