People

Faculty

Vivian Thomson

Retired Professor · Ph.D., University of Virginia, 1997

Contact Information

Vivian Thomson

Climate of Capitulation cover

Climate of Capitulation: An Insider’s Account of State Power in a Coal Nation

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University of São Paulo colleagues, São Paulo, Brazil

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University of São Paulo East Campus

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Sophisticated Interdependence in Climate Policy book cover


Recent work by Professor Thomson:

Sierra Club coverage on Climate of Capitulation: An Insider’s Account of State Power in a Coal Nation (November 2017)

Professor Thomson’s op-ed on energy interests and their influence with state politicians. (November 2017)

Professor Vivian Thomson comments on a possible pumped storage hydroelectric facility in southwest Virginia. (October 2017)

New book featured by Southeast Energy News (September 2017)

Commentary in Scientific American (September 2017)

NPR interview May 2017

Vivian Thomson and Sérgio Pacca. Brazil and the United States: Kindred Spirits in the Energy and Climate Arenas

Vivian Thomson. What the US Can Learn from Germany and Brazil in the Climate and Renewable Energy Arenas

MPR Interview – August 6, 2015


Professor Thomson’s professional specialty is environmental policy and politics. Her most recent book is Climate of Capitulation: An Insider’s Account of State Power in a Coal Nation (MIT Press, April 2017), which has been praised as a “no-holds-barred exposé,” a “must-read,” a “page-turner,” and as “insightful, provocative, vivid, and persuasive.”

Her research, lecturing and grants have taken her to Denmark, where she was a Fulbright Professor, to Panama, as Director of UVA’s Panama Initiative, to Germany, as a DAAD scholar, to Brazil, where she has ongoing collaborations with colleagues at the University of São Paulo, and to Italy. Her language skills include Spanish, German, and Brazilian Portuguese. From 2002 to 2017 Professor Thomson directed the selective BA program in Environmental Thought and Practice.

She is interviewed regularly on radio and for the print media for her policy expertise on trash, air pollution, energy and climate change. (August 6, 2015 interview regarding new climate regulations)

Books Professor Thomson’s first book, Garbage In, Garbage Out: Solving the Problems with Long-Distance Trash Transport, (University of Virginia Press, 2009), examines interstate trash transport in the United States within a broad social, economic, and cultural context that includes comparisons with practices in the EU and Japan. Garbage In, Garbage Out was a Finalist in the 2010 Reed writing competition.  Garbage In, Garbage Out has been hailed inside and outside academia as a “breath of fresh air,” “original, a substantial contribution to the field of environmental policy,” an “outstanding work,” and a “rich source of information.”

Professor Thomson’s book Sophisticated Interdependence in Climate Policy: Federalism in the United States, Brazil, and Germany (Anthem Press) was published in February 2014.  In this book Prof. Thomson offers domestic and cross-country analysis of state-national relations in climate policy in three powerful federal nations.  The resulting policy framework is called “sophisticated interdependence.” 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.” Click here for testimonials.

Professor Thomson’s newest book, Climate of Capitulation: An Insider’s Account of State Power in a Coal Nation (MIT Press, April 2017), is a rare inside story based in part on her years as member and vice chair of the Virginia State Air Pollution Control Board. Her candid insights show how Clean Air Act policy processes work on the front lines, when state policymakers translate legal mandates into source-specific emission limits. Climate of Capitulation’s analysis includes 16 of the most important coal states. The book provides a useful corrective to observers who reduce environmental policy processes to unhelpful slogans (“Policymakers need to understand science better”) or to faulty abstractions (“Citizens don’t matter”).

National and State-level Policymaker Professor Thomson’s first career was as senior analyst and manager at the US Environmental Protection Agency, first in San Francisco and then in Washington, DC. She was appointed by Virginia Governors Warner and Kaine in 2002 and in 2006, respectively, to the State Air Pollution Control Board, the seven-member body that makes air pollution policy for the Commonwealth of Virginia.  She is past vice chair of the Board.

Click here for Professor Thomson’s detailed C.V.

Recent Publications:

2017. Climate of Capitulation: An Insider’s Account of State Power in a Coal Nation (MIT Press)

2014. Sophisticated Interdependence in Climate Policy: Federalism in the United States, Brazil, and Germany. Anthem Press. 220 pp.

2011. Vivian E. Thomson and Vicki Arroyo.  Upside-Down Cooperative Federalism: Climate Change Policymaking and the States.  Virginia Environmental Law Journal, 29(1): 1-61.

2009. Garbage In, Garbage Out: Solving the Problems with Long-Distance Trash Transport. University of Virginia Press.
http://books.upress.virginia.edu/detail%2Fbooks%2Fgroup-3802.xml?q=Thomson

Teaching

Politics, Science, and Values: An Introduction to Environmental Policy (EVSC 2030)
Introduces a wide variety of domestic and international environmental policy issues. Explores how political processes, scientific evidence, ideas, and values affect environmental policymaking.

Environmental Policymaking in the United States (EVSC 4030)
Exploration of the possibilities for, and constraints on, domestic environmental policymaking. Examination of the roles of Congress, the executive branch, and the courts in environmental policymaking. Critical analysis of the analytical principles and values commonly employed in environmental policymaking.

The Politics of the Environment (PLAP/ETP 4800)
Examines environmental issues that originate in, and that affect, the United States, including most forms of pollution and natural resource depletion. Focuses on how political processes, economic factors, and social/cultural constructs affect environmental policymaking. (Cross listed with PLAP 4800) Prerequisite: Course in ETP, Environmental Sciences or Politics.

Environmental Decisions (ETP 4010)
This team-taught, capstone seminar for the Environmental Thought and Practice major helps students integrate the broad range of ideas and information employed in environmental decision-making. A case study approach is used to examine the scientific, historical, cultural, ethical and legal dimensions of selected environmental issues.

Class, Race, and the Environment (PLAP/ETP 4810)
Focuses on the intersections among class, race and the environment. The course goals are to achieve an understanding of central environmental policy issues, to consider what ‘class’ and ‘race’ mean, and to examine the distribution of environmental hazards across people of different classes and races.

Power, a Pavilion Seminar
In this class we investigate the relationships between national power and energy profile. In so doing, we examine considerations like justice, gender, and rights. We explore the very definition of national power. For example, is power about domination, cultural appeal, equity, wealth, economic growth, or persuasion? How might patterns of energy consumption, energy policies, and distribution of energy-related benefits (e.g., low market prices) and costs (e.g., greenhouse gases) affect, or be affected by, national power? What might the future bring for national and energy profile in selected nations of the world?

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ETP ’11 students in Research Triangle Park, NC


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With a guide near Lago Alajuela, Panama

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Members of ETP class of 2008 at Embera Drua village, Panama

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ETP graduates Claudia Antonacci ’12, Kendall Singleton ’07, Colin Peppard ’03, and Peter Hogge ’07