He is an American citizen, but has lived in 7 countries, including India and South Africa.
He is on leave as Director and Professor at the Center for Environmental Systems Research at the University of Kassel, Germany, where he has led the development and application of global environmental models since 1996. Between 1992 and 1998 he led the global climate change modeling team at the National Institute of Environment and Public Health in The Netherlands and provided scientific support for the Kyoto Climate Treaty negotiations. Between 1982 and 1992 he helped pioneer the field of integrated modeling of the environment at the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria. He has played a leading role in the development of RAINS, IMAGE 2, GLASS and other integrated models.
One of his main interests has been the use of models and scenarios in global integrated assessments and he has argued strongly for the development of scientific models that have clear policy relevance. He is has been a leading co-author of the global report of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and UNEP`s report on the global environment, A Global Environmental Outlook.
He is "Coordinating Lead Author" of the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on climate change impacts. He was responsible for coordinating the chapter on the impacts of climate change on Europe. Alcamo has worked for 15 years with the IPCC and has been a lead author of many of its reports, including co-authoring the year 2000 report in which the IPCC presented scenarios of future greenhouse gas emissions. These scenarios have been a main basis for calculating future climate change. The IPCC was the co-winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He has also published many scientific articles about new research on climate change impacts on land use, agriculture and water resources.
He has published five books on global environmental themes, including the 1998 book Global Change Scenarios of the 21st Century (Pergamon Press). A fifth book, "Environmental Fu-tures," has just been published by Elsevier and is the first book-length description of the meth-odology of environmental scenario analysis. One of his research aims is to develop a scientific approach to scenario analysis.
He is co-founder and one of two chairpersons of the Global Water System Project, set up by four international global change research institutions, to stimulate the new field of global water research. He has argued strongly for a global viewpoint of water as a scientific and policy issue. Beginning in the late 1990s his team in Kassel developed one of the first global water resource models, WaterGAP, which has since been used in the UN World Water Assessment Program, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the scenario exercise of the World Water Commission, and many other global assessments and studies of the world water situation.
For his contributions to the development of global modeling, and for his applications of global models to policymaking, Alcamo was co-winner of the 1998 Max Planck Research Prize, an international prize jointly awarded by the Max Planck Society and Humboldt Foundation of Germany. He was the first environmental scientist to win the award.
He has a Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis.