Robert J. Lempert

Robert J. Lempert
Director, Frederick S. Pardee Center for Longer Range Global Policy and the Future Human Condition; Principal Researcher; Professor of Policy Analysis, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Santa Monica Office


Ph.D. in applied physics, S.M. in applied physics and science policy, Harvard University; B.A.S. in physics and political science, Stanford University

Media Resources

This researcher is available for interviews.

To arrange an interview, contact the RAND Office of Media Relations at (310) 451-6913, or email

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Robert Lempert is director of the Frederick S. Pardee Center for Longer Range Global Policy and the Future Human Condition, a principal researcher at RAND, and a professor of policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. His research focuses on risk management and decisionmaking under conditions of deep uncertainty. Lempert's work aims to advance the state of art for organizations managing risk in today's conditions of fast-paced, transformative, and surprising change and help organizations adopt these approaches to help make proper stewardship of the future more commonly practiced.

He is a fellow of the American Physical Society, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, coordinating lead author for Working Group II of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, a chapter lead for the Fourth U.S. National Climate Assessment, chair of the peer review panel for California's Fourth Climate Assessment, a member of California's Climate-Safe Infrastructure Working Group, and has been a member of numerous study panels for the U.S. National Academies, including America's Climate Choices and Informing Decisions in a Changing Climate. Lempert was the Inaugural EADS Distinguished Visitor in Energy and Environment at the American Academy in Berlin and the inaugural president of the Society for Decision Making Under Deep Uncertainty ( Lempert is an author of the book Shaping the Next One Hundred Years: New Methods for Quantitative, Longer-Term Policy Analysis. He earned his Ph.D. in applied physics from Harvard University.

Pardee RAND Graduate School Courses

Recent Projects

  • Developing and applying new tools for managing deep uncertainty and surprise
  • Climate change and environment
  • Water resources management
  • Managing innovation

Selected Publications

Robert Lempert and Sara Turner, "Engaging Multiple Worldviews With Quantitative Decision Support: A Robust Decision-Making Demonstration Using the Lake Model," Risk Analysis, 2020

Knopman, Debra, Robert J. Lempert, Urban Responses to Climate Change: Framework for Decisionmaking and Supporting Indicators, RAND Corporation (RR-1144-MCF), 2016

Tariq, A., R. J. Lempert, J. Riverson, M. Schwartz and N. Berg , "A climate stress test of Los Angeles' water quality plans." 144(4): 625-639., Climatic Change, 2017

Isley, S. C., R. J. Lempert, S. W. Popper and R. Vardavas, "The effect of near-term policy choices on long-term greenhouse gas transformation pathways." 34: 147-158., Global Environmental Change, 2015

Lempert, R. J. , "Values and uncertainty." 5.10 (2015): 914-915., Nature Climate Change, 2015

Robert J. Lempert et al., "A General, Analytic Method for Generating Robust Strategies and Narrative Scenarios," Management Science, 52(4), 2006

Christopher P. Weaver, Robert J. Lempert, Casey Brown, John A. Hall, David Revell, Daniel Sarewitz, Improving the contribution of climate model information to decision making: the value and demands of robust decision frameworks. Volume 4, Issue 1, pages 39–60, January/February 2013., WIREs Climate Change, 2013

Robert J. Lempert et al., Shaping the Next One Hundred Years: New Methods for Quantitative Long-Term Policy Analysis, RAND Corporation (MR-1626), 2003

Honors & Awards

  • Fellow, American Physical Society
  • 2020 Biennial Medal Winner, International Environmental Modeling and Software Society

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: American Interest; Beyond the Beltway; Challenging Climate; Fox; New York Times; NPR

Commentary: Bloomberg Government; The Hill; The Huffington Post; Nature; NPR News; Palisadian-Post; The Sacramento Bee; United Press International; U.S. News & World Report


  • Environmental Legislation

    Budget Models Are Underselling the Benefits of Solving Climate Problems

    When Congress considers a new law or spending package, analysts calculate its likely impact on the federal budget. When it comes to climate change legislation, those numbers don't capture the whole picture. Potential savings and other benefits get significantly underestimated.

