Sherwood B. Idso

Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change

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Dr. Sherwood B. Idso is president of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, and winner of the 2014 Frederick Seitz Memorial Award, presented the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) at the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change. (Read more about Frederick Seitz here.)

Prior to 2001 Idso was a research physicist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service at the U.S. Water Conservation Laboratory in Phoenix, Arizona, where he worked since 1967.  He also was closely associated with Arizona State University over most of this period, serving as an adjunct professor in the Departments of Geology, Geography, and Botany and Microbiology.  His Bachelor of Physics, Master of Science, and Doctor of Philosophy degrees are all from the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Idso is the author or co-author of more than 500 scientific publications including three influential books on carbon dioxide and global change, the most recent being Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts (2014).  He served long tenures on the editorial board of the international journals  Agricultural and Forest Meteorology and Environmental and Experimental Botany.  Over the course of his career, he has been an invited reviewer of manuscripts for 56 scientific journals and 17 funding agencies, representing an unusually large array of disciplines.

As a result of his early work in the field of remote sensing, Dr. Idso was honored with an Arthur S. Flemming Award, given in recognition of “his innovative research into fundamental aspects of agricultural-climatological interrelationships affecting food production and the identification of achievable research goals whose attainment could significantly aid in assessment and improvement of world food supplies.”  This citation continues to express the spirit that animates his current research into the biospheric consequences of the ongoing rise in the air’s CO2 content.

Dr. Idso was born and raised in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, where he attended and graduated from Knox Elementary School and Lincoln High School. Immediately thereafter, he enrolled in the Physics Department of the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Technology in Minneapolis, from which he graduated four years later with a Bachelor of Physics degree “with distinction.” He immediately shifted gears a bit, moving from the Minneapolis campus to the St. Paul campus, where he began his study of biology while continuing to study mechanical engineering, meteorology, and microclimatology, earning a Master of Science degree two years later and a Ph.D. degree the following year.

In June 1967, Dr. Idso began his 35-year career at the U.S. Water Conservation Laboratory in Phoenix, Arizona, where he worked as a research physicist in its Environmental and Plant Dynamics Research Unit within the purview of the Agriculture Research Service’s National Program for Global Change, with responsibilities to determine the nature and degree of potential global change, to assess the likely impacts of global change on natural and agricultural ecosystems, and to develop strategies for either preventing or adapting to the potential consequences of global change, the scope of which effort was extremely broad, encompassing interrelated physical, chemical, biological, and meteorological processes, with the overall goals of minimizing water losses in agriculture, improving crop water use efficiency, and increasing the global production of food and fiber. Contemporaneously, he also was associated with Arizona State University, serving as an adjunct professor in the Departments of Geology, Geography, and Botany and Microbiology.

As evidence of the success Dr. Idso experienced in these efforts, he was honored at the ten-year point of his employment (1977)  as “one of the ten outstanding young men and women in the Federal Service” with an Arthur S. Flemming Award, given in recognition of “his innovative research into fundamental aspects of agricultural-climatological interrelationships affecting food production and the identification of achievable research goals whose attainment could significantly aid in assessment and improvement of world food supplies.”

During this period of his life, Dr. Idso authored 480 publications as part of his official duties and 88 more on his own time, including three influential books on carbon dioxide and global change, the most recent being Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts (2013). Of his publications produced at work, 40 were abstracts, 57 were book reviews, 29 were technical discussions, 27 were symposia presentations, 24 were popular articles, 18 were technical reports, 23 were book chapters, and 262 were refereed scientific journal articles of which Dr. Idso was the senior author of 186.

The esteem that Dr. Idso enjoyed within the scientific community during this period is evident in the fact that he was asked to review grant proposals for 17 funding agencies, books for 45 journals, and manuscripts for 56 journals. Likewise, the impact he had on the scientific community was evident in his science citation record: as of July 2000, Dr. Idso’s research papers had been cited in the scientific literature in excess of 6,500 times, more than an order of magnitude above the norm for all scientists of that time period.

Since becoming president of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change in 2001, Dr. Idso continues to work, reviewing and analyzing the scientific publications of other scientists that come to bear upon this important issue.