John Carlson’s career as an emerging markets portfolio manager has taken him to more than 70 countries, and his travels have allowed him to see firsthand the effects of climate change. “From the glaciers of extreme South America, to the deserts of Africa and Mongolia, and to the countryside of Thailand, I see the impact of climate change on the world,” he says.
These experiences have inspired him to endow the John Carlson Lecture at the Lorenz Center in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS). The Center is a climate think tank named in honor of late MIT professor Edward N. Lorenz, an early contributor to the study of climate science, who was Carlson’s mentor when he studied meteorology at MIT. The public lecture features leading scholars in geophysics and climate science and is held each fall at the New England Aquarium in Boston.
“I’ve always been drawn to both financial markets and weather and climate,” says Carlson. Now in his 20th year at Fidelity Investments, he relies on the analytical scientific training he received at MIT when making investments in developing countries.
This year will be a memorable one for Carlson, whose boyhood heroes were the early explorers of the Earth’s poles. In January, he ventured to Antarctica, joining Susan Solomon, the Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate Science and founding director of the MIT Environmental Initiative, on an MIT Alumni Travel Program excursion. In June, he heads for the North Pole, aboard a nuclear powered icebreaker to learn about wildlife ecology, glaciers, and the changing landscape of the Arctic.
Carlson also recently made a gift to support an EAPS project in Africa, funding the installation of a high-frequency climate observatory in Rwanda. This observatory will advance understanding of greenhouse gas emissions that result from agricultural activities, wildfires, and deforestation.
“My MIT education has served me well and I want to give back,” says Carlson. “My primary goal in endowing the lecture series is to raise awareness about climate, and to get people focused on how interdisciplinary it is. Geology, chemistry, biology, mathematics, physics, all play a role. I hope to be a catalyst for others to invest in climate science research at MIT.”