Climate School

From WikiCU
Jump to: navigation, search

In July of 2020, Columbia University announced the creation of the Columbia Climate School. The Climate School would build upon Columbia's many existing environmental and sustainability structures such as the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), the Center for Climate Systems Research (CCSR), Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), and more.

Process of Formation

On July 10, 2020, President Bollinger announced that the university trustees unanimously voted for the creation of the Columbia Climate School. From Halliday's July 13 blog post, "Why do we need a climate school?", it seems they will be taking the next three years to design and start the school.

The decision to create a Climate School was informed by the University Task Force on Climate, a committee created in the fall of 2019 to assess what Columbia University could do to address the climate crisis and subsequent challenges. Alex Halliday, the current director of the Columbia Earth Institute, was appointed as the leader of the Climate Change Task Force. In a 104-page report released to the public on January 30, 2020, the task force put forth 11 recommendations regarding the potential impact that Columbia University could have regarding mitigating the climate crisis, the second of which being that, “The University should form a Climate School uniquely "built around inter- and transdisciplinary engagement and partnership.”[1]

The report described the current areas of strength in the university, the ways the task force engaged with the rest of the university for feedback, the reasons for creating a climate school, and how it might function. During the preparation of the report, the task force held multiple town halls to hear from multiple parts of the University.[2] [3]


The task force report emphasized a systems-level, interdisciplinary approach to research, two-way engagement with the public, and "bringing knowledge to actions. The transdisciplinary research themes identified were Living with a Changing Planet, Climate Management, and Climate and an Ethical Society. The report proposed a "hub and spokes" model to resist inflexible bureaucracy that starts with recruiting existing faculty for dual-appointments with the climate school and creating joint degree/certificate programs.

In an August 2020 email, Halliday wrote: "it already is clear that programs in de-carbonization, sea-level change, and food security will be major areas of expansion. At the same time, we will build upon cross-cutting expertise in climate finance, disaster resilience, environmental justice and law, communication and the arts, and climate policy and services."

The school is eying real estate on the new Manhattanville campus for a Climate School hub.

Climate Commitments

In a related announcement of January 30th, 2020, President Bollinger announced the creation of a new position, Climate Change Officer, who would oversee the implementation of the University’s sustainability goals. The sustainability goals are outlined by the Office of Environmental Stewardship. President Bollinger additionally announced the University's commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050 (following two years of campaigning by Columbians for Carbon Neutrality, as well as a request for divestment recommendations through the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing (ACSRI). As a final sustainability announcement, the University’s Commencement would not include any plastic non-reusable water bottles moving forward (starting with 2020, subsequently canceled).

External Links

Task Force Report


Why do we need a climate school? by Alex Halliday