Karen O'Brien is an internationally recognized expert on climate change and society, focusing on themes such as climate change impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation including how climate change interacts with globalization processes and the implications for human security. She is interested in how transdisciplinary and integral approaches to global change research can contribute to a better understanding of how societies both create and respond to change, and particularly the role of beliefs, values and worldview in transformations to sustainability. She is passionate about what potential there is in quantum social theory and the implications for climate change responses. She currently leads a Norwegian Research Council Topforsk project called AdaptationCONNECTS (Adaptation: Combining Old and New kNowledge to Enable Conscious Transformation to Sustainability), that aims towards developing new understandings of whether and how transformations can contribute to successful adaptation to climate change. She has been heavily involved in the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Global Change Programmes and the transition to Future Earth, a 10-year global change research initiative. She is the co-founder and partner in cCHANGE, an Oslo-based company. cCHANGE is a beacon for individuals and organizations seeking a new perspective, inspiration, knowledge, and tools on climate change and sustainability transformations.
- SOSGEO2301 - Environment and Society
- SGO3200 - Environment and Innovation
- SOSGEO4301 - Global Environmental Change
- B.A. in International Relations at the College of William and Mary, 1985
- M.S. in Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1990
- Ph.D. in Geography at the Pennsylvania State University, 1995
- Post-doc at the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), 1996
- Senior Research Fellow at CICERO, 1997-2005
- 20% position in the Department of Human Geography, 2001
- Professor in Human Geography, 2005
- 2020 Doctor of Philosophy honoris causa at Linköpings University (to be awarded in May 2021), Sweden
- 2019 Award for Excellence in Research, Human Dimensions of Global Change Speciality Group, American Association of Geographers (AAG).
- 2015 University of Oslo Student Parliament's Teaching Award
- 2011 Burtoni Prize for Adaptation Research
- 2008 AAG Meridian Book Award (with Robin Leichenko) for ”Environmental Change and Globalization: Double Exposures”
- Shared in the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize awared to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
- 2020 - Member of Scoping Group for IPBES Assessment Report on Transformative Change.
- 2017 – 2019 Science Committee, Transformations 2018, Santiago, Chile.
- 2017 – 2019 Scientific Committee, Nordic Conference on Climate Change Adaptation, Norrköping 2018, Sweden.
- 2016 – 2017 Science Committee, Transformations 2017: Transformations in Practice Conference, Dundee 2017.
- 2014 – 2015 Science Committee, Our Common Future in a Changing Climate Conference, Paris 2015.
- 2013 – 2015 Member of Science Committee, Future Earth.
- 2012 – 2014 Transdisciplinary Advisory Board member, EU Joint Programming Initiative –Climate Change.
- 2012 – 2014 Core Writing Team Member for the Synthesis Report (SYR), IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, and Topic 3 Co-Facilitator
- 2012 – 2014 Author, Summary for Policy Makers, IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, Working Group II.
- 2009 – 2014 Lead Author, IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, Working Group II, Chapter 20.
- 2012 – 2014 Board Member, Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo.
- 2011 -- 2013 Chair of Working Group "Towards a Revolution in Education and Capacity Building" for ESF-COST Forward Look RESCUE Project
- 2011– 2013 Member, Transition Team, 10-year Initiative on Earth System Science for Global Sustainability. Co-Chair of Working Group on “Research Vision”.
- 2009 – 2012 Coordinating Lead Author of Chapter 8 of the IPCC SREX report