State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

More Ways to Study Sustainable Development Than Ever Before

Students in the FieldThere are several new courses and educational opportunities open to students this fall:

Undergraduate Major in Sustainable Development (NEW MAJOR)

Economic and Financial Methods for Sustainable Development (Satyajit Bose)
The objective of this course is to introduce students to the skills and methods necessary to understand and evaluate the economic and financial aspects of sustainable development. Throughout the course, students will compare competing objectives and policies through the prism of economic and financial reasoning. The course is intended to provide students with a flying introduction to key analytical concepts required to understand topics in environmental economics and finance and to introduce them to selected topics within the field.

Climate Change and Law
The purpose of this course is to provide students with a broad introduction to the field of climate law in the United States and at the international level. The course is open to undergraduates and graduate students. The course begins with an overview of the causes and effects of global climate change and the methods available to control and adapt to it. We then examine the negotiation, implementation and current status of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol and the Copenhagen Accord. The focus then turns to the past and proposed actions of the U.S. Congress, the executive branch and the courts, as well as regional, state and municipal efforts. The Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act will receive special attention. We evaluate the various legal tools that are available to address climate change, including cap-and-trade schemes, carbon taxation, command-and-control regulation, litigation, securities disclosures, and voluntary action. The roles of energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, carbon capture and sequestration, and forestry and agriculture each receive close attention. Implications for international human rights, international trade, environmental justice, and international and intergenerational equity are discussed. The course concludes with examination of the special challenges posed by China, proposals for adaptation and geoengineering, and business opportunities and the role of lawyers. This course meets twice a week for lectures. In addition, students will be expected to attend a weekly discussion section.

Urbanization and Sustainable Development
The first decade of the 21st century marked the first time in human history when more of the people of the world lived in urban as distinct from rural places. It is impossible to achieve sustainable development in a physical, social or economic manner absent an understanding the powerful and interdependent relationship between these concepts of sustainability and urbanization. This course explores this vital nexus. Students will gain a more detailed understanding of the ways in which urban life provide opportunities and challenges for addressing climate change, access to water, and energy efficiency among other topics. The intention of Urbanization and Sustainable Development is to provide students majoring in sustainable development with an historic and contemporary understanding of the connections between the processes of urbanization that now dominate the world and the range of ways in which those processes, directly and indirectly, shape the challenges of sustainable development.

GIS for Sustainable Development (Mark Becker)
This course is designed to provide students with a comprehensive overview of theoretical concepts underlying GIS systems and to give students a strong set of practical skills to use GIS for sustainable development research. Through a mixture of lectures, readings, focused discussions, and hands-on exercises, students will acquire an understanding of the variety and structure of spatial data and databases, gain knowledge of the principles behind raster- and vector-based spatial analysis, and learn basic cartographic principles for producing maps that effectively communicate a message.

Students in the Classroom

Demography of Human Populations (Susana Adamo)
Population processes and their outcomes in terms of population size and distribution have a fundamental role in sustainable development and also broad policy implications. This course will introduce students to the scientific study of human populations as a contribution toward understanding social structure, relations and dynamics, as well as society-nature interactions. The aim is to offer a basic introduction to the main theories, concepts, measures and uses of demography. The course will cover the issues of population size, distribution and composition, and consumption, at different scales from global to regional to local, as well as the implications for population-environment relationships.

Master of Public Administration in Development Practice

Education for Sustainable Development
The course examines basic education as a human right and as an instrument of sustainable development, taking into account historical, philosophical, sociological, political and economic factors that affect education. Participants will examine approaches to and challenges of basic education in developing countries with regard to access and quality, and the interplay of factors at local, national and international levels. They will also examine key global issues that affect education and development.

Master of Science in Sustainable Management (NEW DEGREE)

Sustainability Management (Steve Cohen)
This introductory course in the program will begin by clearly defining what sustainability management is and determining if a sustainable economy is actually feasible. Students will learn to connect environmental protection to organizational management by exploring the technical, financial, managerial, and political challenges of effectively managing a sustainable environment and economy. This course is taught in a case-based format and will seek to help students learn the basics of management, environmental policy and sustainability economics.

Public Policy of Sustainability Management
Policy shapes how urban environments are managed, and sustainability practitioners must be able to analyze public policy and its effects on what they are able to do. This course will provide students with an understanding of current policy and strengthen their ability to react to future policy developments as they emerge.

Economics of Sustainability Management (Satyajit Bose)
This course builds on core economics courses and addresses issues of environmental and sustainable economics. It focuses on the interaction between markets and the environment; policy issues related to optimal extraction and pricing; property rights in industrial and developing countries and how they affect international trade in goods such as timber, wood pulp and oil. The use of the world’s water bodies and the atmosphere as economic inputs to production are also examined. The economics of renewable resources are described and sustainable economic development models are discussed and analyzed.

Sustainability Science (Kate McFadden)
This survey course will help students become more familiar with the role of sustainability in a variety of scientific disciplines. Topics will most likely include: environmental systems, chemistry, toxicology, land use, water use, and urban ecology.

Sustainable Built Environment (Davidson Norris)
This physical dimensions course teaches students about the connections between environmental inputs and outputs, and their effects on the natural environment. The emphasis in this course will be on understanding the environmental impacts from organizational activities and giving students a foundation in planning, design and spatial issues. This is particularly important as many sustainability initiatives concern land use, buildings and other physical entities.

Earth Institute Practicum in Sustainable Development (Louise Rosen)
This elective course highlights the way the mission of the Earth Institute is fulfilled through its different centers and programs. With 850 scientists, postdoctoral fellows and students working in and across more than 30 Columbia University research centers and programs, the Earth Institute is helping to advance nine interconnected global issues: water; climate and society; energy; urbanization; hazards and risk; global health; poverty; ecosystem health and monitoring; and food, ecology and nutrition.

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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Claudia Espinosa
Claudia Espinosa
13 years ago

This is terrific! Quick question, will these courses be available online or via youtube/iTunes university channels so us not in the NYC area can also participate (even if it’s not for credit)? Like a TEDTalk format?