Andrew Light

Director and University Professor


Areas of Specialization

International climate policy and governance (especially comparative ambition, mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants, and agreements between the U.S., India, and China), environmental ethics and policy (especially restoration ecology, urban ecology, and climate change), risk analysis, and the social dimensions of emerging technologies (especially nanotechnology, synthetic biology, and climate engineering)

NEW:  Listen to Andrew's interviews on NPR's To the Point and Marketplace on the announcement of the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

NEW:  Watch Andrew's webinar on Trump, Climate Change, and the Paris Agreement.

Watch Andrew's Rotman Institute lecture explaining the Paris Climate Agreement.

Listen to Andrew's interview on NPR's All Things Considered on historic agreement in the Montreal Protocol to get rid of the most potent greenhouse gases.



Andrew Light is University Professor of Philosophy, Public Policy, and Atmospheric Sciences, and Director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at George Mason University.  He is also a Distinguished Senior Fellow in the Climate Program at the World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C. 

From 2013-2016 Andrew served as Senior Adviser and India Counselor to the U.S. Special Envoy on Climate Change, and as a staff member in the Secretary of State'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 U.S. government's interagency working group on climate change for the Post-2015 UN development agenda, among other issues.

In recognition of this work, Andrew was awarded the inaugural Public Philosophy Award, from the International Society for Environmental Ethics -- which henceforth will be designated the "Andrew Light Award for Public Philosophy" -- in June 2017, the inaugural Alain Locke Award for Public Philosophy, from the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy in March 2016, and a Superior Honor Award, from the U.S. Department of State in July 2016, for “contributions to the U.S. effort that made the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris, where the landmark Paris Agreement was concluded, a historic success.”

Before joining the government Andrew 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 (see the list and links below).

In addition to his current work on climate policy, Andrew 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 19 books including Environmental Values (Routledge, 2008), Moral and Political Reasoning in Environmental Practice (MIT, 2003), Technology and the Good Life? (University of Chicago, 2000), Environmental Pragmatism (Routledge, 1996), and the forthcoming Ethics and the Anthropocene (MIT, 2017). 

Andrew's 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. 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

 For a full CV go here and look under the More Information tab.


Recent Publications | Columns and Editorials


"US Climate Assessment:  Now is the Warmest Period of Modern Times," with Kelly Levin, World Resources Institute (WRI), November 3, 2017.

"G20 Economies Must Lead on Climate Despite U.S. Position on the Paris Agreement," with Andrew Steer, WRI, July 3, 2017.

"White House Abandoning Paris Agreement Harms the U.S. as Other Countries Step Up," WRI, June 2, 2017.

"Business, Security, Diplomatic Leaders Urge Trump to Stay in Paris Agreement," WRI, May 10, 2017.

"The Paris Agreement: Should the U.S. Stay or Should it Go?" with David Waskow, WRI, April 17, 2017.

"Will Merkel Use Next Week's U.S. Visit to Boost the Paris Agreement," with David Waskow, WRI, March 10, 2017.

"North American Climate Cooperation at a Crossroads," with Gwynne Taraska and Howard Marano, Center for American Progress (CAP), February 16, 2017.

"How the G20 Could Save the Paris Climate Deal,"with Gwynne Taraska, Climate Home, February 15, 2017.

"America Can't Afford to be a Climate Loner," with David Waskow, WRI, January 25, 2017.

"What Did Confirmation Hearings Tell us about Trump's Priorities on Climate Change," WRI, January 20, 2017

"Tillerson's Hearings Fail to Assure the American Public on Climate Change," WRI, January 13, 2017.

"The World's Biggest Carbon Emitters Are Set to Officially Join the Paris Climate Deal," with Gwynne Taraska, Think Progress, September 1, 2016.

"Will the G20 Spur Post-Paris Climate Action?" with Helen Mountford, WRI, August 15, 2016.

"Three Amigos Summit Can Spur North American Climate Action," with Sam Adams, WRI, June 30, 2016.

"Three Climate and Energy Issues to Watch During the Modi-Obama State Visit," WRI, June 1, 2016.

