New School Professor Timon McPhearson Part of Two Research Teams Honored with the 2022 Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity
The recent news of the disappearance of snow crabs in Alaska and the addition of emperor penguins to the endangered species list has highlighted the urgency of finding new and innovative ways to combat climate change. Recently the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were honored with the 2022 Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity for their scientific work, which informs policymakers on means for fighting climate change and the loss of biodiversity. Participating in both organizations is The New School’s Timon McPhearson, professor of urban ecology in the Schools of Public Engagement and director of the Urban Systems Lab. McPhearson is a lead author of the IPCC’s sixth edition of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Assessment Report and a contributing author to IPBES’ assessment reports.
The Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity was created by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation to honor people and organizations around the world whose work has greatly contributed to mitigating the impacts of climate change. The first prize was given to Greta Thunberg in 2020. The prize recognizes contributions to reducing or absorbing greenhouse gas emissions, actions increasing the resilience of people and the environment to the impacts of climate change, and the deployment of financial resources, whether public or private, to accelerate the decarbonization of the economy. IPBES and IPCC will share the sum of one million euros to advance their work.
Speaking on the award, McPhearson said, “This award provides important recognition of the vital work of the IPCC to provide the fundamental scientific knowledge to support climate action in this critical decade. Our recent reports have made it clear that transformative action on climate adaptation to protect the most vulnerable and mitigation to decrease greenhouse gas emissions must both be radically scaled up to limit the impacts of climate change on people, ecosystems, and economies. As an IPCC lead author, along with colleagues at The New School and around the world, we are honored to be awarded the Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity.”
The two organizations were selected from a pool of 116 nominations from 41 countries by a jury led by Dr. Angela Merkel. In its decision, the jury noted that IPBES and the IPCC have “stood out in highlighting the relationship between science, climate, biodiversity and society, representing the best that is done in this field all around the world.… [R]ecognizing these two organizations serves to emphasize the need to look at the climate crisis and biodiversity in conjunction, with concerted approaches making recourse to nature-based solutions.”
According to the jury, the prize recognizes “the role of science on the front line of tackling climate change and the loss of biodiversity.” “Evidence-based science,” the jury stated, “has been fundamental not only to advancing many of the political and public actions but also the need to attribute the ‘nature of urgency’ to the ways in which the political agenda approaches the question of combating the climate crisis.”In addition to working with IPBES and IPCC, McPhearson serves as a co-lead, along with Tishman Environment and Design Center co-director Joel Towers, of a research team selected by the New York City Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice to carry out a $2.5 million study on future climate change and its potential impacts to inform decision making by the City of New York and assessment reports by the NYC Panel on Climate Change. He’s also part of the core faculty involved in The New School’s partnership with The City University of New York (CUNY) in the New York City Coastal Climate Center (NYC3) consortium that has been selected by the Trust for Governors Island as one of three finalists in the competition to create a center for climate solutions on Governors Island. In 2019, he was selected as one of 30 New York City “Climate Heroes” by the city’s Department of Transportation and the Human Impacts Institute, a local nonprofit environmental organization. The same year, his work was also recognized by the Ecological Society of America, which awarded him both the Sustainability Science Award and the Innovation in Sustainability Science Awar