Susan Joy Hassol is a climate change communicator, analyst, and author known for her ability to translate science into English, making complex issues accessible to policymakers and the public for more than two decades. Susan was the Senior Science Writer on all three National Climate Assessments, authoritative reports written in plain language to better inform policymakers and the public about climate change and its effects on our nation. The Third U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA), was released in May 2014 at the White House, the Second NCA came out in 2009, and the First NCA in 2000.
In 2012 Susan was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for her “exceptional contributions in the area of science communication, particularly for communication of the science of climate change to policymakers and the public.” In 2006, Susan received the Climate Institute’s first ever award for excellence in climate science communication. She currently serves as Communication Advisor to the World Meteorological Organization’s Commission for Climatology. She served two terms on the Board of Directors of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), and has been a Visiting Scholar at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, NC, as well as at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO.
Susan publishes widely on climate science, communication, solutions, and policies. Among her recent publications is a Nov. 2016 Scientific American commentary entitled Climate Trumps Everything, written with Michael E. Mann. Also in Nov. 2016, Susan was the lead author of an article titled (Un)Natural Disasters, about communicating the linkages between extreme weather events and climate change in the World Meteorological Organisation’s Bulletin. She published an article with Richard Somerville, in Physics Today in December 2011. The article, “Communicating the Science of Climate Change”, discussed how scientists can improve how they communicate to the public.
Susan has discussed climate change on many national radio and television shows including ABC’s 20/20, and Frontline and NOW on PBS. She also has been seen on ABC News’ Global Warming 101 and Planet Earth 2007. Susan has addressed influential groups including the U.S. Conference of Mayors (2007), the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation (2004), and the Sundance Summit of Mayors for Climate Protection (2006 and 2007).
Susan also co-edited the 2009 report Arctic Climate Feedbacks: Global Implications, an assessment of the latest science on Arctic feedbacks by leading experts.
In 2008, Susan published an article on Improving How Scientists Communicate About Climate Change in Eos, a weekly journal of AGU. This article contains some of her key insights on the importance of scientists developing better communication skills and includes many practical suggestions about language and framing.
Susan was Senior Editor of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program’s report Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate, published in 2008. She was Associate Editor of the Climate Change Science Program’s report Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere, published in 2006.
Susan served as editor of the Frequently Asked Questions in the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This Working Group I effort lays out the scientific basis of climate change in a set of accessible answers that is an important complement to the otherwise technical IPCC assessment.
Susan wrote HBO’s global warming documentary, Too Hot Not To Handle, which premiered in April 2006. The film shows Americans experiencing climate change impacts and includes leading scientists explaining these changes. The second half of the film is devoted to solutions available now to address the climate challenge.
She also co-authored a chapter on Arctic climate impacts for a book titled Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change, published by Cambridge University Press in 2006.
Susan was lead author of Impacts of A Warming Arctic, the synthesis report of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, published in 2004, on which she worked for four years with 300 scientists from the Arctic and beyond. She testified about the impacts of Arctic warming before the U.S. Senate in November 2004.
Susan is also interested in solutions to climate change. She co-authored a chapter on energy efficiency in a book titled Innovative Energy Strategies for CO2 Stabilization, published by Cambridge University Press in 2002. She wrote a feature article titled “A Change of Climate” in Issues in Science and Technology (a Journal of the National Academy of Sciences, Spring 2003) focusing on the actions of U.S. states, cities, and corporations in reducing climate change.
Working with the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment, Susan co-authored the Emerging Challenges section of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Global Environmental Outlook (GEO) Yearbook for 2003, which addressed the alteration of the nitrogen cycle and over-fishing. In 2008, Susan was one of three lead authors, along with Jerry Melillo and Robert Corell, who joined a team of top experts from around the world to produce the GEO Yearbook chapter on Methane from the Arctic: Global Warming Wildcard.
Susan has been involved in environmental research and education since the 1980s. Susan led hands-on workshops designed to help people save energy in their homes. She wrote a series of Home Energy Briefs and a series of handbooks about how people can reduce their negative impacts on the environment.
Susan designed demand-side management plans to help electric utility companies reduce their electricity loads through energy efficient lighting. She wrote a weekly four-page newsbrief that summarized strategic developments in the energy field.
At the Aspen Global Change Institute, Susan synthesized the content of interdisciplinary science meetings on a wide variety of global change topics and edited a series of five annual books titled Elements of Change, 1994-1998. She also helped develop educational materials including the Ground Truth Studies Teacher Handbook, designed for K-12 educators teaching global change.