Speaker Profiles

Keynote Speaker

Christiana FigureresChristiana Figueres is a Costa Rican citizen and served as the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from 2010 to 2016. During her tenure at the UNFCCC, Figueres brought together national and subnational governments, corporations and activists, and financial institutions and nongovernmental organizations to jointly deliver the historic Paris Agreement on climate change, in which 195 sovereign nations agreed on a collaborative path forward to limit future global warming to well below 2°C and strive for 1.5°C in order to protect the most vulnerable. For this achievement, Figueres has been credited with forging a new brand of collaborative diplomacy, earning her multiple awards. Since then, Figueres has continued to serve her one and only boss, the global atmosphere. She sits on several boards and is a founding partner of Global Optimism Ltd., a purpose-driven enterprise focused on social and environmental change. She convenes Mission 2020 and co-chairs the Global Covenant of Mayors. Figueres is a graduate of Swarthmore College and the London School of Economics. She lives in Costa Rica and has two fantastic daughters. Visit Figueres’ website.

Additional Speakers

Aaron BernsteinAaron Bernstein is interim director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. He focuses on the impacts of the climate crisis on children’s health and on advancing solutions to address it. With Nobel Laureate Eric Chivian, Bernstein co-edited and authored the Oxford University Press book Sustaining Life, which was published in several foreign language editions and received the distinction of best biology book of 2008. At Harvard, his course “The Health Effects of Climate Change” explores how climate change influences health. It has been taught to thousands of students from more than 100 countries around the world. Bernstein serves on the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health executive committee, the board of scientific counselors to the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the U.S. Green Building Council board of directors. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University, an MD from the University of Chicago, and an MPH from the Harvard Chan School.

Marcia CastroMarcia Castro is Andelot Professor of Demography and chair of the Department of Global Health and Population at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, associate faculty of the Harvard University Center for the Environment, and faculty member of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. Her research focuses on the development and use of multidisciplinary approaches to identify the determinants of mosquito-borne disease transmission in different ecological settings that can inform improved or new current control policies. She is currently assessing the role of extreme weather events on malaria in the Brazilian Amazon and has projects on dengue, Zika virus, chikungunya, tuberculosis, congenital syphilis, and infant/child mortality and development. She earned her PhD in demography from Princeton University.

Francesca Dominici

Francesca Dominici is the Director of the Harvard Data Science Initiative, at Harvard University.  Born in Rome, Italy  Dominici earned a bachelor degree in statistics from Sapienza University of Rome in 1993, and a PhD in statistics from the University of Padua in 1997. She is the first in her family to have a college degree.  Her research focuses on machine learning and causal inference to address climate change. Dominici was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2018.

Dominici has provided the scientific community and policy makers with robust evidence on the adverse health effects of air pollution, noise pollution, and climate change. Her studies have directly and routinely impacted air quality policy, leading to more stringent ambient air quality standards in the United States. In 2019  she was recognized in Thomson Reuter’s 2019 list of the most highly cited researchers – ranking in the top 1% of cited scientists in her field.  Her work has been featured in the NYT, CNN, and NPR. Dominici is an advocate for the career advancement of women faculty, at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health, she has led the Committee for the Advancement of Women Faculty.

Frank HuFrank Hu is chair of the Department of Nutrition and Fredrick J. Stare Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He serves as co-director of the Program in Obesity Epidemiology and Prevention at the Harvard Chan School and director of the Boston Nutrition Obesity Research Center Epidemiology and Genetics Core. Hu has served on the Institute of Medicine Committee on Preventing the Global Epidemic of Cardiovascular Disease, the AHA/ACC Obesity Guideline Expert Panel, and the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, USDA/HHS. He has served on the editorial boards of Lancet Diabetes & EndocrinologyDiabetes Care, and Clinical Chemistry. Hu is a member of the National Academy of Medicine.

Gina McCarthyGina McCarthy is professor of the practice of public health in the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and board chair of the School’s Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment (Harvard C-CHANGE).  McCarthy has been a leading advocate for common-sense strategies to protect public health and the environment for more than 30 years. McCarthy became the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Natural Resources Defense Council in January 2020. From 2013 to 2017, she served under President Barack Obama as the 13th administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Her tenure heralded a paradigm shift in national environmental policy, expressly linking it with global public health. She led EPA initiatives that cut air pollution, protected water resources, reduced greenhouse gases, and strengthened chemical safety to better protect more Americans, especially the most vulnerable, from negative health impacts. McCarthy signed the Clean Power Plan, which set the first-ever national standards for reducing carbon emissions from existing power plants, underscoring the country’s commitment to domestic climate action and spurring international efforts that helped secure the Paris Climate Agreement.

