Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy: George Mason University. The Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy brings philosophical analysis – the examination of values and the clarification of concepts – to the discussion of pressing issues in public policy.

Email | CV

Andrew Light

Director, Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy
University Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy

Areas of Specialization & Biography | Recent Publications | Upcoming & Recent Presentations


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Areas of Specialization

International climate policy and governance (especially plurilateral and bilateral agreements, mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants, and comparative ambition), environmental ethics and policy (especially climate change, restoration ecology, and terrestrial biodiversity), risk analysis, and the social dimensions of emerging technologies (especially nanotechnology, synthetic biology, and geoengineering)


Andrew Light is University Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy, and Director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at George Mason University. From 2013-2015, he served as Senior Adviser and India Counselor to the Special Envoy on Climate Change, and as Staff Climate Adviser in the Secretary's Office of Policy Planning in the U.S. Department of State. In this capacity he was on the senior strategy team for the UN climate negotiations, directed the U.S.-India bilateral climate change working group, led the office's efforts on climate-smart agriculture, and chaired the interagency working group on climate change for the Post-2015 UN development agenda, among other issues. Before joining the government he was a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. (CAP), where he organized and developed CAP’s work on international climate and energy policy, serving as chief adviser on these issues to CAP’s founder and chairman, John Podesta. During this period he authored 11 major reports and over a hundred columns and editorials.

In addition to his current work on climate policy, Light is an internationally recognized expert on the intersection of the scientific and moral dimensions of environmental policy. He is the author of over 100 scholarly articles and book chapters, and has authored, co-authored, and edited 17 books including Environmental Values (2008), Controlling Technology (2005), Moral and Political Reasoning in Environmental Practice (2003), Technology and the Good Life? (2000), and Environmental Pragmatism (1996). He is currently working on a book on the social dimensions of restoration ecology in a changing climate.

His doctoral work was at the University of California at Riverside and he completed a three-year postdoctoral fellowship in environmental risk assessment in the School of Medicine at the University of Alberta, Canada. Before moving to Washington in 2008 he held a variety of joint and interdisciplinary positions most recently as Associate Professor of Public Affairs at the University of Washington, Seattle, and Director of the graduate program in Environmental Conservation at New York University. Light has been a frequent advisor to various agencies on environmental and technology policy, including the State Department, the Department of Energy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Science Foundation. He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico and is co-founder and editor of the journal Ethics, Policy, and Environment.

He will continue consulting for the State Department on climate change through the upcoming Paris UN climate negotiations in December.

Recent Publications | Reports

Contributing author unless otherwise noted.

Carbon Market Crossroads:  New Ideas For Harnessing Global Markets to Confront Climate Change. Washington, D.C.: Climate Advisers and Center for American Progress, April 2013.

40x35:  A Zero Carbon Target for the World’s Largest Economies. Washington, D.C.: Center for American Progress, March 2013.

Doha Climate Summit Ends with the Long March to 2015:  Near-Term Progress Now Depends on Fast Action in Other Forums. Washington, D.C.: Center for American Progress, December 2012.

The U.S. Role in International Climate Finance:  A Blueprint for Near Term Leadership. Washington, D.C.:  Alliance for Climate Protection and CAP, December 2010.

Investing in Clean Energy:  How to Maximize Clean Energy Deployment from International Climate Finance. London:  Global Climate Network, November 2010.

Development Funding Done Right: How to Ensure Multilateral Development Banks Finance Clean and Renewable Energy Projects to Combat Global Warming. Washington, D.C.:  Center for American Progress, March 2010.

Counting the World’s Capacity for Emission Reductions. Washington, D.C.:  Center for American Progress, December 2009.

Creating Opportunity:  Low-Carbon Jobs in an Interconnected World. London:  Global Climate Network, November 2009.

A Roadmap for U.S.-China Cooperation on Carbon Capture and Sequestration. Washington, D.C.:  Center for American Progress and Asia Society, November 2009.

