Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Robert Watson (scientist)

Robert Watson (scientist)

Ask a question about 'Robert Watson (scientist)'
Start a new discussion about 'Robert Watson (scientist)'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
Robert T. Watson is a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 scientist who has worked on atmospheric science issues including ozone depletion
Ozone depletion
Ozone depletion describes two distinct but related phenomena observed since the late 1970s: a steady decline of about 4% per decade in the total volume of ozone in Earth's stratosphere , and a much larger springtime decrease in stratospheric ozone over Earth's polar regions. The latter phenomenon...

, global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

 and paleoclimatology
Paleoclimatology is the study of changes in climate taken on the scale of the entire history of Earth. It uses a variety of proxy methods from the Earth and life sciences to obtain data previously preserved within rocks, sediments, ice sheets, tree rings, corals, shells and microfossils; it then...

 since the 1980s.

Education and awards

Watson received a PhD
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated as Ph.D., PhD, D.Phil., or DPhil , in English-speaking countries, is a postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities...

 in Chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

 from Queen Mary College
Queen Mary, University of London
Queen Mary, University of London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and a constituent college of the federal University of London...

, University of London
University of London
-20th century:Shortly after 6 Burlington Gardens was vacated, the University went through a period of rapid expansion. Bedford College, Royal Holloway and the London School of Economics all joined in 1900, Regent's Park College, which had affiliated in 1841 became an official divinity school of the...

 in 1973. He has received awards for his contributions to science, including the NAS Award for Scientific Reviewing from the National Academy of Sciences
United States National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as "advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine." As a national academy, new members of the organization are elected annually by current members, based on their distinguished and...

 in 1992, the American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Association for the Advancement of Science
The American Association for the Advancement of Science is an international non-profit organization with the stated goals of promoting cooperation among scientists, defending scientific freedom, encouraging scientific responsibility, and supporting scientific education and science outreach for the...

 Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility in 1993 and the insignia of Honorary Companion of St Michael and St George
Order of St Michael and St George
The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George is an order of chivalry founded on 28 April 1818 by George, Prince Regent, later George IV of the United Kingdom, while he was acting as Prince Regent for his father, George III....

 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
NASA Earth Science Enterprise
The NASA Earth Science Enterprise , formerly called Mission To Planet Earth , is a NASA research program "to develop a scientific understanding of the Earth system and its response to natural and human-induced changes to enable improved prediction of climate, weather, and natural hazards for...

 at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 (NASA). Watson then became Associate Director for Environment in the Office of the President of the United States
Executive Office of the President of the United States
The Executive Office of the President consists of the immediate staff of the President of the United States, as well as multiple levels of support staff reporting to the President. The EOP is headed by the White House Chief of Staff, currently William M. Daley...

 in the White House.

In 1996, Watson joined the World Bank
World Bank Group
The World Bank Group is a family of five international organizations that makes leveraged loans, generally to poor countries.The Bank came into formal existence on 27 December 1945 following international ratification of the Bretton Woods agreements, which emerged from the United Nations Monetary...

 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
University of East Anglia
The University of East Anglia is a public research university based in Norwich, United Kingdom. It was established in 1963, and is a founder-member of the 1994 Group of research-intensive universities.-History:...

, United Kingdom, in August 2007 and joined the British Government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is the government department responsible for environmental protection, food production and standards, agriculture, fisheries and rural communities in the United Kingdom...

 (Defra) as Chief Scientific Adviser in September 2007.

He was Chairman of the Global Environment Facility
Global Environment Facility
The Global Environment Facility unites 182 member governments — in partnership with international institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector — to address global environmental issues....

's Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel from 1991 to 1994, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a scientific intergovernmental body which provides comprehensive assessments of current scientific, technical and socio-economic information worldwide about the risk of climate change caused by human activity, its potential environmental and...

 (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
International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development
The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development is an international effort initiated by the World Bank that evaluated the relevance, quality and effectiveness of agricultural knowledge, science, and technology , and the effectiveness of public and...

 and co-chair of the International Scientific Assessment of Stratospheric Ozone
Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion
The Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion is a sequence of reports sponsored by WMO/UNEP. The most recent is the .The reports were set up to inform the Montreal Protocol and amendments about ozone depletion.- Changes in Ozone-Depleting Compounds :...

. He has been Chair or co-chair of other international scientific assessments, including the IPCC Working Group II, the United Nations Environment Programme
United Nations Environment Programme
The United Nations Environment Programme coordinates United Nations environmental activities, assisting developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices. It was founded as a result of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in June 1972 and has its...

/World Meteorological Organization
World Meteorological Organization
The World Meteorological Organization is an intergovernmental organization with a membership of 189 Member States and Territories. It originated from the International Meteorological Organization , which was founded in 1873...

 (UNEP/WMO), and the UNEP Global Biodiversity Assessment.


Andrew Revkin
Andrew Revkin
Andrew C. Revkin is a journalist and author who has spent a quarter of a century covering subjects ranging from the assault on the Amazon to the Asian tsunami, from the troubled relationship of science and politics to climate change at the North Pole. From 1995 through 2009, he covered the...

 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
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

 and must be changed to avert environmental upheavals."

In April 2002 the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 pressed for and won his replacement by Rajendra Pachauri as IPCC chair. According to New Scientist
New Scientist
New Scientist is a weekly non-peer-reviewed English-language international science magazine, which since 1996 has also run a website, covering recent developments in science and technology for a general audience. Founded in 1956, it is published by Reed Business Information Ltd, a subsidiary of...

, "The oil industry seems to be behind the move." The industry campaign to oust Watson had begun days after George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

's inauguration in January 2001, with a memo to the White House
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

 from Randy Randol of oil giant ExxonMobil
Exxon Mobil Corporation or ExxonMobil, is an American multinational oil and gas corporation. It is a direct descendant of John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil company, and was formed on November 30, 1999, by the merger of Exxon and Mobil. Its headquarters are in Irving, Texas...

 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, he also 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.

External links