Top Climate Scientists Influencing the Climate Debate

Keywan Riahi of Austria and Anthony A Leiserowitz of the US top the list


Reuters launched a new ranking of the top climate scientists shaping the climate change debate on 20  April 2021.

“The Hot List” identifies and ranks climate academics according to how influential they are, exploring not only their research but also how their work influences other scientists and the public, activists and political leaders.

As 2021 begins, there is renewed hope for action on stemming the causes of climate change. After a four-year American retreat, new U.S. President Joe Biden is promising to re-engage on this existential issue. Many of the world’s largest fuel users and producers – including China, most European countries and even Saudi Arabia – have pledged to significant reductions in carbon dioxide over the next 30 years. If the world’s nearly 200 nations are going to act, it is these scientists’ work that will gird the decisions and choices.

From the 1,000 scientists and researchers on the list, Reuters profiled six, four men and two women, whose stories capture the sweep of climate science today. These are not just stories about the science, though, but about the people behind the science. And to tell their stories, Reuters journalists visited them at work and at play in places as far apart as Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, and Melbourne, Australia, New York City and Norwich England, and Monaco and Palo Alto, Calif.

To identify the most influential scientists in the world, Reuters used data provided through Dimensions, the academic research portal of the British-based technology company Digital Science. We assessed their clout based on three metrics: how many papers each climate scientist has  published, how often those papers have been cited relative to others in the same field, and how often those papers have been referenced in the lay press, social media and other public forums. “The Hot List” doesn’t purport to be a ranking of the “best” scientists or the most important research. It’s a measure of impact, on both the science profession and on the broader public.

Maurice Tamman, the lead reporter on the project, said: “The women and men on “The Hot List”, in their own ways, are each contributing to a massive, multi-generation research project that could determine the fate of our planet’s environment. Together, their lives and careers encapsulate the dauting scope of the problem we face: Addressing human-caused climate change is not just about the science. It’s political. It’s religious. It’s anthropological. It’s personal.”


The first 20 climate scientists on “The Hot List” are:


Keywan Riahi, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (Austria)


Anthony A Leiserowitz, Yale University (U.S.)


Pierre Friedlingstein, University of Exeter (UK)


Detlef Peter Van Vuuren, Utrecht University (Netherlands)


James E Hansen, Columbia University (U.S.)


Petr Havlik, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (Austria)


Edward Wile Maibach, George Mason University (U.S.)


Josep G Canadell, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (Australia)


Sonia Isabelle Seneviratne, ETH Zurich (Switzerland)


Mario Herroro, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (Australia)


David B Lobell, Stanford University (U.S.)


Carlos Manuel Duarte, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Saudi Arabia)


Kevin E Trenberth, National Center for Atmospheric Research (U.S.)


Stephen A Stich, University of Exeter (UK)


Glen P Peters, Center for International Climate and Environmental Research (Norway)


Ove I Hoegh-Guldberg, University of Queensland (Australia)


Richard Arthur Betts, Met Office (UK)


Michael G Oppenheimer, Princeton University (U.S.)


William Neil Adger, University of Exeter (UK)


William Wai Lung Cheung, University of British Columbia (Canada)

These are the six scientists who will be profiled:

The long career of Michael Oppenheimer, one of the world’s most prominent climatologists, reveals the triumphs and failures of his quest to wake the world up to climate change, including melting ice sheets and rising seas.

  • Corinne Le Quéré – The Rarity, ranked 53

The Quebec-born scientist ranks near the top of the Reuters Hot List. Of 1,000 researchers on the list, fewer than one in seven are women. Le Quéré has long chafed at the sexism, subtle and not so, that she sees in the male-dominated field. Yet she has persisted.

  • Ken Caldeira – The Adviser, ranked 26

In his 35-year career, Ken Caldeira has produced ground-breaking research on global warming and the ocean acidification that has changed the chemistry of the sea and killed off vast stretches of coral. But for all that, Caldeira’s most profound influence in science may be as an adviser, be it to postdoctoral students or to one of the world’s richest men, as billionaires fund climate research.

  • Carlos Duarte – The Paradox, ranked 12

It might seem improbable that a marine biologist committed to solving climate change is advising the leaders of Saudi Arabia, a nation known for its intransigence over the years at international climate talks. But Carlos Duarte says the Saudi government has embraced – and is financing – many solutions he has long advocated.


  • Julie Arblaster – The Cassandra, ranked 105

Soon after this climate scientist warned that conditions were ripe for an inferno, Australia went up in flames. Such warnings can go ignored in the country, where the government has downplayed human-caused climate change. But criticizing officials doesn’t come easy to Julie Arblaster, who answers questions with policy implications with great care – reflecting the challenges posed to researchers by the politicization of climate science.

  • Kaveh Madani – The Target, formerly ranked 684


The Iranian-born, Western-educated scientist Kaveh Madini decided to go back to his homeland to work in government. He eventually had to flee the country or risk imprisonment after hard-liners accused him of espionage. The disruption to his research career has caused him to drop off an earlier version of the Hot List, highlighting the struggles faced by scientists in the developing world, where few researchers are ranked.

Source: Reuters

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