University Senate Proposed: December 12, 2003
Resolution to establish
a Master of arts. program IN CLIMATE AND SOCIETY
WHEREAS, an understanding of the effects of global warming and climate change is becoming increasingly important in a wide range of settings,
WHEREAS, there is a growing need for graduates who are able to integrate climate science with social science in designing policies for adapting to climate changes, and
WHEREAS, the resources of the Columbia Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering, the School of International and Public Affairs, and the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction are sufficient to support an adequate program for this purpose;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that a program leading to the master of arts in climate and society be established within the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Columbia University, with the proviso that the committee will review the program in five years.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Senate forward this resolution to the trustees for appropriate action.
Proposal for an interdepartmental MA in Climate and Society at Columbia University
The Columbia MA program in Climate and Society is designed to educate people to be better able to cope with climate variability and climate change. The MA program in Climate and Society will provide advanced education in the social and natural sciences as they relate to climate variability and climate change. Sponsorship for this program comes from three departments at Columbia: the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (DEES); the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering (DEEE); the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA); in addition to the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction (IRI), located at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty campus.
The program is designed to provide needed background in social and natural science, and necessary skills, to several potential groups of students: climate-policy administrators, especially from the developing world; policy professionals in the U.S. and elsewhere who want to pursue strategies in sustainable development; private-sector professionals dealing with risk and decisions relating to environmental change; and interdisciplinary research collaborators.
As the effects of global warming begin to be felt, and as our scientific understanding of long-term climate change and shorter-term climate variability (i.e., El Niño and related phenomena) and their socioeconomic impacts improves, there is a growing need for graduates who are able to integrate climate science with social science to provide advice and to design policies for adaptation to climate impacts. Climate variability and global warming should be taken into account for decisions in many spheres: land use, development and deployment of water resources, agriculture and food security, insect-borne diseases, transportation, and mitigation of several types of natural hazard. This is especially so in the developing countries in the tropics, which are most affected by climate extremes.
There is currently no degree program, at Columbia or elsewhere in the world, that focuses on understanding climate science and the implications of climate variability and long-term climate change for society. Columbia is uniquely situated to create such a program, because of the presence of the IRI on our campus (over 50 scientists and staff, including a broad range of disciplines), our strength in natural and social science and policy at DEES, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory; CIESIN, also on the Lamont campus, which specializes in earth science information; and the specialized regional centers associated with SIPA). Graduates of the proposed program should be able to view development plans not only in relation to climate adaptation, but also in a much broader social and environmental context. They should also be able to communicate clearly concerning these matters to journalists, officials, and the general public.
The curriculum includes study of the ocean/atmosphere system, physical geography and regional climate impacts; study of social relations, institutions and decision making; development of a number of skills, including quantitative reasoning about climate and social variables; and internship and professional development.
Students will complete the 12-month program in three terms (Fall, Spring, and Summer), with each cohort of students beginning in the Fall term.
Five courses will be taken in the Fall and Spring (14 and 15 points, respectively), with a total of 35 points required for the degree. A summer internship in research or policy or a thesis project is required (3 points); internships will be planned on an individualized basis during the first two terms, and carried out in the third term. A summer Research seminar is also required (3 points).
The target number of students is 20–30 per cohort, to be attained by the fourth year of the program. The first director of the program will be Professor Mark Cane. Courses will be taught at both the Lamont and Morningside campuses, and some will make use of IRI, LDEO, and CIESIN scientific staff, appointed as adjunct faculty.
Some internships could involve current IRI projects, while others could be located throughout the New York metropolitan area.
Curriculum Overview (Total 35 points)
Fall Semester: (14 points)
Dynamics of climate variability and change (3 points)
Quantitative models of climate-sensitive natural and human systems (4 points)
Integrative seminar, Part One: Policy making under uncertainty (3 points)
Professional development and internship preparation
Social Science Elective (3 points)
Spring Semester: (15 points)
Regional climate and climate impacts (3 points)
Integrative seminar, Part Two: Policy making under uncertainty (3 points)
General Elective #1 (3 points)
General Elective #2 (3 points)
General Elective #3 (3 points)
Summer Semester (Sessions One and Two): (6 points)
Summer Research Seminar (3 points)
Research or Policy Internship at the IRI or in the NY Metropolitan Area (3 points)
Thesis Report (3 points)