WHO I AM
I’m an atmospheric scientist. I study climate change, one of the most pressing issues we face today.
I don’t accept global warming on faith: I crunch the data, I analyze the models, I help engineers and city managers and ecologists quantify the impacts.
The data tells us the planet is warming; the science is clear that humans are responsible; the impacts we’re seeing today are already serious; and our future is in our hands. As John Holdren once said, “We basically have three choices: mitigation, adaptation, and suffering. We’re going to do some of each. The question is what the mix is going to be. The more mitigation we do, the less adaptation will be required, and the less suffering there will be.”
WHAT I DO
I am a professor in the Department of Political Science and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, part of the Department of Interior’s South-Central Climate Science Center. My research currently focuses on establishing a scientific basis for assessing the regional to local-scale impacts of climate change on human systems and the natural environment. To this end, I analyze observations, compare future scenarios, evaluate global and regional climate models, build and assess statistical downscaling models, and constantly strive to develop better ways of translating climate projections into information relevant to agriculture, ecosystems, energy, infrastructure, public health, and water resources.
I am also the founder and CEO of ATMOS Research, where we bridge the gap between scientists and stakeholders to provide relevant, state-of-the-art information on how climate change will affect our lives to a broad range of non-profit, industry and government clients. We work with a broad range of organizations, from Austin Water to Boston Logan Airport, to assess the potential impacts of climate change on their infrastructure and future planning.
I began my career with a B.Sc. in physics and astronomy from the University of Toronto. My first published papers were in the field of observational astronomy, on variable stars and galaxy clustering around quasars. I then completed an M.S. in atmospheric science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where my research focused on understanding human and natural sources of methane, and quantifying the contribution of methane and other non-CO2 greenhouse gases to emission reduction targets. After participating in a climate change assessment for the Great Lakes, I recognized the need for high-resolution climate projections to integrate into impact studies in areas ranging from ecosystems to energy. For my Ph.D., I refocused my research to survey and compare a broad range of the statistical downscaling methods often used to generate these projections: research that now feeds directly into my contribution to the World Meteorological Organization’s Coordinated Regional Downscaling Experiment for Empirical Statistical Downscaling, or WMO CORDEX-ESD. There’s no one like a scientist for generating long unpronounceable acronyms, is there?
To date, my work has resulted in over 120 peer-reviewed papers, abstracts, and other publications and many key reports including the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Second National Climate Assessment; the U.S. National Academy of Science report, Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts over Decades to Millennia; and the 2014 Third National Climate Assessment. In addition to these reports, I have led climate impact assessments for a broad cross-section of cities and regions, from Chicago to California and the U.S. Northeast. The findings of these studies have been presented before Congress, highlighted in briefings to state and federal agencies, and used as input to future planning by communities, states, and regions across the country.
Together with my husband Andrew Farley, a professor of applied linguistics and best-selling author of eight books including The Naked Gospel, I wrote A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions, a book that untangles the complex science and tackles many long-held misconceptions about global warming.
ORGANIZATIONS I SUPPORT
I am proud to serve as a scientific advisor to Citizen’s Climate Lobby, the EcoAmerica MomentUS project, the Energy and Enterprise Initiative, the Evangelical Environmental Network, and the International Women’s Earth and Climate Initiative.
I am a member of Climate Voices, a network that brings scientists and their fellow citizens together to engage in meaningful, ongoing dialogue about climate change effects on local communities, regions, and the country.
I have served on the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s What We Know panel to communicate the “Three Rs” of climate change: Reality, Risk and Response, and their Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion; the American Geophysical Union’s Hydrology Committee on Uncertainty; the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climate Predictions and Projections team and the NOAA Climate.gov advisory team; and have contributed my research to and served as an expert reviewer for the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
I currently serve on the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research President’s Advisory Committee on University Relations and the National Center for Atmospheric Research Climate and Global Dynamics Laboratory Advisory Panel, and Walter Orr Roberts Distinguished Lecture Committee. I chair the Earth Science Women’s Network Advisory Council, and also serve on the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s Anthropocene Advisory Council.
WHAT I’M WORKING ON NOW
Together with our local PBS station, KTTZ, I wrote and produced a 12-episode PBS Digital Studios short series, Global Weirding: Climate, Politics and Religion. A new episode is being released online every other Wednesday starting Sept 28, 2016. Each release day, at 7pm C, I’ll be hosting a live chat on my Facebook page, and you can subscribe to our YouTube channel to get each episode in your inbox as soon as it’s released. I also participated in a new documentary on climate change in Alaska, Between Earth and Sky, that will be released in 2017, and contributed to Season 2 of the Years of Living Dangerously, airing on the National Geographic channel Wednesdays this fall.
We’re finishing up revisions to the second edition of our book, A Climate For Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions. It will be available on Amazon in 2017.
I serve on the Executive Summary Committee and am a convening and lead author for several chapters in the upcoming U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Climate Science Special Report (CSSR), to be released in 2017, and the U.S. Fourth National Climate Assessment’s Climate Science chapter.
Upcoming events and speaking engagements in 2017 include Houston, Dallas, and Alpine, as well as in Lubbock and various surrounding towns here in Texas. I’ll also be speaking in Tucson AZ; New York City; San Francisco, CA; Urbana-Champaign, IL; Oak Ridges near Knoxville, TN; and Golden, near Denver CO. In June I’ll be at the amazing STARMUS Life and Universe festival in Norway, and in November I’m incredibly honoured to be giving the John Stott London Lecture, as well as a keynote address at a conference on communicating climate change in adverse political circumstances (otherwise known as the story of my life) at the University of Reading, and a lecture at the University of Edinburgh and a local church there as well. As soon as details on any of these events are available, I post them as events on my Facebook page.
What do I do with the rest of my time? I research – here’s a webinar that talks about some of it – and write papers. I teach graduate classes and run the day to day activities of the Texas Tech Climate Science Center. And I spend a lot of time interacting with cities, stakeholders, and decision-makers to provide the climate information they need to prepare for the future. There’s never a dull moment.
HONOURS I’VE RECEIVED
My work has been featured on the documentary series Years of Living Dangerously and The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers, and in articles appearing in many outlets, from Texas Monthly to Macleans.
In 2012, I was named one of Christianity Today’s 50 Women to Watch. In 2014, I was awarded the American Geophysical Union’s Climate Communication Prize, and named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People and the Foreign Policy’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers. In 2015, I was named one of the Huffington Post’s 20 Climate Champions, and honoured with the President’s Mid-Career Faculty Award at Texas Tech University and a Headliner Award from the Association for Women in Communication Lubbock Professional Chapter, while 2016 I received a Chancellor’s Council Distinguished Research Award from Texas Tech University and the National Center for Science Education’s Friend of the Planet award, and together with Bob Inglis from RepublicEn, was named to the POLITICO 50 list of thinkers, doers and visionaries transforming American politics. And last but not least, most recently in 2017 I was named one of FORTUNE’s world’s greatest leaders (along with two other women in academia in Texas!).
These are all tremendous honours, for which I’m enormously grateful (and constantly surprised). What means the most to me personally, though, is when just one person tells me sincerely that they had never cared about climate change before, or even thought it was real: but now, because of something they heard me say, they’ve changed their mind. That’s what makes it all worth while.