Naomi OreskesNaomi Oreskes is professor of the history of science and affiliated professor of earth and planetary sciences at Harvard University. She is an internationally renowned geologist, science historian, and author of both scholarly and popular books and articles on the history of earth and environmental science, including The Rejection of Continental Drift and Plate Tectonics: An Insider’s History of the Modern Theory of the Earth, and in recent decades has been a leading voice on the issue of anthropogenic climate change. Her research focuses on the earth and environmental sciences, with a particular interest in understanding scientific consensus and dissent. Her 2004 essay “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change” (Science 306: 1686) has been widely cited, both in the United States and abroad, including in the Royal Society’s publication A Guide to Facts and Fictions about Climate Change and in the Academy Award–winning film, An Inconvenient Truth. Oreskes is a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow.

Gina RaimondoOn January 6, 2015, Gina M. Raimondo became the 75th governor of Rhode Island and the state’s first female governor. During her time in office, Raimondo has kick-started the state’s economy and created thousands of jobs. She knows that climate change is a major threat to the Ocean State and its 400 miles of coastline. When the Trump administration pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord, Raimondo committed Rhode Island to meeting its goals. Unlike leaders in Washington, she knows that the future of energy is offshore wind, not offshore drilling. Rhode Island is the first—and still only—state in America with an offshore wind farm, and thanks to Raimondo’s leadership, by 2023 Rhode Island will be able to power half its homes by wind alone. Rhode Island is now a member of RGGI, a regional climate alliance that seeks to curb carbon emissions. In addition, Raimondo has taken executive action to combat the issue of plastic pollution and supports investments to preserve Rhode Island’s state parks and beaches.

Heather McTeer ToneyHeather McTeer Toney serves as the national field director for Moms Clean Air Force, an organization of over 1 million moms and dads committed to fighting against air pollution and for protections against climate change. Prior to coming to Moms, Toney served as the first African American, first female, and youngest mayor of Greenville, Mississippi. In 2014, she was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) southeast region. At the EPA, Toney was responsible for protecting public health and the environment in the eight southeastern states, as well as for six federally recognized tribes. In this role, she led efforts to promote climate justice, encourage local environmental engagement, and enhance the work life for Region 4’s approximately 1,000 employees, while effectively managing a budget of more than $500 million. Known for her energetic and genuine commitment to people, Toney is a national figure in public service, environmental justice, and community engagement. She has appeared on media outlets such as CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and Democracy Now!, and has written for and been featured in the New York Times and the Washington Post, among others. Toney was featured in the May 2005 issue of Essence magazine as one of the 50 Most Remarkable Women in the World. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Spelman College in Atlanta and a law degree from the Tulane University School of Law.

Augusta WilliamsAugusta Williams is a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard C-CHANGE. Her research interests are related to the health impacts of climate change, specifically extreme heat events. Williams studies how vital societal services, like fire and police response and responders, are impacted by extreme heat, as well as how the built environment can inform heat adaptation strategies in urban areas. She was a 2019 Mirzayan Fellow at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and is a 2020 Presidential Management Fellow finalist. Williams completed her doctor of science degree in November 2019 at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the Department of Environmental Health. She received a master of public health degree in environmental health sciences, with a certificate in climate and health, from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, and a bachelor of science degree in both biology and geosciences, with a concentration in atmospheric sciences and biometeorology, from Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

Michelle A. WilliamsMichelle A. Williams, SM ’88, ScD ’91, is Dean of the Faculty, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Angelopoulos Professor in Public Health and International Development, a joint faculty appointment at the Harvard Chan School and Harvard Kennedy School. She is an internationally renowned epidemiologist and public health scientist, an award-winning educator, and a widely recognized academic leader. Prior to becoming Dean, she was Professor and Chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard Chan School and Program Leader of the Population Health and Health Disparities Research Programs at Harvard’s Clinical and Translational Sciences Center. Dean Williams previously had a distinguished career at the University of Washington School of Public Health. Her scientific work places special emphasis in the areas of reproductive, perinatal, pediatric, and molecular epidemiology. Dean Williams has published over 450 scientific articles. She was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2016. The Dean has a master’s in civil engineering from Tufts University and master’s and doctoral degrees in epidemiology from the Harvard Chan School.