Jay Gulledge

Senior Scientist and Program Director

2011 Charles S. Falkenberg Award Winner

Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

Jay Gulledge received the Charles S. Falkenberg Award at the 2011 AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 7 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award honors a “scientist under 45 years of age who has contributed to the quality of life, economic opportunities, and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the pubic awareness of the importance of understanding our planet.”


We proudly present the 2011 Charles S. Falkenberg Award to Jay Gulledge in recognition of his exceptional record of effective public communication of climate change science. Since joining the Pew Center in 2005, Gulledge has worked tirelessly and effectively building public awareness of climate change science by giving hundreds of press interviews and dozens of public speaking engagements, speaking at congressional briefings, and blogging and writing op-eds at the science/policy interface. In doing these, he has displayed a remarkable combination of extraordinary communication skills, political savvy, and the capacity to interact with both scientists and nonscientists.

Gulledge obtained his Ph.D. in biological sciences from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1996 and then pursued a career of academic research before joining the Pew Center on Global Climate Change in 2005 as a senior research fellow. Since joining the Pew Center, he has initiated discussions on a wide range of Earth science topics, from the social cost of carbon to the emerging role for science translators and new approaches to effective communication between climate specialists, the general public, and our elected leaders. Gulledge now directs the Pew Center’s efforts to assess and communicate the latest scholarly information about the science and environmental impacts of climate change. In this role he has communicated both an understanding of climate science and the need for urgent action to a wide cross section of nonscientists including the press, Congress, the national security/foreign policy community, and the business community.

Gulledge’s dedication to communicating climate change expands beyond his role at the Pew Center. Working closely with national security and military experts, he helped forge commonsense approaches for managing climate change risks. He serves as a nonresident fellow at the Center for a New American Security, where he coauthored “Lost in translation,” a report about closing the information gap between climate scientists and national security policy makers.

As a prolific contributor to the Pew Center’s Climate Compass blog, Gulledge uses extreme weather events as a teaching tool to convey the message that uncertainty should motivate action, not delay it. Since the blog’s inception in 2009, he has helped make the science of climate change accessible to the layperson, and his posts consistently attract the blog’s largest readership. His media appearances in the past year include ABC World News With Diane Sawyer, E&ETV, Forbes magazine, and Reuters.

Although he is now primarily a science communicator, Gulledge has maintained an impressive record of research and publication, including 26 peer-reviewed articles and reviewed reports. He has provided congressional testimony twice and has published 14 policy briefs and opinion articles since 2005. Most recently, Gulledge has been researching and communicating the risk management implications of climate change from an interdisciplinary perspective, bringing together strong elements of Earth and environmental sciences, environmental economics, and policy.

The Charles S. Falkenberg Award is one of the few awards issued by learned societies that focuses on public engagement, and we are pleased to see Jay Gulledge recognized for his extensive public engagement and his extraordinary combination of scientific expertise, public policy experience, and communication skills.


—Greg Holland, Earth System Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Boulder, Colo.; Peter Backlund, Integrated Studies Program, NCAR; and Lawrence Buja, Research Applications Laboratory, NCAR


The Charles S. Falkenberg Award is the highest honor of my career. I am grateful to AGU and the Earth Science Information Partnership and to my peers for this recognition. I am indebted to mentors who have fostered my success over the years. And I am overjoyed that all of them have supported my nontraditional professional journey. The work for which I am being recognized was performed at nonpartisan policy think tanks in Washington, namely, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change (now the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions) and the Center for a New American Security. I thank them for taking a policy-neophyte scientist and teaching him how the world actually works.

After following a traditional academic track for 16 years, including graduate school, two postdoctoral research stints, and two tenure-­track faculty positions, I left academia to join the Pew Center. There I have focused on identifying the science most needed by decision makers to make well-informed decisions about one of the most important public policy problems in the history of civil society. From the decision-maker perspective, persistent uncertainty about the detailed consequences of human-induced climate change is the greatest challenge to using science to make policy. For that reason, my efforts have focused primarily on packaging scientific uncertainty into a framework for risk management. In this context, rather than inhibiting action, uncertainty becomes useful information that incentivizes and guides action. This, I believe, has been my most important contribution to both science and society.

I have not performed in a vacuum. I was concerned that leaving academia would negatively affect my professional standing. Almost from the moment I began working in the policy arena, however, dozens of academic scientists were eager to volunteer their time and expertise to help me. Not once has a peer caused me to feel devalued as a scientist. I have also been embraced, mentored, and put to good use by my colleagues in the policy community, and much of what I have accomplished in recent years would have been impossible without their collaboration. I thank both my scientific peers and my policy colleagues for their help and acceptance; they have my undying respect and gratitude.

In recent years AGU has established several Union honors that explicitly reward work at the interface between science and society—the Falkenberg Award, the Spilhaus Award, and the Climate Communication Prize. These honors are important because society does not spontaneously value our science according to its true social worth, especially in times of budget austerity. It is essential therefore that some of us focus on applying scientific knowledge to the production of social benefits. By honoring those who carry on the spirit of Charles S. Falkenberg, AGU will attract more young scientists to work at the science-­society interface. That is a very good thing for the sustainability of our planet and our science.

—Jay Gulledge, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (formerly Pew Center on Global Climate Change), Arlington, Va.