Bio

Dr. Vivian E. Thomson is an environmental policy expert with 30 years of practical and academic experience at the local, state, national, and international levels. She was Professor in the Departments of Environmental Sciences and Politics at the University of Virginia from 1997 to 2017, when she stepped down from her teaching and administrative responsibilities to focus on writing and research. She was Vice Chair and Member of the Virginia State Air Pollution Control Board (appointed by Governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine) from 2002-2010. The Board adopts regulations and sets air pollution policy for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Professor Thomson’s latest book is Climate of Capitulation: An Insider’s Account of State Power in a Coal Nation (MIT Press, 2017). Early reviews say that “anyone interested in the problems of regulating environmental should read this book,” that the author “kicks ash and names names in this a no-holds-barred exposé,” and that the book is “engaging and accessible,” a “page-turner,” a “must-read,” “essential reading,” and “vivid and persuasive”. Professor Thomson has been interviewed on NPR and on Minnesota Public Radio about the book. Professor Thomson's September 2017 editorial in Scientific American draws on themes raised in Climate of Capitulation. In September 2017, the Southeast Energy News published a story about Climate of Capitulation.

Dr. Thomson is author of Sophisticated Interdependence in Climate Policy: Federalism in the United States, Brazil, and Germany (Anthem Press, 2014), in which she offers suggestions for Clean Air Act regulations for greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources. Using her domestic and cross-country analysis of state-national relations in climate policy in the United States, Brazil, and Germany, Dr. Thomson offers a policy framework is called “sophisticated interdependence.” Preliminary reviews say the book is “packed with insights,” “provides rich material for scholars and policymakers,” “offers a politically astute roadmap,” and “skillfully identifies common ground to break today’s stalemates.”

Dr. Thomson also penned Garbage In, Garbage Out: Solving the Problems with Long-Distance Trash Transport (University of Virginia Press, 2009) and was a finalist in the 2010 Southern Environmental Law Center’s Phillip D. Reed writing competition.  Reviewers hailed Garbage in, Garbage Out as an “outstanding book,” “original. . .a substantial contribution to the field of environmental policy,” “a rich source of information,” and “welcome and important.” 

Dr. Thomson's UVA classes covered domestic and international environmental policy issues like air pollution, acid rain, climate change, dams, endangered species protection, energy consumption, environmental justice, radioactive waste, trash, and urban sprawl. She has delivered guest lectures across the US, the EU, and in Brazil.

  • Radio interviews:  American Public Media's Marketplace (broadcast nationally), WLRN Miami, WINA Charlottesville.
  • Expert Reviewer, Working Group III, United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  • Publications in law, environmental management, politics, botany, air pollution, atmospheric science, and ethics journals.  
  • Founding Director of U. Va.’s interdisciplinary B. A. program, Environmental Thought and Practice, whose graduates have become leaders in the private and public sectors.
  • Founding Director of U. Va.’s Panama Initiative, a research and teaching collaboration that involves natural scientists, social scientists, medical practitioners, engineers, and business experts at U. Va. and in Panama. 

Dr. Thomson was a Guest Scholar, Pew Center on Global Climate Change in 2005, where she researched and wrote about the first phase of the European Union’s Emission Trading Scheme and a Distinguished Fulbright Professor of American Studies, Odense, Denmark from 2001-02. She also served as senior air pollution analyst and manager at the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency from 1982-93, where she supervised junior staff, advised top appointees on Clean Air Act policies, conducted briefings, undertook analyses, crafted legislative language, developed regulations, and went “on loan” to the University of Virginia under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act.

Professor Thomson's foreign language skills include Brazilian Portuguese, German, and Spanish. She is a graduate of Princeton University (A. B., Biology), the University of California at Santa Barbara (M. A., Biology), and the University of Virginia (Ph.D., Government).


Photo by Dan Addison, UVA Communications Office.

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