State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Road to Rio Event Engages Columbia Community and Local High School Students

ESP Students with the Global Kids students

Students from the Master of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy (ESP) program celebrated International Human Rights Day with an event in December called Road to Rio. The Human Rights Work Group also a co-sponsored the event.

The Road to Rio was an opportunity to discuss how climate change is impacting basic human rights and bridge two School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) master’s programs, ESP and the Master of Arts in Climate and Society. The day-long program brought some of the curricula ideas from the ESP program to other Columbia students and to high school students from all five New York City boroughs.

Two members of the ESP Class of 2012, Larissa Johnson and Meredith Geraghty, served as volunteers during the fall semester with a non-profit organization, Global Kids. Global Kids works with local high school students on a city-wide program called Human Rights Activist Project and some of the students attended the event. The participating students plan to attend Rio+20 in June 2012 with the goal of addressing climate justice.

“This project showed me the importance of the ESP program, because, as one of the Global Kids students pointed out during the event, ‘if we don’t focus on the environment, nothing else matters,’” said Larissa Johnson.

Cynthia Thomson presenting on the effects of climate change on NYC.

Cynthia Thomson, Assistant Director of the Master of Arts in Climate and Society program, discussed the concerns of climate change on the most vulnerable population and compared islands in South East Asia to New York City. Dr. Alessandra Giannini, a research scientist for the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, as well as an adjunct professor at Columbia, presented some of her research work to the students. She provided graphs and images to help the students of all ages to see the effects of climate change on not only New York City, but also on areas in the African Sahel.

The students from Global Kids also had an opportunity to make presentations to Columbia students and get their feedback on their proposals. Overall, the event was a success with over 45 people in attendance.

“It was a great way to show not only the Columbia community, but the New York City youth, what the Environmental Science and Policy program is doing throughout the city and the world,” Johnson continued.

For more information about the Road to Rio, please contact Larissa Johnson (ESP Class of 2012) at

Students in the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program enroll in a year-long, 54-credit program offered at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, in partnership with the Earth Institute. Throughout this 12-month program, students are immersed in courses that combine Columbia University’s hands-on approach to teaching public policy and administration with pioneering thinking about the environment. To learn more about the program, please visit the program’s website or contact Alyssa Dubov, Program Coordinator, for more information.

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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