State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


Photos: Columbia Climate School at COP26

At the recent COP26 meeting in Glasgow, world leaders met to hammer out the details of the Paris climate agreement and to find new ways to reduce emissions and adapt to a warming planet. Business leaders, researchers, and activists were also on the scene, sharing knowledge and innovations and helping to push for the dramatic change that is needed to prevent catastrophic warming. Among them were scholars from the Columbia Climate School, who helped to shape the conversation by hosting and participating in a number of special events. You can see a few highlights in the slideshow below.

Alex Halliday, founding dean of the Columbia Climate School, explained why it was important for the School to be present at COP26. “A Climate School that just does great research and education will not necessarily make much of a difference,” he said. “This school needs to be more like a medical school that connects with its New York community and the wider world, devising actionable solutions in partnership with others who are at the front line of the issues… COP26 is all about this. COP is an amazing gathering of stakeholders young and old from different sectors of society and from all around the world. Hearing those voices and building the kinds of partnerships and constructs that can make a difference, whether in climate mitigation or adaptation, is essential.”

Three of the Columbia Climate School’s co-founding deans — Alex Halliday, Ruth DeFries, and Jason Bordoff — pose for a photo with former president Barack Obama.
Three of the Columbia Climate School’s co-founding deans — Alex Halliday, Ruth DeFries, and Jason Bordoff — pose for a photo with former president Barack Obama.

Together with the Obama Foundation, the Columbia Climate School helped to organize a roundtable discussion between former president Barack Obama and young climate activists. The group, including three representatives from Columbia, discussed youth activism and how to accelerate climate action. Obama said that he was especially keen to meet with these young people because activism was in his “roots.” He acknowledged and thanked Columbia for setting up the Climate School, and told the audience to not be discouraged or feel their efforts diminished if expectations were not met in Glasgow: “You’re building power,” he said.

Watch the discussion on C-SPAN, and see the students’ reactions here.

Eduarda Zoghbi and barack obama
Eduarda Zoghbi (left), a climate activist and student in Columbia’s MPA program, shared her thoughts during the discussion with former president Barack Obama. Photo: Obama Foundation
alex halliday with winning team
Climate School founding dean Alex Halliday served as a judge for the Climate Challenge Cup, a competition that showcased exciting innovations needed to tackle climate change. Here he is with the winners of the Climate Change Adaptation prize. Watch the event here. Photo by Charlotte Munson
screengrab from "turning ambition into action"
The Climate School’s signature event, “Turning Ambition into Action,” discussed several topics, including the role of universities in the climate crisis, how climate justice advocates were not well-represented at COP26, and what actually goes on after the world leaders leave. Deputy White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi had some closing words for students: “Be stubborn, be skeptical, be scientists, but be optimistic.”
ruth defries presents her research
Climate School co-founding dean Ruth DeFries shared her research during a talk about how nature-based solutions can improve livelihoods, nutrition, and more.
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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Thomas L Brewer
Thomas L Brewer
2 years ago

Excellent presence at COP ! Thanks for your pioneering educational programs at CCS. Tom Brewer