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The John W. Firor and Judith E. Jacobsen Postdoctoral Fellow Campaign

John William Firor

John Firor is an internationally recognized expert on public policy issues relating to the atmospheric sciences, including climate change and sustainable development. He is a physicist by training whose scientific research led him into high-energy astrophysics and radio astronomy with a side trip into seismology and continental structure. John is the prolific author of articles on solar magnetism, cosmic radiation, and solar flares. Perhaps his most influential contributions as a writer have come from his articles and books on global climate change. In addition to many scientific and policy-related articles on the subject, he authored the 1990 book, The Changing Atmosphere , which addresses global ecology and the interlinking of the issues of acid rain, ozone depletion, and global warming. For the past several decades, John has traveled the world talking to audiences about global problems that are seemingly insurmountable, yet he manages to communicate a positive message that radiates faith in humanity and our ultimate capacity to create solutions to address the most pressing issues of our time.

From the earliest days of its history over four decades ago, John has been instrumental in shaping and guiding NCAR in Boulder, Colorado. One of the first people recruited by founding NCAR director, Walter Orr Roberts, John was responsible for the creation and development of NCAR's Advanced Study Program, the highly respected graduate and post-graduate program that prepares young scientists for careers in the atmospheric sciences and that will administer the competition among candidates for the Firor-Jacobsen Fellow. He directed the High Altitude Observatory, the NCAR division that studies the effects of solar variability on the Earth. Succeeding Walt Roberts, John became the second director of the Center. He now holds the title of Director Emeritus as well as Senior Scientist in NCAR's Institute for the Study of Society and Environment.

Dr. Firor is an elected Fellow of both the American Meteorological Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has served on multiple boards and panels for federal agencies, academic journals, corporations, and international delegations. He was a long-time trustee of the World Resources Institute and continues as a long-time board member for Environmental Defense (formerly the Environmental Defense Fund). As the Walter Orr Roberts Distinguished Lecturer of 1999, Dr. Firor commented on advice he was given years ago as a young man—that to be a good scientist, one must love this Earth. “From that love, I now believe, we all must not only gain inspiration to work hard on understanding the Earth and universe, we should also accept the responsibility for protecting that Earth as well.” He has lived by these words.


Judith Eva Jacobsen

Judy Jacobsen's career reflected and tracked closely the unfolding history of human problems nationally and internationally over the past 30 years, making her influential in some of the most important social policy developments of our time. Following law school, she worked for the Worldwatch Institute identifying global trends in population and consumption for a worldwid e audience. Wanting to help actively with the problems she was addressing on paper, she went to the Agency for International Development (AID) and worked on family planning in Africa , developing a population policy for Nigeria and calling for training and family planning services in that continent's most populous and rapidly growing country.

While earning a doctorate in geography once she returned from Africa , Judy developed expertise in western U.S. problems, contributing greatly to the quantification of Indian water rights. As a faculty member at the University of Wyoming , Judy integrated the intricacies of climate change into her work and applied them to shape her evolving population theories. She was proud of being named “Top Prof” by her students.

Judy was president of the non-governmental organization, Zero Population Growth, leading it through a difficult time of transition. Her participation in Cairo at the 1994 United Nations International Conference on Population and Development was influential in reaching historic agreements. Her leadership of the Population and Consumption Task Force for President Clinton's Commission on Sustainable Development resulted in a coherent, compelling, and influential report on this seemingly intractable subject matter. By the time of her death, she had lived well the final words of The Crowded Greenhouse , “[D]o what you must: reach deep, dig into your most profound beliefs about how the world works and how you fit into it, mourn the sorrows and the losses. And then get back to work, with joy.”


Supporting the Fellowship

If you are interested in supporting the fellowhip or want to learn more, please contact

Cindy Schmidt
Director, Office of Government Affairs
cschmidt at


"Because the pathway to sustainability cannot be charted in advance, it will have to be navigated through trial and error and conscious experimentation. The urgent need is to design strategies and institutions that can better integrate incomplete knowledge with experimental action into programs of adaptive management and social learning."
NRC, Our Common Journey (1999)