Diana Liverman Elected to National Academy of Sciences and American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Regents Professor Diana Liverman, who studies the human dimensions of global environmental change, was elected to two of the nation's oldest and most prestigious honorary societies.
April 28, 2020
Diana Liverman
Diana Liverman

In the span of one week, University of Arizona Regents Professor Diana Liverman has been elected to both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Liverman is director of the School of Geography and Development in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

This year, the National Academy of Sciences elected 120 new members and 26 international members in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Membership is considered one of the highest honors that a scientist can receive.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences honors the country's most accomplished scholars, scientists, artists and leaders. It elected 276 new fellows and 37 new international honorary members.

"The members of the class of 2020 have excelled in laboratories and lecture halls, they have amazed on concert stages and in surgical suites, and they have led in board rooms and courtrooms," said David W. Oxtoby, president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. "These new members are united by a place in history and by an opportunity to shape the future through the academy's work to advance the public good."

"It was a lovely surprise to hear about being elected to both academies, especially in these challenging times, and I am very honored," Liverman said. "I have been having trouble focusing on my work during the pandemic, and this was a welcome reminder that research can be rewarding and meaningful. After the NAS (National Academy of Sciences) announcement, it was so moving to receive good wishes from colleagues around the country who had heard the news."

Liverman's research focuses on how climate change affects society, especially the most vulnerable, and how we can adapt to climate change. She is currently working on projects related to climate justice and the interactions between climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations.

"My current projects include understanding the synergies and tradeoffs between reducing the risks of climate change and biodiversity loss while also eradicating poverty and hunger and providing access for all to clean water and energy," Liverman said. "Can we reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the warming already underway, while improving lives and meeting goals for sustainable development?"

She added, "I'm inspired by my graduate students who are working on climate adaptation, climate justice and food security, and I'm looking forward to exploring solutions to climate change with a new undergraduate class on climate and society in fall 2020."

Liverman has been an active member of national and international advisory committees on global change and has chaired both the U.S. National Academy of Sciences' Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change and the Global Environmental Change and Food Systems project. She was a lead author of a recent special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. She also is a member of the Earth Commission, which is exploring science-based targets and transformations for sustainability.

Liverman has been recognized for her work with a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Melamid Medal from the American Geographical Society and the Founder's Gold Medal from the Royal Geographical Society.

"I was thrilled to learn that Diana had been elected into both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences – these are two of the most prestigious scholarly societies in the world," said John Paul Jones III, the Don Bennett Moon dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. "As happy as I am for Diana and the university, I was not surprised. She is one of the top researchers and policy leaders on the human dimensions of global climate change. We are fortunate to have her expertise at this university, not only in contributing to critical international discussions on climate change, but also by serving as a much sought-after mentor to the next generation of human-environment scholars."

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by election to membership, and provides science, engineering and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations. Approximately 500 current and deceased members of the academy have won Nobel Prizes, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, founded in 1914, is one of the premier international journals publishing the results of original research.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences – since its founding in 1780 by John Adams and other founders of the nation – has elected innovative thinkers from each generation, including Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton in the 18th century; Ralph Waldo Emerson and Maria Mitchell in the 19th; and Robert Frost, Martha Graham, Margaret Mead, Milton Friedman and Martin Luther King Jr. in the 20th.  The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners.

Liverman joins several other UArizona faculty elected to both academies, including Roger Angel, Noam Chomsky, John Hildebrand, Robert Kennicutt, Renu Malhotra, Cherry Murray, George Rieke and Marcia Rieke.