Ilissa Ocko, PhD
I am a climate scientist on a mission
to translate the best available science into effective, practical, and actionable strategies to curb climate change in the coming decades.
I am passionate about and committed to
communicating complex science to non-experts by combining plain language with storytelling and powerful visuals.
I work closely with
policy and business experts, economists, lawyers, and other scientists to provide climate action guidance for governments, companies, and investors across the world.
Hello! I'm Ilissa.
I am an applied climate scientist passionate about identifying and facilitating the most effective and pragmatic solutions to the current climate crisis. I conduct and have published several policy-relevant scientific research studies where I explore the impacts of human-emitted climate pollutants and their mitigation on climate change both during our lifetimes and for generations to come.
Currently I am a Sr. Climate Scientist and Barbra Streisand Chair of Environmental Studies at Environmental Defense Fund, where I lead our climate science team in pursuing original climate science research and providing guidance for climate change communication and decision-making.
I am personally committed to communicating science to non-experts using plain language and powerful visuals. A few years ago I represented the U.S. in an international science communications contest and last year I gave a TED talk on the fastest way to slow down climate change .
HOW TO CURB CLIMATE CHANGE
My research involves employing reduced-complexity climate models and climate metrics to determine the most effective ways to limit warming in both the near-term and long-term by reducing both short-lived and long-lived climate pollutants, including carbon dioxide, methane, hydrogen, and black carbon.
+ Ocko and Hamburg, Climate consequences of hydrogen emissions, Atmos. Chem. Phys. (2022)
+ Sun et al., The value of early methane mitigation in preserving Arctic summer sea ice, Environ. Res. Lett., (2022)
+ Allen et al., Indicate separate contributions of long-lived and short-lived greenhouse gases in emission targets, npj Climate and Atmospheric Science (2022)
+ Sun et al., Path to net zero is critical to climate outcome, Scientific Reports (2021)
+ Ocko et al., Acting rapidly to deploy readily available methane mitigation measures by sector can immediately slow global warming, Environ. Res. Lett. (2021)
+ Ocko and Hamburg, Climate Impacts of Hydropower: Enormous Differences among Facilities and over Time, Environ. Sci. Tech. (2019)
+ Ivanovich et al., Climate benefits of proposed carbon dioxide mitigation strategies for international shipping and aviation, Atmos. Chem. Phys. (2019)
+ Ocko et al., Unmask temporal trade-offs in climate policy debates, Science (2017)
+ Complements to carbon: Opportunities for near-term action on non-CO2 climate forcers, Princeton (2011)
HOW THE CLIMATE RESPONDS TO CLIMATE POLLUTANTS
My research focuses on exploring the thermal, hydrological, and dynamical responses to both well-mixed greenhouse gases, spatially variable tropospheric aerosols, and stratospheric aerosols.
+ Ocko et al., Rapid and reliable assessment of methane impacts on climate, Atmos. Chem. Phys., (2018)
+ Ocko et al., Contrasting climates responses to the scattering and absorbing features of anthropogenic aerosol forcings, J. Climate (2014)
HOW HUMAN-CAUSED CLIMATE POLLUTANTS AFFECT ENERGY BALANCE
I use observational and model-derived data to understand how aerosols and greenhouse gases impact Earth's radiative balance.
+ Ocko and Ginoux, Comparing multiple model-derived aerosol optical properties to spatially collocated ground-based and satellite measurements, Atmos. Chem. Phys. (2017)
+ Ocko et al., Sensitivity of scattering and absorbing aerosol direct radiative forcing to physical climate factors, J. Geophys. Res. (2012)
I LOVE TURNING JARGON INTO PLAIN LANGUAGE
Translating scientific jargon and information into accessible plain language is something that I do often. As a scientist working at an environmental NGO, a lot of my interactions are with non-scientists (policymakers, lawyers, members, donors, and more). I've written a number of blog posts and used to run a Twitter account that shares only "good" climate news. I have also helped develop a climate change exhibit at UCAR/NCAR.
+ Check out some blog posts
MY BIGGEST PASSION IS DESIGNING INFOGRAPHICS
I love to organize complex aspects of climate change and other scientific information into beautiful, accessible graphics as they are a powerful tool for learning and retaining information. My love for art and design coupled with my scientific knowledge makes designing infographics the perfect hobby. Several of my graphics have been published in news and magazine articles, blog posts, scientific papers, and reports, and I used to run an Instagram account where I posted graphics to promote climate and energy awareness.
+ Check out some science graphics
I TRY TO INSPIRE AND ENGAGE AUDIENCES OF ALL KINDS
I am a very animated and passionate speaker, and really try to connect with my audience. I've talked to students of all ages, churches, a music festival and rap show, on TV and radio, to banks and lawfirms, and more. I also enjoy participating in science communication challenges and contests, and a few years ago won the NASA-sponsored U.S. FameLab contest (“American Idol” for scientists), representing the USA in the international competition and advancing to the finals.
+ Check out some presentations and interviews
PhD, Princeton University
Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences
My dissertation, with Dr. V. Ramaswamy as my advisor, focused on the contrasting and complementary features of climate responses to human-caused scattering and absorbing aerosols. I used global climate models, corroborated by ground-based and satellite measurements, to isolate climate responses to individual aerosols and greenhouse gases. I was supported by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, and won the Emerging Alumni Scholars Award. I also received a certificate in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School.
MA, Princeton University
Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences
I began graduate school researching aerosols in the Arctic, both how they are transported there from mid-latitudes and how they influence the energy balance. I was supported by the American Meteorological Society Industry/ Government Graduate Fellowship, and specifically, the NOAA Climate Program Office. I also earned two summer school certificates: Arctic Climate Change Certificate from University Centre in Svalbard, and Physics of the Climate System Certificate from Utrecht University.
BSE, University of Michigan
Earth System Science & Engineering
I was fortunate to have some amazing mentors and some incredible internships and research assistantships. Some of my favorite experiences include traveling to Greenland to learn about climate science, interning at the NOAA Earth System Research Lab as a Hollings Scholar (how I met my husband!), and participating in an REU at the University of Michigan Bio Station. Aside from research, I was co-president of the Society of Undergraduate Earth System Scientists and Engineers, and the Chief Meteorologist of a news show on a student-run television network.