October 20, 2016

Rhodes Scholar Takes on Climate Change in Top Science Journal

Rhodes Scholar Tamma Carleton BA ’09 has progressed from earning her bachelor’s degree in economics to publishing original research in the premiere global science weekly. Her newest work connects climate change to societal impacts.

Ask Tamma Carleton BA ’09 about the genesis of her scholarly pursuits and you may hear an answer like this:

“I went to a very small public high school and barely saw any economics before I went to college. I loved math, but after growing up in a household of artists, economics sounded excruciatingly boring. Then I had this absolutely phenomenal professor [Cliff Bekar] for my introductory economics course. Cliff and I are still very close friends, and he completely changed the course of my life. I saw in his class how the quantitative methods and abstract math that I loved could be applied to the development and food systems questions I really cared about. I was a quick convert.”

Now a PhD student in agricultural and resource economics at UC Berkeley, Carleton is the coauthor of a new meta-analysis in Science. Analyzing data from nearly 200 studies, her work in the premiere global science weekly shows how climate change has already affected lives and what its impact will be by 2100.

Deemed “essential to making clear the everyday price of climate change” by Richard Moss of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Joint Global Change Research Institute, the study details the disruptions between higher temperatures and human reproduction, mood, academic performance, the economy, and a rise in conflict and violence.

In her time at Lewis & Clark, Carleton excelled in both academics and athletics, gaining membership into the Pamplin Society and Phi Beta Kappa, competing as a three-time Academic All-American in cross country, and participating in an overseas study program in Chile. Associate Professor of English Karen Gross introduced Carleton to the possibility of a Rhodes Scholarship and mentored her through the extensive application process, helped her secure one of just 32 spots for American graduates. At Oxford, Carleton earned two master’s degrees focused on quantifying the effectiveness of climate change adaptation strategies.

Carleton, who grew up in the tiny town of Elk, California, (population 250), is now shaping global policy development for what many consider humanity’s greatest challenge. Her hope—indeed, the hope of countless people—is that her research will bring “awareness of adaptation strategies in policy-making” and encourage a reassessment of the methods currently being used to combat climate change’s immediate and prolonged impacts.  

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Scout Brobst ’20 contributed to this story.