News from the Columbia Climate School

Columbia’s Climate School Gets Its First Degree Program

Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger announced today that the M.A. Program in Climate and Society will be the first degree program offered through the university’s new Climate School.

“Climate and Society is an especially fitting inaugural program for the school, emblematic in many ways of what we hope the new school will achieve,” Bollinger wrote in his “From the President” column in Columbia News.

Announced in July, the Climate School is the first new school established at Columbia in 25 years. The school will serve as a hub for transdisciplinary climate research and education across the university, exploring and developing solutions to the most urgent and complex challenges of our time. The effects of climate change and the solutions to this crisis intersect with a broad swath of disciplines, including public health, engineering, architecture, and planning, as well as economics, business, finance, law, and ethics. The Climate School will integrate these diverse fields to develop more sustainable and equitable ways of living. A key aspect of these efforts is ensuring that students are equipped with the knowledge and tools to lead in the 21st century.

The M.A. Program in Climate and Society fits well with these goals. The program trains professionals and academics to understand and cope with the effects of climate change on society and the environment.

“The program combines courses in both the natural and social sciences, providing education for those interested in the problems and solutions associated with building a brighter and more equitable future for humanity,” said Earth Institute Director Alex Halliday, who is leading the development of the Columbia Climate School. “It equips students with much of the critical knowledge needed for their prospective careers and is totally aligned with the aims of the new Climate School.”

According to Cynthia Thomson, associate director of the M.A. Program in Climate and Society, climate scientist Mark Cane kickstarted the program 15 years ago with a vision to train a generation of professionals who understood the links between climate and society. “We’re excited to see that spirit expand to a whole school, of which the Climate and Society program will be the cornerstone,” said Thomson.

“The scale of the climate crisis demands a large-scale response with change makers who understand the complexities,” she added. “The program’s transition to the Climate School will allow it to grow and train more students. This is an opportunity for students to have an even richer experience during their studies and become part of a more robust network after graduation.”

The Climate and Society students who begin the program in fall 2021 will become the Climate School’s inaugural class.

The program will be offered through the Climate School in partnership with Columbia’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), where the program was previously housed.

“For many years now, the GSAS Masters in Climate and Society has prepared students to address the salient issues related to climate in our world,” said Carlos Alonso, dean of GSAS. “With the creation of Columbia’s Climate School, the program will now have a home in an exciting and far-reaching institutional initiative centered on its principal concerns. The Graduate School will continue to provide the program’s students with all levels of support to ensure their academic and professional success. Further, the Climate School will make possible the coordinated participation by all schools at Columbia in tackling what is undoubtedly the most significant topic of our times.”

The M.A. in Climate and Society is the first program to join the Climate School, but it will not be the last.

“Further educational offerings at all levels are under development,” Halliday hinted. “Meanwhile, the Climate School is proud to be able to re-launch the M.A. in Climate and Society as its first educational program.”

Science for the Planet: In these short video explainers, discover how scientists and scholars across the Columbia Climate School are working to understand the effects of climate change and help solve the crisis.
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