Education News

Final Presentations Mark Graduation of Master of Arts in Climate and Society Class of 2008

2008-08-06

Wyatt Boyd, a member of the fourth class of the Master of Arts in Climate and Society (MA CS), had to present one more argument to complete his degree and start his new job at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the fall. On August 4th, 2008, Wyatt and twenty-three MA CS classmates presented the work that they did during their three-month summer internships. From researching and writing policy responses for the Carbon Tax Center in New York to assessing climate forecasting tools for the Red Cross in Panama, the students were able to apply their skills at a wide range of organizations across the globe.

Daniel Bader (MA CS '08) discusses his internship at the Columbia Center for Climate Systems Research, part of the NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

"The MA in Climate and Society Program has given our students the skills and on-the-ground training necessary to develop their understanding of climate change and its socioeconomic impacts, especially in the developing world,” said Arezou Raeisghasem, Assistant Director of the MA CS program. “The presentations were wonderful. It was great to see how students have used the skills from their coursework in the CS program and applied it to real-world problems."

The MA Program in Climate and Society, housed in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University, is a unique 12-month interdisciplinary Masters program that offers its students the opportunity to learn about climate science and policy from the physical and social science perspectives. Students take electives within various schools at Columbia, including public health, international affairs and engineering in order to gain a better understanding of the impacts of climate variability and climate change on society and the environment. With the graduation of the Class of 2008, the program has now graduated a total of 74 students from all over the world who go on to pursue careers in non-profit, public, and private organizations.

This year, students completed their summer internships in a wide range of non-profit, government and private organizations including The Climate Group, the World Resources Institute, the Carbon Tax Center, and the Columbia Center for Climate Systems Research at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies. An audience of peers and faculty attended the final presentations, which detailed the students’ internship duties and accomplishments over the last three months and their plans for the future.

“Completing the research paper on emissions migration was my culminating piece of work,” remarked Wyatt, who interned at the Carbon Tax Center, a small grass-roots organization in New York City.  Wyatt continued, “The research paper I completed during the internship includes a discussion of the legal aspects of bringing suit before the WTO seeking cross-border wealth adjustments, the political considerations of any possible policy, the economic and diplomatic costs and benefits, and a rigorous discussion of the strategy, tactics, strengths and weaknesses of all possible ways to address emissions migration.”

Having gained valuable knowledge in the MA CS program and experience at the Carbon Tax Center, Wyatt will be starting a full time position at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at the beginning of September 2008. Wyatt has long thought that a revenue-neutral carbon tax was a more efficient and effective means to mitigate climate change and reduce emissions. With this in mind, Wyatt chose an organization that worked on this issue to complete his internship.  At the Carbon Tax Center, he researched and wrote potential policy responses to the issue of emissions migration and wrote two briefs on the cost of clean coal and carbon capture.

“I think working with three different organizations was very interesting. We saw how the organizations worked separately and from the outside, were able to see how they could work together,” said Sarah Abdelrahim (MA CS '08). Sarah and Lisette Braman (MA CS '08) traveled abroad for their work with three partnering organizations: the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), and Centro del Agua del Trópico Húmedo para América Latina y El Caribe (CATHALAC).

In Panama, Sarah and Lisette worked to assess what climate forecasting tools exist and how they can best be used by the Red Cross to manage climate related disasters such as hurricanes and floods. Sarah continued, “The experience of working in a different country was definitely beneficial in understanding the differences in the ways that business is approached and conducted.”

There is a pressing need for professionals who understand the links between climate change and its socioeconomic impacts. The Columbia MA in Climate and Society trains professionals and academics to understand and cope with the impacts of climate variability and climate change on society and the environment.

Prospective students interested in learning about the MA in Climate and Society program are encouraged to contact Arezou Raeisghasem at 212-854-9896 or at arezou@ei.columbia.edu for more information.

The following is a partial list of the wide array of organizations at which the Class of ’08 completed their summer internships:

  • The Carbon Tax Center, based in New York, is a non-profit, grassroots organization aiming to create a nation-wide discussion on emissions taxing, and provide a sense of community for Americans concerned with 21st century climate realities. (Intern, NYC)
  • The Center for Climate Systems Research (CCSR), based in New York, focuses on the impact of climate variability on human and environmental stability. The CCSR provides interdisciplinary research for the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University. (Intern, NYC)
  • The Climate Group, based in London, researches how energy efficiency can be economically profitable and environmentally pragmatic in both the private and public sector. (Intern, NYC)
  • Coalition for Rainforest Nations, based in New York, aims to reconcile rainforest stewardship with economic development in forested and tropical regions by reforming international trade frameworks with market incentives. (Intern, NYC)
  • The Columbia Water Center, based in New York, serves as a focal point for The Earth Institute’s water-related projects, including: water security in Asia, sustainable development of water resources in Northern Ethiopia, and managing climate variability, water flow and ecological restoration in the Everglades. (Intern, NYC)
  • International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), based in Geneva, is a humanitarian organization that orchestrates relief assistance missions in response to global emergency situations (tsunamis, mass refugee flows, and epidemics), bringing medical, psychological and social support for injured individuals. Two students from the MA Program in Climate and Society will be based in Panama and Senegal to work on a joint project between the IFRC, CATHALAC and IRI. (Interns, Panama and Senegal)
  • International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) at The Earth Institute, based in New York, researches how historic variability, real-time monitoring and seasonal forecasting can improve policy decisions in health and other sectors. (Interns, Panama and Senegal)
  • New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, based in Albany, studies the effects of energy use, the advancement of environmentally-friendly technologies, the development of renewable resources, and aims to reduce New York’s petroleum consumption. (Intern, NYC)
  • Trickle Up, based in New York, is a nonprofit organization that provides business training and seed capital grants to help the extreme poor launch microenterprises. (Finance Intern, NYC)
  • The UN Environment Program Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch, based in Geneva, aids areas of the world impacted by conflicts and natural disasters by promoting regional cooperation and conducting environmental assessments for crisis-affected countries. (Intern, Geneva, Switzerland)
  • The Water Center for Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean (CATHALAC), based in Panama, promotes sustainable development through integrated water and environmental management and acts as a regional training facility for Central America, Mexico and Cuba. (Interns, Panama and Senegal)
  • World Resources Institute, based in Washington, D.C., is an environmental think tank that researches how a healthy environment and a healthy economy can peacefully coexist and provides public access to information and key decisions regarding the environment and natural resources. (Cynthia Helms Fellow, Washington, D.C.)