This spring Professor Gregory Nemet, the La Follette School’s expert on technological responses to climate change, was recognized with a major UW–Madison honor, a Kellett Mid-Career award. The awards committee considers the research funding an investment in Nemet’s extraordinary work, which has already had a major impact in the field of climate policy. Support for the award is provided by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education with funding from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.
Among many other projects, Nemet is a lead author on the Sixth Assessment Report published by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report will form the basis of discussions among nations of the world regarding progress towards the Paris Agreement goals. Nemet’s contribution (a collaboration with scientists around the world) explains options for mitigating the effects of climate change by limiting greenhouse gas emissions in all sectors of the economy, including energy, transportation, construction, manufacturing, and agriculture.
He took some time to answer questions about the award.
What will you use the funding for?
It will help support my work on energy and climate policy. I’ll find it especially useful for funding students, travel, and collaboration for developing new ideas, data, and analysis to the point where they could be advanced to research outputs and external funding proposals. It’s incredibly helpful to have this support for developing higher-risk, high-impact ideas.
What are some things you learned that surprised you in the course of your research so far in your career?
Much of my work focuses on understanding the functions of systems, including technological, political, social, and economic systems. I have been surprised by the role individuals play as agents of change within those systems. The role of individual agents is especially relevant in relation to policy entrepreneurs, activists, community organizers, and business leaders. That’s now a bigger part of my research agenda—for example, looking at how peer effects shape an individual’s behavior.
Any ideas on what you might be working on 20 years from now?
The core of my research is innovation, so by definition, I will always have something new to study. I can only imagine that the challenges we face in the 2040s will be different than they are today, and that the potential solutions will be even more different than the problems are.
Anything else you want to share about your current work?
It’s an exciting time to be working on energy and climate policy. Things now move fast in this field, and it is extremely interesting to an increasing number of people.