J. Timmons Roberts ← Back


  • Ittleson Professor, Environmental Studies and Sociology, Brown University

J. Timmons Roberts is Ittleson Professor of Environmental Studies and Sociology at Brown University. He is also a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Between 2009 and 2012, he was the Director for Environmental Studies at Brown University. Prior to this, he taught at the College of William and Mary, directing the Programme of Environmental Science and Policy. He has also held a joint appointment in Latin American Studies and Sociology and co-directed the Environmental Studies programme at Tulane University.

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.

Timmons’ current research focuses on climate change and economic development in three threads:

  1. How shifting economic and political relations between the global North and South affect the United Nations (UN) 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
  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. He is a co-founder of AidData.org, 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-in the UN 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.

Timmons 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 RTCC.org.

Timmons gained his PhD in Comparative International Development from Johns Hopkins University. His has a B.A. in Biology, with focus tropical and temperate ecology, from Kenyon College. He has co-authored and edited twelve books and edited volumes, and of over eighty articles and book chapters.