Mercer Alumnus, International Climate and Science Policy Expert to Lecture on Paris Agreement on Climate Change


MACON – Mercer University alumnus Dr. Andrew Light (CLA '89), who currently serves as University Professor of Philosophy, Public Policy and Atmospheric Sciences at George Mason University, will deliver a lecture, titled “Creating, Preserving and Defending the Paris Agreement on Climate Change,” March 14 at 6 p.m. in Willingham Auditorium.

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is presented by the Department of Philosophy and the Environmental Studies Minor in the College of Liberal Arts.

Dr. Light will address the Paris Agreement, which was developed by representatives of more than 190 countries, including himself, in December 2015 for the 21st meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This ambitious international climate agreement has been heralded as a groundbreaking achievement for international diplomacy and global climate action and criticized by others who believe the climate commitments in it are ultimately too weak to achieve the agreement's lofty aspirations. 

Dr. Light will review the recent history of U.N. climate negotiations and how this outcome evolved from earlier failed attempts, finally overcoming the immense hurdle of justly assigning responsibility for hitting global emission reduction targets. 

The Paris Agreement is currently undergoing an unexpectedly early stress test with the announcement of the intended withdrawal of the United States. Dr. Light will conclude with a look at what the future holds for global climate cooperation in the face of this serious challenge, including indications of how different communities are prepared to defend the agreement.

“Despite media portrayals of climate change as a controversial issue, climate scientists are virtually unanimous about its reality and about the urgency of addressing it,” said Dr. Rosalind Simson, associate professor of philosophy and instructor of the new Environmental Ethics course in the College of Liberal Arts. “As a renowned environmental ethicist and a key crafter of environmental policy in the Obama administration, Dr. Light has a unique perspective on the current challenges to, and prospects for, international cooperation on this issue. We are thrilled that he has agreed to come talk to us.”

Dr. Light, who also serves as a Distinguished Senior Fellow in the Climate Program at the World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C., earned his B.A. from Mercer with majors in history, political science and philosophy. He went on to earn both an M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of California, Riverside, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in environmental risk assessment at the University of Alberta.

He served in the administration of President Barack Obama from 2013-2016 as senior adviser and India Counselor to the U.S. Special Envoy on Climate Change, as well as staff climate adviser to Secretary of State John Kerry in the Office of Policy Planning in the U.S. Department of State. He was a member of the senior strategy team for U.N. climate negotiations, director of the Interagency Climate Change Working Group for negotiation of the Sustainable Development Goals and director of the U.S.-India Joint Working Group for Combating Climate Change, among other duties.

In recognition of his work, Dr. Light was recognized last June by the International Society for Environmental Ethics with its inaugural Public Philosophy Award, which was renamed the Andrew Light Award. He also received the inaugural Alain Locke Award for Public Philosophy from the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy in March 2016 and the Superior Honor Award from the U.S. Department of State in July 2016 for his efforts to create and negotiate the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Dr. Light has been a frequent commentator on U.S. and international climate policy in dozens of media outlets, including the New York Times, Politico, Vox, Axios, The Globe and Mail, The Observer, The Guardian, Mother Jones, NPR, Marketplace, CNN, CBS, ABC, and Fox Business. 

He has written more than 100 articles and book chapters, primarily on the normative dimensions of climate change, restoration ecology and urban sustainability, and has authored, co-authored and edited 19 books, including Environmental Values (2008), Moral and Political Reasoning in Environmental Practice (2003), Environmental Pragmatism (1996), and the forthcoming Ethics in the Anthropocene