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Katherine McComas headshot
Katherine McComas. Photo by Jason Koski

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has appointed Cornell’s Katherine McComas, Ph.D. ’00, to the fourth New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC), an independent group of 20 scientists who will synthesize climate study data and advise city policymakers.

McComas, Cornell’s vice provost for engagement and land-grant affairs, and a professor of communication in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, brings her expertise in communicating science and environmental risks to the panel.

“I look forward to focusing on the ways research in science communication, risk communication and engagement help inform solid environmental practices, so that we can move faster to address this grand challenge of climate change,” said McComas.

Her nomination was supported by Provost Michael Kotlikoff; David Lodge, director of the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability; and Katherine Bunting-Howarth, associate director of New York Sea Grant and assistant director of Cornell Cooperative Extension.

The NPCC began more than a decade ago and became a legal entity in 2012. The panel provides authoritative and actionable scientific information on future climate change and its potential impacts, according to the mayor’s office. This fourth iteration of the panel will be responsive to short-term research needs, a function made more urgent due to COVID-19 pandemic impacts on the city. The scientists are from colleges, universities and institutions mostly from the New York City area, New Jersey and Philadelphia.

“As we continue on the path to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to center climate justice in our approach,” de Blasio said. “I’m confident this panel of scientific experts will ensure that we have the data we need to fight global warming and create a more resilient city.”

In April 2019, the mayor announced New York City’s Green New Deal, a $14 billion plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030 and a commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050, while seeking to achieve 100% clean electricity. Following Superstorm Sandy in 2012, the city invested in climate change adjustments and is working on wetland restorations and improving coastal protections in the boroughs.

A member of the faculty since 2003 and chair of Cornell’s Department of Communication from 2013-17, McComas has served as the vice provost for engagement and land-grant affairs since 2018; she also is a faculty fellow with Cornell Atkinson.

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