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Faculty & Staff Honors

Columbia: Climate Change Scientist Interviewed by CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta

A leading expert on the effects of climate change on plants and agriculture, Dr. Lewis Ziska, was interviewed by CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Erin Burnett Out Front. Dr. Ziska, who recently joined Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health as associate professor of environmental health sciences in the School’s Climate and Health Program, studies plants to understand how climate change imperils our food system and our health. Watch the interview.

Previously, Dr. Ziska served for nearly 25 years as a scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture; he chose to leave after he saw politics get in the way of research on climate change.

“I’m excited to continue my research in an environment supportive of the kind of work I do, where climate change is about science, not politics,” he says. “Here at Columbia Mailman and across the university, researchers are doing important work to understand and prepare for the drastic changes to our ecosystem already underway.”

Dr. Ziska began his career as a Smithsonian fellow, then took up residence as the project leader for global climate change at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, where he contributed some of the first research into the effect of rising CO2 on agriculture. A follow-up study identified evidence of declines in micronutrients and vitamins — deficiencies that threaten millions who rely on rice for the majority of their calories.

Dr. Ziska has contributed to several United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, including an analysis of Canadian goldenrod samples from the Smithsonian dating back to 1842, finding protein levels in its pollen had dropped by one-third since the start of the Industrial Revolution — potentially a factor in the declining bee population. Dr. Ziska is repeating the experiment with more flowering plants.

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