"The Great Potential -- and Great Risks -- of Gene Editing," with Jesse Kirkpatrick, The Washington Post, December 11, 2015.

"10 Essential Pollution Reduction and Public Health Measures in President Obama’s Climate Plan," with Richard Caperton and Dan Weiss, CAP, June 25, 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, Politico, February 16, 2012.

"How the Rio+20 Earth Summit Could Have Been Better," with Adam James and Gwynne Taraska, CAP, June 26, 2012.

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

"Climate Finance is Key to U.S. Climate Credibility," with Rebecca Lefton and Adam James, CAP, December 6, 2011.

"House Airline Bill Risks Diplomatic Fallout and Disaster to U.S. Industry," with Rebecca Lefton, 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.

"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 | Policy Reports

Ramping up Governance of the Global Environmental Commons. (Washington, D.C.:  Global Environmental Facility and IUCN, forthcoming March 2018).

Proposal for a North American Climate Strategy. Washington, D.C.:  Center for American Progress and World Resources Institute, June 2016.

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 | 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, 2016. A Responsible Path: Enhancing Action on Short-Lived Climate Pollutants. In Climate Justice in a Non-Ideal World, eds. C. Heyward and D. Roser. Oxford University Press.

Light, Andrew, 2016. Climate Diplomacy. In The Oxford Handbook of Environmental Ethics, eds. S. Gardiner and A. Thompson. Oxford University Press.

Light, Andrew and Gwynne Taraska, 2014. Climate Change, Adaptation, and Climate-Ready Development Assistance. Environmental Values.

Light, Andrew, 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.

Light, Andrew, 2013. An Equity Hurdle in International Climate Negotiations. Philosophy and Public Policy Quarterly, Vol. 31, No.1.

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.

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

Light, Andrew, 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.

Light, Andrew, 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.

Light, Andrew, 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.

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

Light, Andrew, 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.

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

Light, Andrew, 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. [Draft text]

Light, Andrew, 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.

Light, Andrew, 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 Conference Presentations

“India-U.S. Cooperation on Climate Change: The Path Ahead.” “U.S.-India Track II Dialogue on Energy and Climate Change,” New Delhi, India, December 2017.

“Policy Opportunities for Mitigation of Short-Lived Climate Pollutants After Paris.” Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate meeting, National Academy of Sciences, November 2017.

 “America’s Climate and Security Gambit.” “Enhancing Climate Diplomacy in a Changing Political Environment,” workshop, Institute for Environmental Security, GLOBE-EU, and EU Presidency, Brussels, November 2017.

“What Would Responsible Geoengineering Look Like?” Humanities and Technology Association Annual Conference, Salve Regina University, November 2017 (keynote address).

“Who’s Afraid of the Anthropocene?” Climate Engineering Conference 2017, Berlin, Germany, October 2017.

Response to “Policy Options and Principles for Negative Emissions and Solar Radiation Management,” Climate Engineering Conference 2017, Berlin, Germany, October 2017.

“U.S.-Canadian Climate Cooperation at a Crossroads.” “The Palmer Conference on Public Sector Leadership,” University of Prince Edward Island, August 2017 (plenary address).

“The Achievements of Paris, by the Numbers.”  “Climate Change and the Limits of the Numerical” workshop, University of Chicago, June 2017.

“Environmental Pragmatism Twenty Years Later.” Association for Environmental Studies and Science conference, University of Arizona, June 2017.

 “Climate Change Science and Policy: Implications for Puerto Rico.” “Climate Challenges and Resilience” workshop, Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico, June 2017.

“The Fate of the Paris Agreement and a Role for Public Philosophy.” International Society for Environmental Ethics conference, Colorado, June 2017 (keynote address).

"Policies and Actions of the U.S. under the Paris Agreement in 2017." “U.S.-China Track II Dialogue on Energy, Climate, and Sustainable Development,” Beijing, China, May 2017.

“The Roots of Cosmic Consciousness in Spike Jonze’s Her.” “Almost Human” – Second Annual Bioethics Film Festival, University of Pennsylvania, April 2017.