Meeting the Climate Challenge:  Core Elements of an Effective Response to Climate Change. Washington, D.C.:  Center for American Progress and UN Foundation, Oct. 2009)

Breaking Through on Technology:  Overcoming the Barriers to the Development and Wide Deployment of Low-Carbon Technology. London:  Global Climate Network, July 2009)


Recent Publications | Columns, Testimony, and Editorials

"10 Essential Pollution Reduction and Public Health Measures in President Obama’s Climate Plan," with Richard Caperton and Dan Weiss, CAP, June 25, 2013.

"A Conversation with Senator Chris Murphy and Andrew Light on International Climate Change," Center for National Policy, May 14, 2013.

"Kabuki Theatre:  Calls for U.S. Negotiators to Leave Doha are Unpoductive and Inconsistent," with Gwynne Taraska, Climate Progress, December 5, 2012. 

"Testimony:  H.R. 4255, the Accountability in Grants Act of 2012," CAP, September 11, 2012.

"The Climate is Changing But the U.S. Position on 2C is Not," Climate Progress, August 9, 2012.

"New Deal on Global Climate Change," with John Podesta, February 16, 2012.

"How the Rio+20 Earth Summit Could Have Been Better," CAP, June 26, 2012.

"Why Durban Matters," CAP, December 19, 2011.

"Climate Finance is Key to U.S. Climate Credibility," CAP, December 6, 2011.

"House Airline Bill Risks Diplomatic Fallout and Disaster to U.S. Industry," CAP, October 27, 2011.

"Prospects for U.S. Climate Policy:  National Action and International Cooperation in a Changed Political Landscape," with Dan Weiss and Lisbeth Kaufmann, Friedrich Ebert Foundation, January 6, 2011.

"Key Pact in Global Warming Fight," with John Podesta, Politico, December 17, 2010.

"The Cancun Compromise:  Masterful Diplomacy Ends with Agreement," CAP, December 13, 2010.

"Has Japan Killed the Kyoto Protocol?" CAP, December 8, 2010.

"Real Reductions America Can Easily Afford:  EPA Modeling Shows American Power Act Brings Economic and Climate Benefits" CAP, with Richard Caperton, June 15, 2010.

"The Copenhagen Accord at Three Months," CAP, with Sean Pool, March 20, 2010.

"Progress from the Copenhagen Accord:  A Good Start to Global Progress on Climate Safety," CAP, February 9, 2010.

"A Copenhagen Compact," Grist, December 18, 2009.

"Anything Looks Bad if the Bar’s Set Too High – the G8 Included," Foreign Policy, July 15, 2009.

"U.S.-Russia Climate and Energy Efficiency Cooperation: A Neglected Challenge," CAP, with Julian Wong and Samuel Charap, June 30, 2009.

"China Begins Its Transition to a Clean Energy Economy," CAP, with Julian Wong, June 4, 2009.

"Tall Tales From Spain," CAP, with James Heintz, May 7, 2009.

"Rise of the Green Dragon?" CAP, with Nina Hachigian, April 28, 2009.


Recent Publications | Scholarly Books

Light, Andrew, John O'Neill, and Alan Holland. 2008. Environmental Values. Routledge.

Light, Andrew, Peter Kroes, Stephen Moore, and Pieter Veermas, eds. 2008. Philosophy and Design: From Engineering to Architecture. Springer.


Recent Publications | Scholarly Articles and Book Chapters

Light, Andrew and Gwynne Taraska, 2014. Climate Change, Adaptation, and Climate-Ready Development Assistance. Environmental Values. [Final submitted revision]

---- 2013.  Beyond Durban:  A New Agenda for Climate Ethics. In Justice, Sustainability, and Security:  Global Ethics for the 21st Century, ed. E. Heinze.  Palgrave Macmillan. [Full text]

---- 2013. An Equity Hurdle in International Climate Negotiations. Philosophy and Public Policy Quarterly, Vol. 31, No.1. [Full text]

Light, Andrew, Allen Thompson, and Eric Higgs, 2013.  Valuing Novel Ecosystem . In Novel Ecosystems:  Intervening in the New Ecological World Order, eds. R. Hobbs, E. Higgs, and C. Hall. Blackwell. [Full text]

Light, Andrew, 2012.  Environment and Immigration. In Debates on Immigration, eds. J. Gans, E. Replogle, and D. Tichenor. Sage Publishers.