    Nov 15, 2023


  • Global Climate Change

    Climate Change Will Transform How We Live, but These Tech and Policy Experts See Reason for Optimism

    To slow climate change and adapt to the damage already underway, the world will have to shift how it generates and uses energy, transports people and goods, designs buildings, and grows food. That starts with embracing innovation and change.

    Apr 18, 2022

    The Conversation

  • Global Climate Change

    California Needs a More Flexible Approach to Sea Level Rise Planning

    Rising seas create significant risk to the health, safety, and economic vitality of California's coast communities, and we must prepare. A contingency-planning approach would provide flexible action over time and would build capacity that California and the nation need to respond to the many other serious and growing climate-related risks.

    Feb 18, 2021

    San Diego Union Tribune

  • Emergency Preparedness

    Planning as Freedom

    The pandemic has made Americans less free, confining us to our homes, and separating us from the people we love and the activities we value. This experience may help people learn the importance of planning to preserving and expanding freedom.

    Sep 4, 2020

    The RAND Blog

  • Wildfires

    A Climate Scientist's Brush with Wildfire

    RAND researcher Robert Lempert was evacuated from the path of a wildfire. This experience emphasized for him the challenges of adapting to climate change, not merely because it is hard, but because it makes the familiar become unfamiliar in unexpected ways.

    Dec 18, 2019


  • Global Climate Change

    How Voters Can Assess New Climate Plans

    While the U.S. government has announced its intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, most presidential candidates and many states have proposed climate plans of their own. How might voters determine if any of these plans can seriously address climate change?

    Nov 14, 2019

  • Emerging Technologies

    A Better Way to Think About Scooters

    Unleashed in Santa Monica, California, last September, Bird and its competitors are now in 30 American cities and counting. Cities are responding to the scooter takeover with new regulations and increased law enforcement. But if officials rely only on 20th-century tools to integrate these 21st-century scooters into their cities, they will miss a big opportunity.

    Aug 28, 2018

    Los Angeles Times

  • Global Climate Change

    When It Comes to Climate, Look for Vulnerabilities in Policy, Not Science

    Federal policymakers have picked up on the concept of red teaming — actively seeking out one's own vulnerabilities. While red teaming may not make sense for climate science, it does offer great benefits when weighing climate policy options.

    Aug 4, 2017

    The Hill

  • Global Climate Change

    Navigating the Uncertain Path to Decarbonization

    Deep decarbonization can reduce the risk of climate change, and it offers opportunities to reimagine energy, transportation, and infrastructure. But it could also fail in many ways. Diverse, independent actors need a shared understanding of its complexity and deep uncertainty to design a solution to this challenge.

    Jul 11, 2017

    The RAND Blog

  • Global Climate Change

    The Big Bet: Withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement

    America's formal withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement could have far-reaching consequences for U.S. global leadership on many issues, not just on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    Jun 2, 2017

    Inside Sources

  • Robust Decision Making

    Decision-Making Under Uncertain Climate Change: A Response, and an Invitation, to Bret Stephens

    It is difficult to determine what actions balance society's goals where there is deep uncertainty about the consequences. The decisionmaking under uncertainty methodology provides tools to acknowledge uncertainty, avoid overconfidence, promote deliberation, and help craft consensus on sensible approaches to climate change.

    May 9, 2017

    Society for Decision Making Under Deep Uncertainty

  • Global Climate Change

    With Trump in the White House, States Could Step Up on Climate Change

    The new administration has expressed skepticism about climate change. But states may choose to pursue their own climate change initiatives.

    Nov 26, 2016

    Fox News Channel

  • Critical Infrastructure Protection

    Infrastructure Design Must Change with Climate

    Until recently, infrastructure engineers could use data on past weather to predict future climate. But this is no longer an option. More and more, engineers must consider the effects of climate change. Failure to do so would threaten public safety.

