State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

New Seminar Focuses on Links Between Environment, Conflict and Security

The onset of extreme weather, increased population pressures and global markets’ demand for high-value resources have introduced new variability to businesses and socio-economic development, particularly in fragile and post-conflict communities. From threats of water wars to conflicts driven by “blood” diamonds to political instability linked to climate variability, the environment is increasingly linked to conflicts and insecurity. Yet the methods to prepare and respond to these growing environmental risks and elements of fragility remain fragmented between disciplines and sector-specific trainings.

How does environmental degradation pose risks to program design and investments?  Learn more about Earth Institute research in fragile states this fall. Photo: Alex Fischer
How are the elements of fragility linked in a web of interactions? This program helps policy and business leaders understand the links between environmental degradation, conflict resolution, natural disasters, resilience and political stability. Photo: Alex Fischer

Therefore, the Earth Institute is launching a new intensive Environment, Peace and Security Executive Seminar from Sept. 17-21, 2014, in partnership with the Columbia University School of Continuing Education’s Master’s of Science in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution and the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN).

Across the Earth Institute, we have identified a growing need to increase policymakers’ and business leaders’ awareness of the connections between natural resources, conflict and peace-building. We have also identified key skills that advance the ability to identify, diagnose and respond to the growing interlinked challenges.

This seminar will expose participants to the theoretical frameworks necessary for understanding and responding to human security challenges, and also to concrete skills and case studies to use in the field and in their daily responsibilities.

“We live in a turbulent time when globalization, climate change, natural resource stress and political instability interact in complex and often tumultuous ways,” said Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute. “To manage this complexity, we need a deeper understanding of these dynamic interactions, both conceptually and in practice.”

The new climate realities and environmental risks won’t spare anyone: governments, citizens and businesses are equally vulnerable:

  • Private industries are expanding their businesses into areas of significant multi-hazard risks.
  • Private companies are growing increasingly dependent on global supply chains and a complex network of raw natural resource inputs.
  • International organizations that disburse billions of dollars of overseas development aid each year are seeking better frameworks and tools to prevent and respond to environmental insecurity.
  • Humanitarian organizations are scrambling to improve their preparedness and response capacity to higher-frequency hurricanes and increasing populations at risk to natural disasters.
  • Fragile State governments are also seeking knowledge to boost the capacity of their technocrats and government policy makers and ensure social safety nets are adequately prepared for environmental shocks.
There is an 80% chance that an El-Nino event will occur in the next year. This seminar identifies ways for organizations and companies to be better prepared for potential consequences.
There is an 80 percent chance that an El Niño event will occur in the next year. This seminar identifies ways for organizations and companies to be better prepared for potential consequences.

No other offering gives the range of affected stakeholders access to resources and cutting-edge researchers in climatology, environmental science, water resource management, natural resource management, extractive industry best-practices, dynamical system theories, and conflict resolution and mediation techniques. Columbia University connects these fields through interdisciplinary research, teaching and practice, and draws faculty, speakers and resources for the seminar from all three Columbia entities.

About the September 2014 executive seminar:

The seminar is designed for private sector industry leaders, program directors from multiple sectors, government policy-makers, international organization field directors and headquarters management teams.

The five-day course is structured to provide participants with the following:

  • an intellectual framework to link the environment and security dynamics;
  • the latest research around natural resources and climate dynamics;
  • the analytic skills for communicating in conflict settings, undertaking conflict diagnostics and conducting conflict assessments;
  • the skills to communicate effectively and clearly in conflict settings.
  • different approaches to project planning and program design skills that address the pre-, during- and post-conflict and environmental variability dynamics;
  • practical tool kits for spatial and conflict data applications to improve decision-making.

Participants will leave the course able to apply these to their organizations to meet the challenges arising from environmental variability, natural resource pressures and conflict dynamics.


This is the first in a series of blogs that will be released by the program’s faculty on various topics related the nexus of environment, peace and security for policy makers and business leaders.

For more EPS program information and application, please go to the program website and follow us on twitter:

Website |

Twitter | @Columbia_EPS

Email |

Columbia campus skyline with text Columbia Climate School Class Day 2024 - Congratulations Graduates

Congratulations to our Columbia Climate School MA in Climate & Society Class of 2024! Learn about our May 10 Class Day celebration. #ColumbiaClimate2024

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments