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Columbia University – M.A. Program in Climate and Society

Columbia University
M.A. Program in Climate and Society

Columbia University
M.A. Program in Climate and Society
405 Low Library
535 W. 116 Street, Mail Code 4335
New York, NY 10027
Phone: (212) 854-9896

Program Link:

Assistant Director:
Ms. Arezou Raeisghasem

Director: Mark A. Cane


The M.A. Program in Climate and Society uses an interdisciplinary approach to train professionals and academics to understand and cope with the impacts of climate variability and climate change on society and the environment. The International Research Institute for Climate Prediction, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Earth Institute and Columbia faculty in the Earth Sciences, Earth Engineering, International Affairs, Sociology and Economics contribute significantly to the program. The 12-month program emphasizes the problems of developing societies.

The program is designed to teach the necessary skills and needed background in the social and natural sciences to: policy administrators and other decision-makers in water resource management, agriculture, health, tourism and economics, especially from the developing world; policy professionals and administrators in the United States and elsewhere who want to pursue strategies in sustainable development; private sector professionals dealing with risk and decisions relating to environmental change; and educators, who are training a generation that can no longer ignore climate. It also serves recent graduates in the natural and social sciences interested in interdisciplinary environmental action or research. The program has an intrinsic interest in recruiting outstanding applicants from the developing world who plan to return to advance development in their own societies. At the end of twelve intensive months of study, graduates are prepared to obtain positions in government, business, nongovernmental organizations and teaching or to continue their academic careers in the social or natural sciences.

Graduate Degrees Offered

Masters of Arts in Climate and Society

Admissions Requirements

Applicants should have completed a bachelor’s degree in the physical sciences, engineering, social sciences, or planning and policy studies. Work experience in a related field is considered desirable. Students are selected for admission based on their academic background and related work experience. The General Test of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is required. The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam is required for non-native speakers of English.

In addition to the requirements listed below, all students must submit a Statement of Academic Purpose and 3 letters of evaluation from academic sources.
Degree: Master’s Only
Deadline for Fall Admission: February 1
Deadline for Spring Admission: None
Resume/CV: Yes
Writing Sample: Optional
GRE General: Yes
GRE Subject: No
Miscellaneous: Some undergraduate-level coursework on climate or a related topic is preferred. Some previous social science courses or experience in policy and administration. Knowledge of calculus. Undergraduate-level courses in Introductory Statistics or Data Analysis.
To apply to the program, please register for an application ID and fill out the online application at

Degree Requirements

Students complete two semesters of graduate-level interdisciplinary course work in the fall and spring terms and choose between an internship or thesis project in the summer term, and must participate in the Summer Seminar. The M.A. Program in Climate and Society requires a unique set of core classes especially designed for the program’s students. The core provides a scientific basis for inquiry and stresses interdisciplinary problem solving. A professional development seminar, one social science elective, three general electives, and a choice between a summer internship or research thesis complete the required core.

After consulting with the faculty adviser, each student selects one social science elective in the fall semester and three electives from any relevant discipline in the spring semester.

Any approved course at the 4000 level or higher may be used to fulfill the social science elective course requirement in the fall term or to count as one of the three required general elective courses in the spring term. With permission of the program director, appropriate courses from other schools or departments (e.g., School of International and Public Affairs, Mailman School of Public Health, The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science) may be counted toward the degree.

Fall Term
o Dynamics of climate variability and climate change
o Quantitative models of climate-sensitive natural and human systems
o Integrative Seminar on Climate and Society, I
o Professional Development and Internship Preparation
o Social Science Elective

Spring Term
o Integrative Seminar on Climate and Society, II
o Regional Climate and Climate Impacts
o General Elective I
o General Elective II
o General Elective III

Summer Term
o Summer Seminar
o Summer Research Project or Summer Internship

Program Schedule

Students complete the twelve-month M.A. Program in Climate and Society in three semesters: autumn, spring, and summer. The Fall semester begins in early September, and the Summer term usually ends in the middle of the following August.