---- 2012.  Finding a Future for Environmental Ethics. The Ethics Forum / Les Ateliers de l’éthique, Vol. 7, No. 3.

Light, Andrew, John O'Neill, and Alan Holland, 2012.  Varieties of Environmental Ethics. Nature:  Education, Vol. 3, No. 10.

Light, Andrew, 2012. On the Need for Front Line Climate Ethics. In The Environment (Topics in Contemporary Philosophy), ed. B. Kabesenche, M. O’Rourke and M. Slater. MIT Press.

---- 2012. The Death of Restoration? In Ethical Adaptation to Climate Change: Human Virtues of the Future, ed. A. Thompson and J. Bendik-Keymer. MIT Press. [Full text]

---- 2011. Climate Ethics for Climate Action. In Environmental Ethics: What Really Matters? What Really Works?, 2nd edition, ed. D. Schmidtz and E. Willott. Oxford University Press.

---- 2010. Methodological Pragmatism, Pluralism, and Environmental Ethics. In Environmental Ethics: The Big Questions, ed. D. Keller. Blackwell Publishers.

---- 2010. Love Conquers All, Even Time? In Time and Identity (Topics in Contemporary Philosophy),  ed. J. Campbell, M. O’Rourke, and H. Silverstein. MIT Press. [Full text]

---- 2010. The Moral Journey of Environmentalism:  From Wilderness to Place. In Pragmatic Sustainability:  Theoretical and Practical Tools, ed. S. Moore. Routledge Press. [Penultimate text]

---- 2009. Does a Public Environmental Philosophy Need a Convergence Hypothesis? In Nature in Common:  Environmental Ethics and the Contested Foundations of Environmental Policy, ed. B. Minteer. Temple University Press. [Full text]

---- 2009. Ecological Restoration:  From Functional Descriptions to Normative Prescriptions. In Functions in Biological and Artificial Worlds:  Comparative Philosophical Perspectives, ed. P. Kroes and U. Krohs. MIT Press. [Full text]

---- 2008. Restorative Relationships: From Artifacts to ‘Natural’ Systems. In Healing Natures, Repairing Relationships: New Perspectives on Restoring Ecological Spaces, ed. R. France. Green Frigate Books.


Upcoming and Recent Presentations

"Climate Ethics in the Trenches: A Case for Prioritizing Short-Lived Climate Pollutants," with Gwynne Taraska. For the workshop, "Climate Justice in a Non-Ideal World," Oxford University, January 2014.

"Reducing the Equity Hurdles in International Climate Policy." For the 22nd Annual McDowell Conference, "Philosophy and Climate Change," American University, Washington, DC, October 2013.

"Governing the Momentum for Geoengineering." For the Society for Philosophy and Technology conference., Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal, July 2013.

“Is Existing Environmental Transformation Sufficient to Justify Geoengineering?” For the workshop, “On the Interaction of Political and Expert Authority,” Arizona State University Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes, Washington, DC, June 2013.

“The Coherence of U.S. Energy Progress with International Climate Progress.” For the symposium, “U.S. Climate and Energy Policy: What Are the Prospects for New Transatlantic Cooperation?” The German Marshall Fund of the United States, Brussels, Belgium, May 2013.

“Obama’s New Climate Commitments." For the symposium, “Obama 2.0 and Transatlantic Cooperation,” U.S. Embassy Berlin and German Federal Ministry of the Environment, Berlin, Germany, May 2013.

"Equity and Climate Change: Opportunities for Research, Teaching, and Advocacy." At the Public Philosophy Network conference, Emory University, March 2013.

“Nonsense Upon Stilts Redux? On Rights for Nature.” Invited presentation for the “Speciesism and the Future of Humanity” seminar, University of California, Berkeley, February 2013.

