Andrew Light

Andrew Light

Andrew Light

University Professor

International climate policy and governance, environmental policy and ethics, risk analysis, and ethics and emerging technologies

Andrew Light is temporarily on leave from George Mason University, serving as Assistant Secretary of Energy for International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy. He was nominated for this position by President Biden on April 28, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on August 11, 2021.

Andrew is the University Professor of Philosophy, Public Policy, and Atmospheric Sciences, and Director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at George Mason University. He is also a Distinguished Senior Fellow in the Climate Program at the World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C., and Faculty Affiliate at the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy at Tufts University.

Andrew has two interrelated careers. One is as an academic where he has worked for twenty years on the normative implications of environmental policy. The other is as a policy expert and advocate where he works on the front lines of international climate and science policy. From 2013-2016 he served as Senior Adviser and India Counselor to the U.S. Special Envoy on Climate Change, and as a Staff Climate Adviser in Secretary of State John Kerry's Office of Policy Planning in the U.S. Department of State. In this capacity he was Co-Chair of the U.S.-India Joint Working Group on Combating Climate Change, Chair of the Climate Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals across all agencies for the U.S. government, and served on the senior strategy team for the UN climate negotiations.

In recognition of this work, Andrew was awarded the inaugural Public Philosophy Award, from the International Society for Environmental Ethics -- which has been designated the "Andrew Light Award for Public Philosophy" -- in June 2017, the inaugural Alain Locke Award for Public Philosophy, from the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy in March 2016, and a shared Superior Honor Award, from the U.S. Department of State in July 2016, for “contributions to the U.S. effort that made the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris, where the landmark Paris Agreement was concluded, a historic success.”

Before joining the U.S. government he was also a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, where he was chief adviser on international climate policy to the center's founder and chairman, John Podesta.

In the last ten years he has contributed to 22 major policy reports, including most recently, Reflecting Sunlight: Recommendations for Solar Geoengineering Research and Research Governance (2021),  An International Climate Agenda for the Next Administration (2020) Delivering on America's Pledge: Achieving Climate Progress (Bloomberg Philanthropies, 2020), which analyzes the scope and resilience of U.S. non-federal action on climate change during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fourth U.S National Climate Assessment, Climate Change Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States, (USGCRP, 2018), and Ramping Up Governance of the Global Environmental Commons (World Resources Institute, 2019). 

In his academic work Andrew is the author of over 100 articles and book chapters on climate change, restoration ecology, and urban sustainability, and has authored, co-authored, and edited 19 books, including Environmental Values (Routledge, 2008), Controlling Technology (Prometheus, 2005), Moral and Political Reasoning in Environmental Practice (MIT, 2003), Technology and the Good Life? (Chicago, 2000), Environmental Pragmatism (Routledge, 1996), and the forthcoming Routledge Companion to Environmental Ethics (Routledge). He has previously taught at a variety of institutions, including the Environmental Conservation Program at NYU and the School of Public Affairs and Department of Philosophy at the University of Washington, Seattle.

More detail about Andrew and his work, including links to recent columns and editorials, can be found at the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy website.


Read Andrew's interview with India's "Light's On" on the recent past and potential future for U.S.-India cooperation on climate change and clean energy in 2020.

Watch Andrew's Mason Impact discussion of climate change, COVID-19, and creating a sustainable recovery in 2020.

Watch Andrew's in-depth 2019 interview and questions from callers on CSPAN's Washington Journal on the current state of domestic and international climate policy and politics.

Watch Andrew's testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee on the Paris Agreement, international action on climate, and U.S. non-federal efforts in 2019.

Watch Andrew's CBS interview on the release of the Fourth U.S. National Climate Assessment, and listen to his NPR All Things Considered interview on the assessment in 2018. 

Listen to Andrew's interviews on NPR's To the Point and Marketplace on the announcement of the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in 2017.

Listen to Andrew's interview on NPR's All Things Considered on historic agreement in the Montreal Protocol to get rid of the most potent greenhouse gases in 2016.

