Why Columbia Is Leading the Way on Climate Change

Peter de Menocal, the Dean of Science in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, director of the Center for Climate and Life at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and a member of the Earth Institute faculty, spoke to an audience of Columbians at the Communications and Public Affairs ‘We Connect’ Breakfast meeting on Thursday, December 8th.

De Menocal was there to give an introduction to the ambitious and important needs of the Center for Climate and Life at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. With the looming Republican administration poised to take control of the country in January 2017, and an E.P.A. nominee, Scott Pruitt, who considers global warming to be “a debate,” it is increasingly urgent that schools such as Columbia invest in the value of science that shows the real effects of climate change on our earth.

As de Mendocal noted, “we don’t live the global mean temperature,” and that means that even with news of sea ice declining, polar bears dying, it can still be hard to understand how that relates to our everyday lives. Luckily de Mendocal had the statistics, including these three potent examples: we’re in a 15-year drought, the sea level is rising, and crop yields decline 5-10% with every rise in the global mean temperature.

Climate change can cost 150 – 300 billion dollars a year. The year that Hurricane Katrina hit, it cost that amount. Hurricane Sandy cost 6 billion. It’s “death by 100 paper cuts,” as de Mendocal put it.

But what Columbia is planning is “a Manhattan project for climate.” The Center for Climate and Life will be posed to fix the innovation gap, committing to research and philanthropy. They want to solve really big problems in our future, and it starts with ambitious goals, both in research and fundraising.

The School of Professional Studies partners with The Earth Institute to offer the Master of Science in Sustainability Management and the Certifications in Sustainability Analytics, Sustainable Finance, and Sustainable Water Management.