Episode 6: Chris Field

Into the boiling cauldron

This intro could read “today I interview Chris Field” and that would be enough. But just in case …

Few climate scientists are as well-known or far-reaching as Chris Field. Chris is famous for working and thinking across scales – in particular, from the leaf level to the globe (as far as I know, he’s not working on exoplanets). In Chris’ words, “I see a sophisticated feel for individual organisms as being the foundation on which we think about the global scale issues”. Indeed!

By absolutely no coincidence, Chris has a massive leadership role in many areas: co-chair of Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology, and faculty director of Jasper Ridge. He is also an AAAS/AGU fellow and was awarded the Roger Revelle Medal. And oh yes, 50,000+ citations.

I met Chris at Carnegie’s office on the Stanford campus. We talked about the early days of CO2 measurements (when a portable system fit into a mini-van), building and hacking instruments, how being in a boiling cauldron (of ideas) is great, and transitioning to an energy system that is radically less dependent on fossil fuels.

Maybe the best message of all — so obvious as to be routinely ignored — is that you can’t do global ecology without considering humans.

NB: for more details on the IPCC, check out Chris’ interview with The Carbon Brief.

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