I currently hold a joint appointment between the University of Arizona and Oxford University - as co-director of the Institute of the Environment at the University of Arizona and professor in the School of Geography and Development and as a senior research fellow in ECI and Visiting Professor of Environmental Policy and Development at Oxford. At Arizona I am be helping to develop a university-wide environmental program and serving as a member of the US National Academy of Sciences Committee on America's Climate Choices, and as chair of the panel on Informing Effective Decisions and Actions on Climate Change. My responsibilities at Oxford include supervising my current doctoral students and postdocs, teaching on MSc courses each autumn, and working with the GECAFS and Tyndall projects.
Prior to coming back to Tucson I spent about 6 years in England as Director of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University after spending most of my professional career in the United States. My former positions include Professor of Geography and Director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Arizona (1996-2003), Interim Dean of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Arizona, Associate Professor of Geography and Associate Director of the Earth System Science Centre at Penn State University (1990-1995), Assistant Professor of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1985-1989) and a research fellow at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado (1981-1984). My degrees are in Geography from University College London (1976), the University of Toronto (1980) and UCLA (1984).
I have been interested in the impacts of climate on society for most of my professional life. My MSc at Toronto was on drought impacts and I was also fortunate to work as a research assistant for Anne Whyte, Ian Burton and Ken Hare in the Institute for Environmental Studies on a variety of international environmental initiatives. I did my PhD with Werner Terjung and his group at UCLA on climate change and the world food system through a cooperative program with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), spending two years as one of Steve Schneider's group in the Advanced Study Programme just as climate change was emerging as a major issue in the early 1980s.
I was especially interested in the potential and limitations of modeling climate impacts using both crop simulation models and the first generation of global models that allowed the assessment of climate change impacts. As it became clear to me that our knowledge of climate impacts in the developing world was insufficient for modeling, and that some of the most interesting questions were about how people and places became vulnerable to climate change, I was able to use a research fellowship from the SSRC and MacArthur Foundation to begin fieldwork in Mexico. I was particularly interested in understanding vulnerability to natural hazards in the agricultural sector and to explore how global warming might affect agriculture and livelihoods in Mexico and was funded by NSF and EPA for work on these topics. In 1988 I was invited to become a member of the US Social Science Research Council national committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change and this led to many other opportunities to serve on committees seeking to mobilize and define research on social science and global change including the US National Academy Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change (which I chaired from 1995-99), the NOAA Global Change Advisory Committee and the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Inter American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI).
Mexico was a fascinating place to work and when I moved to the University of Arizona (starting with a sabbatical in 1994) I began to work on a wider range of Mexican environmental issues, especially land use change and US-Mexico border environmental issues. I was able to work with my students in several regions of Mexico and in other parts of Latin America and have sustained a strong interest in Latin American climate impacts and policy. One of the most significant issues to draw my attention was the spread of neoliberalism in the Americas and its impact on environmental conditions and management, not only through NAFTA but also in the privatization of resources and other changes in governance. At the University of Arizona I was funded by the Ford, Hewlett and Mott foundations to co-organize an annual conference on US-Mexico border environmental issues, and by NASA for work on land use change in Mexico. I also helped to develop a regional climate assessment center for the southwest US (a model for the national NOAA program), which now flourishes as CLIMAS in Arizona's Institute for the Study of Planet Earth. One other commitment is a Prentice Hall textbook on world regional geography (World Regions in Global Context) that I wrote with Sallie Marston and Paul Knox where we use globalization and environmental history to place world regions in a global context. We have just finished the 4th edition together with two new authors - Vincent Del Cassino and Paul Robbins.
Upon returning to the UK my interest (re)turned to climate change, partly because of the expertise that surrounded me in Oxford, because the UK is trying to lead internationally on climate policy, and also because the implementation of international climate policy raises some intriguing questions about the political economy and practices of mitigation and adaptation. As a coordinator of projects on climate policy for the James Martin 21st Century School and for the Tyndall Centre I focused on climate and development (with a focus on Latin America) and on the geographies of the new carbon economy in the form of the CDM and other carbon offsets.
I am the co-editor of Annual Review of Environment and Resources and member of editorial boards for Global Environmental Change, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, and Climatic Change. In terms of committee responsibilities I currently chair the Science Advisory Committee for the ICSU Global Environmental Change and Food Systems program (GECAFS) and served on the UK Human Dimensions of Global Change Committee. I am a member of the board of Cape Farewell (an organization that brings artists, scientists and educators together to collectively address and raise awareness about climate change) and of Julie's Bicycle a non profit company established to find ways to reduce the UK music industry's greenhouse gas emissions.