A champion of the environment, McCarthy, known as Jim, was committed to both education and advocacy about climate change. Committed to the application of science to public policy, McCarthy led numerous international scientific efforts to alert the world to the effects of climate change. The founding editor of the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles, he also served as co-chair of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as a lead author of the 2005 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, and as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2008. In 2012, President Barack Obama appointed McCarthy to the U.S. Arctic Research Commission. In 2018, he received the prestigious Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement for his work on phytoplankton productivity amid climate change, and his outstanding leadership in the field of science policy. McCarthy shared the award with fellow biological oceanographer, Peter Falkowski, of Rutgers University.
A dedicated fly fisher who angled for trout in his spare time, McCarthy’s scholarship steered him toward the sea. His primary research focused on plankton, and his work on nutrient controls on ocean productivity resulted in many awards, including the New England Aquarium’s David B. Stone Award (2005) for distinguished service to the environment and the community, and the Museum of Science’s Walker Prize, which recognizes “meritorious published scientific investigation and discovery” (2008).
McCarthy helped establish the undergraduate degree program in Environmental Sciences and Public Policy, which launched in 1993. He served on the multidisciplinary concentration’s standing committee since its inception, and as its head tutor from 1996 to 2009 and again in 2011–12.
McCarthy and his wife Suzanne, who survives him, were also deans of Pforzheimer House from 1996 to 2009. In addition to his wife, McCarthy leaves his sons James Joseph (Jamie) and Ryan Sean McCarthy.
Excerpted from the Harvard Gazette.