Richard Harris

Award-winning journalist Richard Harris has reported on a wide range of topics in science, medicine and the environment since he joined NPR in 1986. In early 2014, his focus shifted from an emphasis on climate change and the environment to biomedical research.

Harris has traveled to all seven continents for NPR. His reports have originated from Timbuktu, the South Pole, the Galapagos Islands, Beijing during the SARS epidemic, the center of Greenland, the Amazon rain forest, the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro (for a story about tuberculosis), and Japan to cover the nuclear aftermath of the 2011 tsunami.
In 2010, Harris' reporting revealed that the blown-out BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico was spewing out far more oil than asserted in the official estimates. That revelation led the federal government to make a more realistic assessment of the extent of the spill.

Harris covered climate change for decades. He reported from the United Nations climate negotiations, starting with the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and including Kyoto in 1997 and Copenhagen in 2009. Harris was a major contributor to NPR's award-winning 2007-2008 "Climate Connections" series.

Over the course of his career, Harris has been the recipient of many prestigious awards. Those include the American Geophysical Union's 2013 Presidential Citation for Science and Society. He shared the 2009 National Academy of Sciences Communication Award and was a finalist again in 2011. In 2002, Harris was elected an honorary member of Sigma Xi, the scientific research society. Harris shared a 1995 Peabody Award for investigative reporting on NPR about the tobacco industry. Since 1988, the American Association for the Advancement of Science has honored Harris three times with its science journalism award.

Before joining NPR, Harris was a science writer for the San Francisco Examiner. From 1981 to 1983, Harris was a staff writer at The Tri-Valley Herald in Livermore, California, covering science, technology, and health issues related to the nuclear weapons lab in Livermore. He started his career as an AAAS Mass Media Science Fellow at the now-defunct Washington (DC) Star.

Harris is co-founder of the Washington, D.C., Area Science Writers Association, and is past president of the National Association of Science Writers. He serves on the board of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

A California native, Harris returned to the University of California-Santa Cruz in 2012, to give a commencement address at Crown College, where he had given a valedictory address at his own graduation. He earned a bachelor's degree at the school in biology, with highest honors.

Pages

5:53pm

Wed November 20, 2013
World

At Climate Meeting, Tensions Rise Between Rich And Poor Nations

Originally published on Wed November 20, 2013 6:57 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

NPR's Richard Harris has covered the U.N. climate talks since the first treaty was negotiated in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. He's monitoring these new talks, and he joins us now to talk about this long-running argument over climate-related funding for the developing world. Richard, thanks for being here.

RICHARD HARRIS, BYLINE: My pleasure.

BLOCK: And we just heard Mr. Khan mention this goal of $100 billion in aid per year, starting in 2020. He thinks that's realistic. What does it look like from where you sit?

Read more

5:45pm

Mon November 11, 2013
Science

Why Typhoon Haiyan Caused So Much Damage

Originally published on Mon November 11, 2013 7:13 pm

This map from the NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory shows the amount of heat energy available to Typhoon Haiyan between Oct. 28 and Nov. 3. Darker purple indicates more available energy. Typhoons gain their strength by drawing heat out of the ocean. The path of the storm is marked with the black line in the center of the image.
NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory

The deadly typhoon that swept through the Philippines was one of the strongest ever recorded. But storms nearly this powerful are actually common in the eastern Pacific. Typhoon Haiyan's devastation can be chalked up to a series of bad coincidences.

Read more

4:02am

Thu October 31, 2013
U.S. Commutes: The Way We Get To Work

For A New Kind Of Commute, Some Eye The Sky

Originally published on Thu October 31, 2013 2:21 pm

Orangutans can get exercise and look down their noses at zoo visitors, thanks to cables that stretch from one side of the primate habitat to the other.
Karen Bleier AFP/Getty Images

This story is part of a series on commuting in America.

Orangutans Kiko, Iris and Batang have a short commute — only about 500 feet between the buildings at the National Zoo where they sleep and pass their days. But it's a tricky trip.

Read more

6:01pm

Wed October 23, 2013
Environment

Delegates To Debate Watered-Down Plan For Antarctic Marine Preserve

Originally published on Wed October 23, 2013 7:57 pm

A lone emperor penguin makes his rounds, at the edge of an iceberg drift in the Antarctic's Ross Sea in 2006.
John Weller AP

Less than 1 percent of the world's oceans are set aside as protected areas, but diplomats meeting now in Australia could substantially increase that figure.

Delegates from 24 nations and the European Union have convened to consider proposals to create vast new marine protected areas around Antarctica.

This same group met over the summer and didn't reach consensus, so it's now considering a scaled-back proposal.

Read more

4:38am

Thu October 17, 2013
Environment

Fuel Efficiency Standards Live On After 1973 Oil Embargo

Originally published on Thu October 17, 2013 10:23 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This year is the 40th anniversary of the OPEC oil embargo - an event that has shaped our nation's politics and the cars we drive ever since. In 1973, the Arab world decided to cut oil exports to punish nations that supported Israel during its war with Egypt and Syria. While the embargo only lasted several months, it triggered an energy crisis that lasted for years. NPR's Richard Harris reports on the ways we are still feel those effects today.

Read more

5:37pm

Wed October 9, 2013
Science

Nobel Chemistry Prize Goes To Scientists Who Made Computer Models

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded jointly to Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel Wednesday. Karplus, Levitt and Warshel won the prize for laying the foundation for computer models that help researchers understand and predict chemical processes like the purification of exhaust fumes or photosynthesis in green leaves.

4:20pm

Mon October 7, 2013
Science

Scientists Win Nobel For Work On How Cells Communicate

Originally published on Mon October 7, 2013 6:50 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Three scientists will win this year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their role in figuring out how cells talk to one another. They do that by releasing and soaking up molecules. This basic knowledge also helps explain diseases, from mental illness to immune disorders.

NPR's Richard Harris has our story.

Read more

5:15pm

Fri September 27, 2013
Environment

UN Climate Change Report: Sea Level, Air Temperature To Rise

Originally published on Fri September 27, 2013 5:17 pm

The United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releases its latest assessment today. This is the fifth since 1990. The reports project the rate of global warming, sea level rise and other expected effects that result largely from our use of fossil fuels, which puts billions of additional tons of carbon dioxide into the air every year.

4:01am

Tue September 24, 2013
Environment

How Many Scientists Does It Take To Write A Climate Report?

Originally published on Tue September 24, 2013 10:53 am

An iceberg floats through the water in Ilulissat, Greenland, in July. Researchers are studying how climate change and melting glaciers will affect the rest of the world.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Scientists and government representatives are meeting in Stockholm this week to produce the latest high-level review of climate change. It's thousands of pages of material, and if it's done right, it should harbor very few surprises.

That's because it's supposed to compile what scientists know — and what they don't — about climate change. And that's left some scientists to wonder whether these intensive reviews are still the best way to go.

Read more

5:55pm

Mon September 16, 2013
Energy

Natural Gas May Be Easier On Climate Than Coal, Despite Methane Leaks

Originally published on Mon September 16, 2013 7:11 pm

A rig drills a hydraulic fracturing well for natural gas outside Rifle, Colo., in March.
Brennan Linsley AP

From the standpoint of global warming, burning natural gas can be better than burning coal, a study published this week suggests.

This is a contentious issue among people who are opposed to the natural gas drilling practice known as fracking. That technique involves injecting water, sand and chemicals into wells to release far more gas than conventional drilling can. Opponents of fracking have been concerned not only about local environmental issues, but also about the potential for methane leaks to make global warming worse.

Read more

Pages