    Aug 12, 2016

    Orange County Register

  • Global Climate Change

    COP21: Ambition and Momentum

    Negotiators in Paris achieved a historic breakthrough by adopting a fundamentally different, and likely more effective, institutional framework to address climate change. It builds on two concepts missing from past attempts to forge a global treaty: voluntary participation and adaptive policymaking.

    Dec 17, 2015

    The RAND Blog

  • Global Climate Change

    COP 21 Not a Silver Bullet on Climate Change

    The Paris climate conference cannot provide the engine that will drive a solution to the world's climate change challenge. Rather, it can best serve as a mediator that will help guide and structure the swirling, bottom-up process of radical change that is the best hope of preserving Earth's climate.

    Nov 24, 2015

    The RAND Blog

  • Global Climate Change

    Climate Targets: Values and Uncertainty

    Policymakers know that the risks associated with climate change mean they need to cut greenhouse-gas emissions. But uncertainty surrounding the likelihood of different scenarios makes choosing specific policies difficult.

    Aug 11, 2015

    Nature Climate Change News and Views

  • Flooding

    Future of Coastal Flooding

    President Obama's executive order that directs federal agencies to plan and build for higher flood levels as they construct new projects in flood-prone regions will affect hundreds of billions of dollars of future public works projects. In an ideal world, planners would estimate the benefits and costs for each project, taking into account everything from the details of the local landscape to the potential for adaptive responses over time.

    Feb 25, 2015

    The Hill

  • Global Climate Change

    U.S.-China Global Warming Deal Could Signal Shift on Climate Change

    The U.S.-China agreement on limiting greenhouse gas emissions represents a significant and welcome shift in the international approach to addressing climate change. For the first time, a large developing country has agreed to limit its greenhouse gas emissions -- a crucial step since these countries have become the world’s largest sources.

    Dec 9, 2014

    U.S. News & World Report

  • Environmental Regulation

    New Coal Plant Rules Need Sustained Support to Succeed

    Stopping climate change will require the United States and the rest of the world to virtually eliminate emissions over the course of the 21st century. Getting anywhere close to zero emissions demands sustained political and public support, driven by an energy production sector given enough incentives to make carbon reduction succeed.

    Jun 30, 2014

    The Sacramento Bee

  • Community Resilience

    Planning for Superstorms, Wildfires, and Deep Uncertainty

    The path to climate change preparedness should start at the intersection of resilience and robustness — that is, building resilient communities with the individuals and organizations within those communities making robust decisions, ones designed to work well over a wide range of ever-changing conditions.

    Apr 18, 2013

    The RAND Blog

  • Global Climate Change

    Evidence for Climate Change Is Overwhelming

    In case after case, the theory that best fits the data is the one that also leads inexorably to the conclusion that human influence is one of the most important forces currently changing the climate, writes Robert J. Lempert.

    Mar 8, 2012


  • Global Climate Change

    Climate Scientists Should Wear Adam Smith Ties

    If it were really possible to explain millions of years of Earth data with a theory that doesn't also imply a recent human influence on the climate, some ambitious, self-interested team of scientists somewhere in the world would seek scientific renown by doing so, writes Robert Lempert.

    Mar 30, 2011

    Bloomberg Government

  • Global Climate Change

    Redesigning the International Approach to Climate Change

    Limiting climate change requires a revolution in the way the global economy generates and consumes energy. It is becoming increasingly clear that the current diplomatic approach should be redesigned to meet this immense political, technical, and social challenge, writes Robert J. Lempert.

    Jul 1, 2010

    The Huffington Post

  • Missed Opportunities in Johannesburg

    Published commentary by RAND staff: Missed Opportunities in Johannesburg in United Press International on October 22, 2002.

    Oct 22, 2002

    United Press International