“Does the Anthropocene Justify Geoengineering, or Anything Else?” Keynote address for the workshop, “Environmental Ethics for a New Millennium," University of Calgary, Canada, February 2013

“Is Climate Change a Wedge Issue?” Society of Philosophers in America meeting, Eastern American Philosophical Association conference, Atlanta, Georgia, December 2012.

“Starkey’s Leopold,” International Society for Environmental Ethics meeting, Eastern American Philosophical Association conference, Atlanta, Georgia, December 2012.

“The Causal Argument for Climate-Ready Development Adaptation,” with Gwynne Taraska, Fourth Annual Dutch Conference on Applied Philosophy, Technical University of Eindhoven, The Netherlands, November 2012.

"Moving Beyond Kyoto:  Climate Justice Without a Safety Net."  In the workshop After Kyoto, What's Next? Policy and Moral Considerations. Institute for Ethics and Public Affairs, San Diego State University. May 3, 2012.

"Climate Ethics after Durban:  Entering the Decade of Climate Finance." Weston Roundtable Series, The Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. University of Wisconsin, Madison. April 26, 2012.

"Climate Change and the Causal Argument for Development Adaptation." In the workshop Ethics and Adaptation: Environmental Ethics and Policy When the Future Does Not Resemble the Past." SUNY Buffalo. March 10, 2012.

"The Death of Restoration?"  Keynote address for the conference Ecological Restoration:  Challenges and Benefits. Missouri Western State University, St. Joseph, Missouri. February 23, 2012.

Panel.  "From Philosophical Training to Professional Blogging:  A Discussion with Andrew Light, David Roberts and Matthew Yglesais."  American Philosophical Association Eastern Division Annual Meeting. Washington, D.C. December 28, 2011.

"Mobilizing International Climate Finance." In the Global Climate Network side event, 17th meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Durban, South Africa. December 5, 2011.

"Finding a Future for Climate Ethics." Environmental Humanities Project. Stanford University. October 31, 2011. [Video available soon]

"A Conversation between Andrew Light and Johnathan Moreno on Moreno's new book The Body Politic:  The Battle Over Science in America." Center for American Progress. October 21, 2011. [Video]

"'Use It or Lose It': A Governance Proposal for Geoengineering" (keynote address). In the workshop Ethical Issues in Engineering Biological and Ecological Systems. Northeastern University, Boston. October 1, 2011.

"Sustainable Climate Ethics -- Moving from Mitigation to International Finance." Environmental Studies Colloquium. University of Colorado at Boulder. September 7, 2011. [Video available soon]

"Building on the Building Blocks:  Possibilities and Pitfalls on the Road to Durban." In the workshop Designing Just Institutions for Global Climate Governance. Australia National University, Canberra. June 30, 2011.

"Should We Intentionally Create Novel Ecosystems in Response to Climate Change?" Novel Ecosystems Workshop. Pendar Island, Victoria (University of Victoria). May 23-26, 2011.

"International Climate Ethics in a Time of Uncertain Climate Policy." Boston Colloquium on the Philosophy of Science. Boston University. April 15, 2011. [Video]

 "How to Risk a Culture War: Deep Disagreements from Biotechnology to Synthetic Biology." Press Release. Department of Philosophy, Denison University. April 8, 2011.

"American Climate Politics:  Threat or Role Model." Cogito Green Foundation. Stockholm, Sweden.  March 9, 2011. [Video]

"American Perspectives on Global Climate Talks." Announcement. University of Lund, Sweden. March 11, 2011.

"U.S. Climate Policy on the Road to Cancun." Singapore International Energy Week. November 2, 2011.

"Getting Ahead of the Curve: Responsible Governance for Geoengineering." In the workshop The Ethics of Geoengineering: Investigating the Challenges of Solar Radiation Management. University of Montana, Missoula. October 18-30, 2010. [Video interview] [Video of plenary The Ethics of Solar Radiation Management]

"Why the World Needs Climate Action." Global Climate Network roundtable discussion. Center for American Progress, Washington, DC. July 22, 2010. [Video]