Dr. Vivian E. Thomson

Dr. Vivian E. Thomson
University of Virginia
Associate Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences, Department of Politics, Director, Environmental Thought and Practice
Charlottesville, VA

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Dr. Vivian E. Thomson is Associate Professor in the Departments of Environmental Sciences and Politics at the University of Virginia.  Dr. Thomson is an environmental policy expert with 30 years of practical and academic experience at the local,…

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Full Biography

Dr. Vivian E. Thomson is Associate Professor in the Departments of Environmental Sciences and Politics at the University of Virginia.  Dr. Thomson is an environmental policy expert with 30 years of practical and academic experience at the local, state, national, and international levels.  She was Vice Chair and Member of the Virginia State Air Pollution Control Board (appointed by Governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine), 2002-2010.  The Board adopts regulations and sets air pollution policy for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Dr. Thomson is author of Sophisticated Interdependence in Climate Policy: Federalism in the United States, Brazil, and Germany (Anthem Press, 2014), in which she offers suggestions for Clean Air Act regulations for greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources.  Using her domestic and cross-country analysis of state-national relations in climate policy in the United States, Brazil, and Germany, Dr. Thomson offers a policy framework is called “sophisticated interdependence.” Preliminary reviews say the book is “packed with insights,” “provides rich material for scholars and policymakers,” “offers a politically astute roadmap,” and “skillfully identifies common ground to break today’s stalemates.”

Dr. Thomson also penned Garbage In, Garbage Out: Solving the Problems with Long-Distance Trash Transport (University of Virginia Press, 2009) and was a finalist in the 2010 Southern Environmental Law Center’s Phillip D. Reed writing competition.  Reviewers hailed Garbage in, Garbage Out as an “outstanding book,” “original. . .a substantial contribution to the field of environmental policy,” “a rich source of information,” and “welcome and important.” 

Dr. Thomson teaches classes at U. Va. on domestic and international environmental policy issues such as air pollution, acid rain, climate change, dams, endangered species protection, radioactive waste, urban sprawl, trash, energy consumption, and environmental justice.   Current book projects involve state-national relations in climate change in the U. S., Brazil, and Germany, a first-person look at her eight years on the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board, and an edited volume with the working title Authentic Progress on Panama’s Caribbean Frontier.

  • Radio interviews:  American Public Media's Marketplace (broadcast nationally), WLRN Miami, WINA Charlottesville.
  • Expert Reviewer, Working Group III, United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  • Publications in law, environmental management, politics, botany, air pollution, atmospheric science, and ethics journals.  
  • Director of U. Va.’s interdisciplinary B. A. program, Environmental Thought and Practice, whose graduates have become leaders in the private and public sectors.
  • Director of U. Va.’s Panama Initiative, a research and teaching collaboration that involves natural scientists, social scientists, medical practitioners, engineers, and business experts at U. Va. and in Panama. 

Dr. Thomson was a Guest Scholar, Pew Center on Global Climate Change in 2005, where she researched and wrote about the first phase of the European Union’s Emission Trading Scheme and a Distinguished Fulbright Professor of American Studies, Odense, Denmark from 2001-02.  She also served as senior air pollution analyst and manager at the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency from 1982-93, where she supervised junior staff, advised top appointees on Clean Air Act policies, conducted briefings, undertook analyses, crafted legislative language, developed regulations, and went “on loan” to the University of Virginia under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act.

Dr. Thomson's language skills include German and Spanish, and she is learning Portuguese.   She is a graduate of Princeton University (A. B., Biology), the University of California at Santa Barbara (M. A., Biology), and the University of Virginia (Ph.D., Government).

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