Ralph J. Cicerone, CCST Senior Fellow and former President of the National Academy of Sciences, died at his home in New Jersey on November 5. He was 73 years old.
“Ralph Cicerone was one of the world’s most highly acclaimed atmospheric scientists,” said CCST Board Member Bruce Alberts, who preceded Cicerone as President of the NAS. “As President of the US National Academy of Sciences from 2005 to 2016, he worked tirelessly to champion a responsible approach to climate change, leading an effort that produced a series of major reports on both the science of global warming and relevant policy options from the National Academies. Ralph also spearheaded an effort to enhance the communication of science and its values to the general public. We were privileged to work with him both at the state and national level. He will be sorely missed.”
Prior to serving at the NAS, Cicerone served as Chancellor of the University of California, Irvine from 1998 to 2005. He was the former Dean of the School of Physical Sciences, 1994-1998, and Daniel G. Aldrich Professor, Department of Earth System Science at UC Irvine.
His research in atmospheric chemistry, climate change and energy involved him in shaping science and environmental policy at the highest levels nationally and internationally.
“California owes its progressive policy approach to emissions control in large part to Ralph’s work,” said CCST Executive Director Susan Hackwood. “He recognized the importance of working with policy makers to address serious issues identified by science.”
In 2001, Cicerone led a key National Academy of Sciences study about climate change requested by President George W. Bush. Ten years later, the NAS released a comprehensive set of reports titled America’s Climate Choices, which called for action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions while identifying strategies to help the nation and world adapt to a changing climate, were issued. Under Cicerone’s guidance, the NAS and the Royal Society – the science academy of the U.K.- teamed up in 2014 to produce Climate Change: Evidence and Causes, a readable publication written for policymakers, educators, and members of the public.
Cicerone joined the CCST Senior Fellows in 1997, the year when CCST initiated the program. Cicerone was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Meteorological Society. He received numerous honors and awards during his lengthy career, including the United Nations Environment Program Ozone Award, 1997; the Bower Prize for Science, 1999; and elected membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the National Academy of Sciences.
“The entire scientific community is mourning the sudden and untimely loss of this great leader,” said Marcia McNutt, Cicerone’s successor as president of the NAS, in a statement released earlier this month. “Ralph Cicerone was a model for all of us of not only doing what counts, but doing it with honesty, integrity, and deep passion.”
He is survived by his wife, a daughter, and two grandchildren.
M. Daniel DeCillis, PhD is the Spotlight editor and a Senior Research Associate at the California Council on Science and Technology.
The California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization established via the California State Assembly – making California’s policies stronger with science since 1988. CCST provides California’s Executive and Legislative Branches with independent scientific advice, convening a diverse network of expertise spanning California’s public and private universities, community colleges, and Federal research laboratories.