Biosciences Division


Thomas J. Wilbanks

Thomas J. Wilbanks

Group Leader
Global Change and Developing Countries Programs
Environmental Sciences Division
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Oak Ridge, TN 37831-6038
Phone: (865)574-5515
Fax: (865)576-2943

ORNL Corporate Fellow

Professional Interests

Energy and environmental policy, developing countries, global change, technology and society, institution-building.


Ph.D., Geography, 1969, Syracuse University

Thomas J. Wilbanks has been a Corporate Research Fellow at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory since 1986 and leads the Laboratory's Global Change and Developing Country Programs. He conducts research and publishes extensively on such issues as sustainable development, responses to environmental hazards and changes, and the role of geographical scale these regards. Co-edited recent books include Global Change and Local Places (2003), Geographical Dimensions of Terrorism (2003), and Bridging Scales and Knowledge Systems: Linking Global Science and Local Knowledge (2006). Recent invited presentations include Harvard, Yale, Minnesota, Iowa, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academies of Science (NAS), the National Science Foundation, and the Energy Modeling Forum. He played roles in the first U.S. National Assessment of Possible Consequences of Climate Variability and Change (1997-2000); the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II (Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability) Third Assessment Report; and aspects of the United Nations Environment Programme et al. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment related to issues of geographic scale and regional and local assessments. He served as Coordinating Lead Author for the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report, Working Group II, Chapter 7: "Industry, Settlement, and Society," which includes summaries of knowledge about vulnerabilities, adaptation potentials, and resilience for communities and societies. He also led several "synthesis and assessment" reports for the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) in recent years, including summaries of current knowledge about impact and resilience issues for human settlements in the U.S. and for energy production and use in the U.S. Wilbanks is Chair of National Research Council's (NRC) standing Committee on Human Dimensions of Global Change, and he serves on a number of other NRC committees and panels, including serving on the NAS Committee on America's Climate Choices and as vice-chair of the Committee's panel on adapting to climate change.

Wilbanks is a past President of the Association of American Geographers (AAG), one of only three non-academics to serve as the president in its more than 100 years, and has been awarded a number of honors related to that field, including AAAS Fellow, 1985; AAG Honors, 1986, Distinguished Geography Educators Award, National Geographic Society, 1993; the Anderson Medal of Honor in Applied Geography, 1995; National Associate of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, 2003; and the AAG Presidential Achievement Award, 2009. In 2007, as a lead author of IPCC¹s Fourth Assessment Report, he was recognized as a Co-Laureate for the Nobel Prize for Peace.