Selected Publications

Selected Books

Environmental Values, with John O’Neill and Alan Holland. (London: Routledge Press, 2008).

Selected Reports

Reflecting Sunlight: Recommendations for Solar Geoengineering Research and Research Governance (Washington, D.C.: National Academies of Science 2021)

An International Climate Agenda for the Next Administration (2020)

Delivering on America's Pledge: Achieving Climate Progress (New York: Bloomberg Philanthropies 2020)

Ramping up Governance of the Global Environmental Commons: What Do Theory and History Tell Us? (Washington, D.C.:  World Resources Institute, February 2019).

Climate Change Impacts, Risks and Adaptation in the U.S.:  Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA 4), Volume II.  (Washington, D.C.:  U.S. Global Change Research Program, November 2018).  Review Editor for Chapter 29, “Mitigation:  Avoiding and Reducing Long-Term Risks.”

Strengthening Nationally Determined Contributions to Catalyze Actions That Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (Washington, D.C.:  World Resources Institute, October 2018).

Governing Solar Radiation Management (Washington, D.C.: Forum for Solar Radiation Management, October 2018).

Proposal for a North American Climate Strategy.  (Washington, D.C.:  Center for American Progress and World Resources Institute, June 2016).

Carbon Market Crossroads: New Ideas for Harnessing Global Markets to Confront Climate Change. (Washington, D.C.: Climate Advisers and Center for American Progress, April 2013).

40 x 35: A Zero Carbon Energy Target for the World’s Largest Economies. (Washington, D.C.: Center for American Progress, March 2013).

The U.S. Role in International Climate Finance: A Blueprint for Near Term Leadership. (Washington, D.C.: Alliance for Climate Protection and Center for American Progress, December 2010).

A Roadmap for U.S.-China Cooperation on Carbon Capture and Sequestration. Washington, D.C.:  Center for American Progress and Asia Society, November 2009.

Selected Articles and Book Chapters

"Governing Climate Engineering: A Proposal for Immediate Governance of Solar Radiation Management," with S. Jinnah, et. al., Sustainability,  Volume 11, 2019, pp. 1-9.

"Climate Diplomacy," in The Oxford Handbook of Environmental Ethics, eds. S. Gardiner and A. Thompson (Oxford: Oxford University Pres, 2016), pp. 487-500 and on-line at

"A Responsible Path: Enhancing Action on Short-Lived Climate Pollutants,” with Gwynne Taraska, in Climate Justice in a Non-Ideal World, eds. C. Heyward, and D. Roser (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 169-188.

Climate Change, Adaptation, and Climate-Ready Development Assistance,” with Gwynne Taraska, Environmental Values, Vol. 23, No. 2, 2014, pp. 129-147.

An Equity Hurdle in International Climate Negotiations,” Philosophy and Public Policy Quarterly, Vol. 31, No. 1, 2013, pp. 27-34.

“Valuing Novel Ecosystems,” with Allen Thompson and Eric Higgs, in Novel Ecosystems: Intervening in the New Ecological World Order, eds. R. Hobbs, E. Higgs, and C. Hall (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2013), pp. 257-268.

Finding a Future for Environmental Ethics,” The Ethics Forum / Les Ateliers de l’éthique, Vol. 7, No. 3, 2012, pp. 71-80.

“On the Need for Front Line Climate Ethics,” in The Environment: Philosophy, Science, and Ethics (Topics in Contemporary Philosophy), eds. B. Kabesenche, M. O’Rourke and M. Slater (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2012), pp. 277-292.

The Death of Restoration?” in Ethical Adaptation to Climate Change: Human Virtues of the Future, eds. A. Thompson and J. Bendik-Keymer (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2012), pp. 105-122.

The Moral Journey of Environmentalism: From Wilderness to Place,” in Pragmatic Sustainability: Theoretical and Practical Tools, ed. S. Moore (London: Routledge Press, 2010), pp. 136-148.

“Does a Public Environmental Philosophy Need a Convergence Hypothesis? in Nature in Common: Environmental Ethics and the Contested Foundations of Environmental Policy, ed. B. Minteer (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2009).  [Draft text]