Friends of the Planet 2018: Kerry Emanuel and Climate Central
Each year, NCSE awards its Friend of the Planet award to individuals or organizations who have significantly contributed to efforts to increase the public’s understanding and appreciation of the science of climate change. This year’s winners have worked tirelessly to give the public the tools it needs to understand what scientists know about climate change and how they know it.
Kerry Emanuel, Professor of Atmospheric Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
“When he speaks about human effects on climate, people listen. He is knowledgeable, articulate, thoughtful, and invariably polite—a great role model for younger scientists.”
That is how Ben Santer, a member of NCSE’s board of directors and himself an eminent climate scientist, describes Kerry Emanuel. As an atmospheric scientist, Emanuel studies hurricanes, especially the mechanisms that contribute to their intensity. In recognition of that work, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2007. As early as 1994, Emanuel was considering how warming of the oceans due to rising emissions of greenhouse gases might affect hurricane intensity and frequency, a topic on which he is now the world’s leading expert.
In addition to his scholarly publications, Emanuel has also written for what he calls the educated non-specialist, with books like Divine Wind: The History and Science of Hurricanes (2005) and What We Know About Climate Change (2007; second edition 2012), and, most recently, an essay entitled “Climate Science and Climate Risk: A Primer” (2016). Emanuel has been engaged for many years in efforts to encourage policymakers to base decisions on sound science, most recently co-authoring a letter on behalf of members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences reiterating the high degree of confidence that scientists have in the conclusion that climate change is real, human-caused, and urgent.
In recognition of the significant time and energy he has devoted to communicating climate science to the general public and policymakers, NCSE is very pleased to confer a Friend of the Planet award to Kerry Emanuel.
"Researching and reporting the science and impacts of climate change"
Climate Central is a one-stop shop for in-depth reporting on climate change and clear explanations of the latest climate science discoveries. That would be reason enough to sing its praises.
But in addition to providing these essential services, Climate Central has taken uniquely creative approaches to ensuring that accurate and compelling climate science resources reach as many people as possible. Its “Surging Seas” infographic tool allows anyone to explore the predicted impact of climate change on the world’s coastal areas through detailed, fully-interactive maps. The Climate Matters program provides high quality videos, graphics, and animations for use by local television meteorologists—a group that has wide visibility and public trust, putting them in a uniquely powerful position to educate the public about climate change.
Finally, Climate Central provides support for what is known as “event attribution” science, which seeks to assess how human activities are changing the likelihood of certain categories of extreme events. When the public has questions about the contribution of climate change to extreme events like Hurricane Harvey, Climate Central has clear answers. For all of its efforts to bring climate science alive for diverse audiences, NCSE is proud to award it a Friend of the Planet award.
Photograph of Kerry Emanuel by Helen Hill.