Robert Watson (scientist)
Education and awards
Watson received a PhD in Chemistry from Queen Mary College, University of London in 1973. He has received awards for his contributions to science, including the NAS Award for Scientific Reviewing from the National Academy of Sciences in 1992, the American Association for the Advancement of Science Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility in 1993 and the insignia of Honorary Companion of St Michael and St George from the British Government in 2003.
Watson was the Director of the Science Division and Chief Scientist for the Office of Mission to Planet Earth at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Watson then became Associate Director for Environment in the Office of the President of the United States in the White House.
In 1996, Watson joined the World Bank as Senior Scientific adviser in the Environment Department, became Director of the Environment Department and Head of the Environment Sector Board in 1997 and is currently the Chief Scientist and Senior Adviser for Sustainable Development. He took up a position as Chair of Environmental Science and Science Director of the Tyndall Centre at the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom, in August 2007 and joined the British Government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) as Chief Scientific Adviser in September 2007.
He was Chairman of the Global Environment Facility's Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel from 1991 to 1994, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from 1997 to 2002 and Board co-chair for the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment from 2000 to 2005. He is currently Director of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development and co-chair of the International Scientific Assessment of Stratospheric Ozone. He has been Chair or co-chair of other international scientific assessments, including the IPCC Working Group II, the United Nations Environment Programme/World Meteorological Organization (UNEP/WMO), and the UNEP Global Biodiversity Assessment.Professor of Environmental Sciences; Director of Strategic Development, Tyndall at the University of East Anglia,
Andrew Revkin writing for the New York Times described Watson as an "outspoken advocate of the idea that human actions—mainly burning coal and oil—are contributing to global warming and must be changed to avert environmental upheavals."
In April 2002 the United States pressed for and won his replacement by Rajendra Pachauri as IPCC chair. According to New Scientist, "The oil industry seems to be behind the move." The industry campaign to oust Watson had begun days after George W. Bush's inauguration in January 2001, with a memo to the White House from Randy Randol of oil giant ExxonMobil asking "Can Watson be replaced now at the request of the US?"
In 2010, he warned the IPCC against overstatement:
- "The mistakes all appear to have gone in the direction of making it seem like climate change is more serious by overstating the impact. That is worrying. The IPCC needs to look at this trend in the errors and ask why it happened." Adding "We should always be challenged by sceptics. The IPCC’s job is to weigh up the evidence. If it can’t be dismissed, it should be included in the report. Point out it’s in the minority and, if you can’t say why it’s wrong, just say it’s a different view."
Ten years earlier in 2000, Watson had said:
- The overwhelming majority of scientific experts, whilst recognizing that scientific uncertainties exist, nonetheless believe that human-induced climate change is inevitable. Indeed, during the last few years, many parts of the world have suffered major heat waves, floods, droughts, fires and extreme weather events leading to significant economic losses and loss of life. While individual events cannot be directly linked to human-induced climate change, the frequency and magnitude of these types of events are predicted to increase in a warmer world.
- The question is not whether climate will change in response to human activities, but rather how much (magnitude), how fast (the rate of change) and where (regional patterns). It is also clear that climate change will, in many parts of the world, adversely affect socio-economic sectors, including water resources, agriculture, forestry, fisheries and human settlements, ecological systems (particularly forests and coral reefs), and human health (particularly diseases spread by insects), with developing countries being the most vulnerable. The good news is, however, that the majority of experts believe that significant reductions in net greenhouse gas emissions are technically feasible due to an extensive array of technologies and policy measures in the energy supply, energy demand and agricultural and forestry sectors. In addition, the projected adverse effects of climate change on socio-economic and ecological systems can, to some degree, be reduced through proactive adaptation measures. These are the fundamental conclusions, taken from already approved/accepted IPCC assessments, of a careful and objective analysis of all relevant scientific, technical and economic information by thousands of experts from the appropriate fields of science from academia, governments, industry and environmental organizations from around the world.
- "NAS Award for Scientific Reviewing". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
- "Robert Watson". Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. Retrieved 20 July 2010.
- "Chief Scientific Adviser". DEFRA. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. 5 October 2007. Retrieved 20 July 2010.
- The London Gazette: . 31 December 2011.
- "New Year Honours". BBC. 2012.
- Revkin, Andrew C. (2 April 2002). "Dispute Arises Over a Push To Change Climate Panel". New York Times. Retrieved 20 July 2010.
- MacKenzie, Debora (20 April 2002). "Too hot for head of climate panel". NewScientist.com. New Scientist. Retrieved 20 July 2010.
- Leake, Jonathan (7 February 2010). "Top British scientist says UN panel is losing credibility". Timesonline (Sunday Times). Retrieved 20 July 2010.
- Webster, Robin; Pagnamenta (15 February 2010). "UN must investigate warming 'bias', says former climate chief Every error exaggerated the impact of change". TimesOnline (Sunday Times). Retrieved 20 July 2010.
- Watson, Robert T. (13 November 2000). "Presentation of Robert T. Watson Chair Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at the Sixth Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change". International Panel on Climate Change. Archived from the original on 4 June 2007.
- Brief bio
- University of East Anglia bio
- Short CV
- New Scientist, 20 April 2002, "Too hot for head of climate panel"
- Slate, April 22, 2002, "Did Exxon Mobil Get Bush To Oust the Global Warming Chief? – Al Gore spoils Dubya's Earth Day"
- ExxonMobil memo
|Chairman of the IPCC
Rajendra K. Pachauri