Published February 17, 2023 by Rebecca Goldfine

Oceanographer Isaiah Bolden ’15 Discusses Climate Change with U.S. Vice President

In early February, Bolden moderated a discussion on climate change with Vice President Kamala Harris at Georgia Tech, where he is an assistant professor at the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. Harris brought her senior climate advisor, Ike Irby ’09.
Kamala Harris, Isaiah Bolden, Ike Irby
Vice President Kamala Harris, Assistant Professor Isaiah Bolden ’15, and Senior Climate Advisor Ike Irby ’09, at Georgia Tech for a recent climate change event. Harris said we are poised at a “moment of great opportunity" even as we face daunting challenges from climate change. 

Addressing a venue “filled to the brim,” Harris emphasized the importance of creating an equitable clean-energy economy as we transition away from fossil fuels. “In order for us to truly achieve that, it’s going to require all to be involved"--scientists, researchers, and academics, she said.

“But it’s also going to be about our students. It’s going to be about our unions. It’s going to be about the private sector. It’s going to be about our teachers. It’s going to be about our youth leaders. It is going to take a whole community.”

Accompanying Harris on her visit to Georgia Tech was her senior climate advisor, Ike Irby ’09. On stage with her were Bolden and co-moderator James Marshall Shepherd, director of the atmospheric sciences Program at the University of Georgia. Both moderators briefly spoke about their own career paths.

Bolden described being greatly affected by witnessing a terrible flood displace whole communities in Nashville, Tennessee, his hometown. “I had this passion burgeoning right then and there as someone who has this aptitude for science, this aptitude for math, but then seeing that the science is not reaching the public in a way that it should,” he said. “What can I then do with my career as an environmental scientist to generate data and get that data into the hands of people who could do something with it?”

This is at least the second time that Bolden has had encounters with White House officials. Six years ago, while in French Polynesia researching coral reef ecosystems, he ran into President Barack Obama. Obama was there touring research projects in Tetiaroa.