Marion research scientist honored for climate change work

Nov 25, 2020

MARION — Town native and climate scientist Jennifer Francis, PhD is the recipient of the 2020 American Geophysical Union award for climate communication for her work of getting out the word of the effects of climate change.

“It’s breathtaking for me because my own peers and colleagues had to nominate me, which is no small task,” Francis said. 

Francis currently works as a Senior Scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center in Woods Hole. 

A large part of her job is interacting with the media and getting out the word about climate change and its effects. She’s been interviewed for pieces in the Washington Post, NPR and other major national publications. 

Whenever there’s a major natural disaster, Francis said her phone starts ringing.

She said her job is “something I take very seriously and something I enjoy very much.”

A major part of the research she’s done in her career focuses on the warming of the Arctic and how it’s caused and will continue to cause extreme weather patterns around the world.

In 2019, she participated in a Congressional hearing for the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology where she presented her findings on the subject. 

There, she told leaders across the aisle about how urgent the issue is, and how it could get worse.

“It’s not your imagination: extreme weather events have become more frequent in recent decades,” Francis said at the hearing. “Images of floods caused by feet of rain unleashed by hurricanes Harvey and Florence, docks sitting on dry soil in California’s reservoirs, a sunken New Jersey roller coaster in the wake of Superstorm Sandy—to name only a very few—are forever etched in our memories. Yes, extreme weather has always happened, but there’s no question that it’s more vicious now, and all signs point to it getting worse.”

That was the second time she testified before officials, the first being in 2014. She’ll also go before Congress one more time before this year’s end. 

In the upcoming Biden administration, Francis is hopeful that it will take climate change more seriously. 

In spite of this hope, Francis said that the administration needs to “recover those backward steps and take big steps forward” in order to reverse the backward progress made by the Trump administration.

“It’s not a problem for our grandchildren,” Francis said. “It’s happening now.”

Locally, Francis has served on the town’s Energy Management Committee and the Planning Board. In her tenure, she advocated for Marion to invest in solar energy and the implementation of a 10-year Master Plan for the town’s future.

Beyond her municipal work, she has also given multiple talks in town about the effects of climate change on weather patterns.

These days, she is working remotely on a boat off Bermuda with her husband.