“Prospects for International and National Action on Solar Geoengineering." “Forum for U.S. Solar Geoengineering Research,” Harvard University and UCLA, Washington, DC, March 2017.

“Trump, Paris, and Climate Change." National Climate Seminar, Bard Center for Environmental Policy, February 2017.

“The Role of Observation Systems in Fulfilling the Paris Agreement.” Presidential Forum, American Association for Meteorology, Seattle, Washington, January 2017.

“Emerging Uncertainties in U.S. Climate Change Policy.” For “Scientific Uncertainty and Professional Ethics” workshop, Environmental Law Institute, Washington, D.C., December 2016.

“Environmental Pragmatism: A Journey from Theory to Concrete, Messy Practice.” For the Society for Advancement of American Philosophy Summer Institute, University of Oregon, July 2016.

"The State of U.S. Regional Carbon Markets."  "U.S.-China Track II Dialogue on Energy, Climate, and Sustainable Development," Beijing, China, June 2016.

Participant, Roundtable on "The Value of Wilderness." University of Illinois Program in Law and Philosophy, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, Sequoia High Sierra Camp, California, June 2016.

“What Happened in Paris? How Differentiation Evolved to Create a Global Climate Agreement."  Keynote address for the Inland Northwest Conference on Philosophy, Washington State University, April 2016.

“Engaging Good Climate Citizens."  For the workshop, “How Can HPS Contribute to Citizen Science and Literacy," Boston Colloquium for Philosophy of Science, Boston University, February 2016.

“Bottom-Up Equity in Paris.”  “Climate Change After Paris,” University of Colorado at Boulder, February 2016.

“A Progressive Path Through the Paris Climate Agreement."  Bernd Magnus Memorial Conference, University of California, Riverside, February 2016.

“Do Gene Drives Present Novel Ethical Considerations?” with Jesse Kirkpatrick.  “Science, Ethics and Governance Considerations for Gene Drive Research," National Academy of Sciences, October 2015. [Video]

“Climate Change, International Institutions, and Cooperation." Panel discussion for the workshop, “Sustainability: Visions and Values," Center for Ethics and Human Values, Ohio State University, October 2015.

"Canada’s Climate Future." Panel discussion for “The Palmer Conference on Public Sector Leadership,” University of Prince Edward Island, September 2015.

“Climate Change, Sustainability, and the Debate over the Post-2015 Development Agenda." Keynote address for the Calgary Sustainability Conference, University of Calgary, June 2015.

“Climate Ethics After Paris,” Keynote address for the "Climate Change and Culture" conference, University of Prince Edward Island, Canada, May 2015.

“The Emergence of Causation in the Climate-Scurity Nexus." “National Security and Climate Change” forum, Military Advisory Board, Center for Naval Analyses, Arlington, Virginia, February 2015.

“Climate Change in the Post-2015 Development Framework." “Justice in Development" workshop, Yale University, November 2014.

“Should Science Guide International Climate Policy?" "Values in Science and Science Policy" workshop, George Mason University, May 2014.

"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.

“Political Will and State Action: Individual and Collective Duties to Climate Change.”  For the International Society for Environmental Ethics meeting, Eastern American Philosophical Association conference, Baltimore, Maryland, December 2013.

"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.” Keynote address 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." Keynote address 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." For the Public Philosophy Network conference, Emory University, March 2013.

“Nonsense Upon Stilts Redux? On Rights for Nature.” For the symposium, “Speciesism and the Future of Humanity," 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?” For the Society of Philosophers in America meeting, Eastern American Philosophical Association conference, Atlanta, Georgia, December 2012.

“Starkey’s Leopold,” For the 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 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 2012.

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

"The Death of Restoration?"  For the symposium, "Ecological Restoration:  Challenges and Benefits," Missouri Western State University, St. Joseph, Missouri. February 2012.

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

"Finding a Future for Climate Ethics." Presentation for the  Environmental Humanities Project, Stanford University, October 2011.

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

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

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

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


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