J Timmons Roberts Ittleson Professor of Environmental Studies, Professor of Sociology

Timmons Roberts is Ittleson Professor of Environmental Studies and Sociology at Brown University, where he was Director of the Center for Environmental Studies from 2009 to 2012. He is a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. He taught at the College of William and Mary and directed its Program in Environmental Science and Policy from 2001 to 2009, and before that he held a joint appointment in Latin American Studies and Sociology and co-directed the Environmental Studies program at Tulane University from 1991 to 2001. Timmons was a James Martin 21st Century Professor at Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute in 2006-2007, and a Research Fellow at William and Mary's Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations in 2008-2009. His 1992 Ph.D. was from Johns Hopkins University in Sociology's Program in Comparative International Development. His B.A. was in Biology (with research in tropical and temperate ecology) from Kenyon College.

Co-author and editor of twelve books and edited volumes, and of over eighty articles and book chapters, Timmons' current research focuses on climate change and economic development. It has three threads: 1. How shifting economic and political relations between the global North and South affect the United Nations negotiations on climate change; 2. The role of foreign aid in the negotiations and in assisting developing countries cope with climate impacts and greening their economies; and 3. What social factors explain national "pathways of economic development" (being relatively high or low carbon emitters for their level of human development). In all three his core focus is on how inequality affects our ability to address this complex global problem.

Timmons' approach to research is to learn about major social problems by attempting to help address them. A co-founder of AidData.org, Timmons is part of an international effort to produce a quantum leap in transparency in climate finance, and in foreign aid more broadly. His Climate and Development Lab at Brown provides research support to think-tanks, NGOs, and the Least Developed Countries Group--the world's 48 poorest nations--in the U.N. climate negotiations. He is a leader in Rhode Island's efforts to plan for climate changes: the RI Climate Change Commission was created in 2010 by legislation written by him and his Brown students; and in 2014 he led a group that successfully passed the first comprehensive climate legislation in the state. Professor Roberts has worked for many years with students on greening initiatives and with community groups and local, state and national governments. He teaches environmental sociology, globalization and the environment, and practicum group workshop courses on local and global environmental policy issues. He serves on the Board on Environmental Change and Society of the National Academy of Sciences, and was in 2014 awarded the Frederick Buttel Award for Distinguished Scholarship by the Environment and Society Research Committee RC24 of the International Sociological Association. His lab's international work and his leadership on the Resilient Rhode Island Act led to Brown University being named "Green University of 2014" by international climate reporting service ClimateHome.org.

Brown Affiliations

Research Areas