Plenary 5: Climate Change and Disasters

Global environmental changes caused many natural disasters seen today, but severe environmental disasters can also change the environment. The goal of this session is to determine what those changes may be.


Heidi Cullen: Dr. Heidi Cullen serves as Chief Climatologist for Climate Central — a non-profit science journalism organization headquartered in Princeton, NJ. She is a Visiting Lecturer at Princeton University and a Senior Research Fellow at the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Cullen is the author of The Weather of the Future published by Harper Collins. Before joining Climate Central, where she reports on climate and energy issues, Dr. Cullen served as The Weather Channel’s first on-air climate expert and helped create Forecast Earth, a weekly television series focused on issues related to climate change and the environment. Prior to that Dr. Cullen worked as a research scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, CO. She received the NOAA Climate & Global Change Fellowship and spent two years at Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society working to apply long-range climate forecasts to the water resources sector in Brazil and Paraguay. She is a member of the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society and the Society of Environmental Journalists. Dr. Cullen also serves as a member of the NOAA Science Advisory Board. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from Columbia University and went on to receive a Ph.D. in climatology and ocean-atmosphere dynamics at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.

Confirmed Discussants:

Amy Luers: Dr. Luers has worked for over two decades at the intersection of environment, sustainability and economic development. She joined the Skoll Global Threats Fund as Director of Climate Change from Google, where she was the Senior Environmental Program Manager. At Google, Dr. Luers initiated and co-led the development of Google Earth Engine and the Google Science Communication Fellows Program, and traveled extensively in Latin America, South East Asia and Africa to support climate risk management programs. Prior to joining Google, Dr. Luers led the Climate Program for the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) in California and analyzed the impacts of alternative federal climate policy options. Before UCS, she lived in Latin America for many years working with rural communities on sustainable development and resource management. She is co-founder and former executive director of Agua Para La Vida, a small NGO dedicated to enhancing sustainable access to water supply in rural Latin America.

Dr. Luers has conducted research and published widely on the vulnerability of social and biophysical systems to global environmental changes. She holds a Ph.D. in environmental science and an M.A. in international policy studies, both from Stanford University, and a M.S. and B.S. in environmental resources engineering from Humboldt State University.


Kristie Ebi: Kristie L. Ebi is a Consulting Professor in the Department of Medicine, Stanford University and an independent consultant who conducts research on the impacts of and adaptation to climate change, including on extreme events, thermal stress, foodborne safety and security, and vectorborne diseases.  Her work focuses on understanding sources of vulnerability and designing adaptation policies and measures to reduce the health risks of climate change in a multistressor environment, including identifying indicators to measure changes in resilience and effectiveness of adaptation options.  She has worked with WHO, UNDP, USAID, and others on assessing vulnerability and implementing adaptation measures in Central America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific.  She facilitated adaptation assessments for the health sector for the states of Maryland and Alaska.  She was a coordinating lead author or lead author for the human health assessment for SAP4.6, the first US National Assessment, the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, and the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development.  Dr. Ebi’s scientific training includes an M.S. in toxicology and a Ph.D. and a Masters of Public Health in epidemiology, and two years of postgraduate research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.  She has edited fours books on aspects of climate change and has more than 100 publications.


Douglas R. Brown: Doug Brown is Director, Agriculture and Food Security at World Vision International (WVI) and responsible for the promotion of sustainable, productive and resilient agricultural livelihoods across the World Vision (WV) Partnership, internally through the development of organizational strategy, policy and practice as well as in external relationships. Prior roles within WV have included that of Senior Sector Specialist, Environment and Natural Resource Management at WV Canada, then as Research Advisor to the Southern Africa Livelihoods Emergency Response and finally as Climate Change Adaptation Specialist with WVI’s Climate Change Response Initiative. Doug has taught in the areas of international development and economics and conducted research in Cameroon and Kenya focused on the relationship between household resource management decisions, poverty and environmental degradation. Prior to his doctoral studies he worked for over 10 years at the grass roots level in agricultural and community development in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His international experience began through a 4 month cross-cultural exchange to the Philippines. Doug has a Ph.D. in the Economics of Development from Cornell University, a Certificate in Biblical Studies from Tyndale Seminary and a B.Sc. in Agriculture from the University of Guelph.


James Murley: Jim Murley has spent over three decades working on public policy issues important to Florida.  Jim served has Secretary of the Department of Community Affairs under Governor Lawton Chiles working on comprehensive planning, economic development, energy and emergency management issues.  He has served on various state commissions including the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, Florida Communities Trust and most recently served three years as the Chair of the Florida Energy and Climate Commission.  Jim spent over 10 years with Florida Atlantic University overseeing research on urban and environmental issues.  Jim currently holds the position of Executive Director of the South Florida Regional Planning Council.  In that capacity he is helping to lead an effort for the seven counties in Southeast Florida to develop a Regional Prosperity Plan. Jim is a member of the South Florida Water Management District’s Water Resources Advisory Commission and on the Board of Director for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance. He is a graduate of Leadership Florida and a Fellow in the National Academy for Public Administration.