Faculty Information

Tony Barnston Director of Forecast Operations Climate, Prediction, Dynamics; Lecturer (International Research Institute for Climate Prediction), Ph.D.

Mark A. Cane Professor, Ph.D., MIT, 1975.

Steven A. Cohen Director, Master of Public Administration Program in Environmental Science and Policy, School of International and Public Affairs; Director, Executive Master of Public Administration Program; Director, Office of Educational Programs of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

Peter B. deMenocal  Associate Professor, Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Dana Fisher Assistant Professor (Sociology), Ph.D., University of Wisconsin (Madison), 2001.

Anthony Del Genio Adjunct Professor, Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Lisa Goddard Research Scientist, Lecturer (International Research Institute for Climate Prediction), Ph.D., Princeton.

Upmanu Lall Senior Research Scientist (Earth and Environmental Engineering), Ph.D., University of Texas, 1981.

Douglas Martinson Senior Research Scientist, Climate Modeling and Diagnostics Group, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Vijay Modi Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering at Columbia University. (Ph.D. Cornell 1984, postdoctoral work MIT 1984–1986).

John C. Mutter Professor, Departments of Earth and Environmental Sciences and of International and Public Affairs, Ph.D., Columbia, 1982.

Dorothy Peteet Adjunct Senior Research Scientist, NASA/ Goddard Institute for Space Studies/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Alexander S. Pfaff Director, Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development (CGSD), The Earth Institute at Columbia University; Associate Research Scientist, IRI.

David Rind Adjunct Professor (NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies), Ph.D., Columbia, 1976.

Cynthia Rosenzweig Research Scientist (NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies), Ph.D., University of Massachusetts, 1991.

Christopher Small Associate Research Scientist, Marine Geology and Geophysics, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Shiv Someshwar Dr. Shiv Someshwar is a member of the research faculty at Columbia University, New York.

Awash Teklehaimanot wash Teklehaimanot is a senior staff member of the World Health Organization (WHO/Geneva) and is seconded to Columbia University to work with Jeff Sachs at Columbia’s Center for Global Health and Economic Development and at the Earth Institute Ph.D., Purdue University.

Mingfang Ting Associate Director, M.A. Program in Climate and Society and Doherty Senior Research Scientist, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Ph.D., Princeton, 1990.

M. Neil Ward International Research Institute for Climate Prediction (IRI), Director of Decision Systems Research, Information, Training, Downscaling, Ph.D.

Financial Information

Tuition and fees for the 2007–2008 academic year (including summer) total about $38,586. A complete list of applicable fees will be provided on a billing invoice. Total estimated cost of attendance for the entire degree (calculated based on very modest accommodations in New York City are around $62,000

Financial Aid: Applicants to the program who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents are typically eligible for federal Stafford student loans. All interested applicants must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is available at all colleges and high schools, and online at Students are strongly encouraged to submit their FAFSA form. Following admission, all students who submitted a FAFSA form will be advised by the School of their eligibility for federal aid via an award letter with the forms and materials needed to apply for Stafford loans. Additional financing support in the form of private loans can help to meet the full cost of tuition. Students enrolled in the program are eligible to have prior federal student loans deferred during their term of study.

Scholarships: A limited number of full and partial scholarships will be available to students in this program for the academic year. Full scholarships will cover full tuition and fees (including health insurance). Partial scholarships will cover a portion of tuition and fees and are typically between $5,000 and $10,000.

In addition to scholarships, a number of program-related work opportunities are sometimes available to students in the program who are receiving financial aid.

Scholarships are granted on the basis of merit and need and vary from year to year. There is no special application, other than the application to the program through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University. Scholarships are available to students on the basis of merit and need, regardless of citizenship. U.S. applicants should fill out the FAFSA form as soon as possible.