Sabrina McCormick, PhD, fuses sociology, public health, the law, and filmmaking to create social change that addresses the climate crisis. Dr. McCormick’s research investigates the interaction between social movements and the judicial branch in climate. Published in Science, Nature Climate Change, and the American Journal of Public Health, she looks at who is bringing these cases, why they are winning and losing, and the strategies being used to affect outcomes. She was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation Academic Writing Residency at Bellagio to transform her work into a television series, which is currently in early script form. She is completing a script (with Soopum Sohn) on the most important environmental Supreme Court case in history, Massachusetts v EPA to help litigators in other nations achieve regulation of fossil fuels with similar approaches, and is developing another feature film telling the story of 25 Colombian children who brought a climate lawsuit against their own government and won.
McCormick’s first scripted feature, ARARA, premiered at the Beijing International Film Festival in April. Based on years of research in Brazil, the film stars Tim Blake Nelson and indigenous non-actor Kamodjara Xipaia, amongst many others indigenous non-actors. It tells the story of an indigenous girl beingdisplaced by the Belo Monte dam who is separated from her family, traffickers kidnap her. She is forced to rely on one man who offers to help her find her family again, even though he may be the key to destroying her people. As the film completes the festival circuit, McCormick is building an impact campaign focused on reducing infrastructure investment in the Amazon and raising awareness regarding consumption driving Amazonian deforestation. McCormick’s first book, Mobilizing Science, was on a case study in Brazil and her recent research project (funded by the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research) in the Amazon has focused on the political economy of renewable energy development in that region.
McCormick was Producer and Associate Producer on segments of the Showtime series, THE YEARS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY, that won the Emmy for Best Documentary Series in 2014. Her story with Matt Damon supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation investigated the mysteriously mis-reported numbers of how many people are dying from heat waves. The story was based on research she began as a Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, a study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about heat in four American cities, and her in-depth qualitative assessment of heat-related mortality in New York City that demonstrates novel methods which show heat death is significantly higher than officially reported.
McCormick has long examined innovations introduced by citizen science, first in the area of breast cancer then in the context of the Deepwater Horizon spill. Her first, award-winning documentary film, No Family History, accompanied the publication of her first book by the same title, following the journey of one woman with breast cancer living in a cancer hotspot, struggling to find out what could have caused her illness. Funded by the National Science Foundation, McCormick conducted research on citizen science in the Gulf and co-directed After the Cap (with Ben Kalina), the only interactive documentary about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, capturing unseen exposures faced by oil spill workers and coastal fishermen. Her narrative shorts, A Good Egg and FracKtured, have been seen at festivals across the country.
McCormick is a member of the Climate Communication Initiative Advisory Committee for the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. She was a Science & Technology Policy Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science working in the Global Change Research Program at the Environmental Protection Agency. She has advised Congress, the State Department, and the Obama White House on climate change issues. Dr. McCormick was Lead Author on the Special Assessment of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change entitled Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation. Dr. McCormick’s work has been featured in NBC Nightly News, National Public Radio, Canadian Public Radio, German Public Radio, TIME Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, and many other media outlets. She is currently Associate Professor in the Environmental and Occupational Health Department in the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. She is also Senior Fellow at the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and was recently Visiting Scholar at the Columbia University Law School Sabin Center on Climate Change Law.