Climate Experts: A Journalist's Guide

Sources and story ideas for journalists covering all aspects of climate change.

Columbia Climate School
September 11, 2019


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Climate School researchers work all over the world. Here, ecologist Natalie Boelman studies the effects of shifting climate conditions on trees in northern Alaska. Photo: Kevin Krajick

Climate change touches nearly every corner of the planet and every aspect of human experience. The Columbia Climate School is dedicated to helping journalists explain the issues. Here are some of our researchers working on climate and related topics. Most can be contacted through the hyperlinks below. At bottom, you will find a list of centers, affiliates and programs with whom our researchers are associated. For expertise in immediate climate-related disasters such as extreme weather events and wildfires, consult our somewhat overlapping Journalists’ Guide to Disaster Experts. For further help, contact Kevin Krajick, [email protected] or Caroline Adelman, [email protected].

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Adaptation, Mitigation, and Resilience

  • Mélody Braun studies mitigation strategies in developed countries as well as adaptation strategies in developing countries, from policies at the country level to implementation at the community level.
  • Geographer and demographer Susana Adamo studies the dynamics of human migration and displacement driven by vulnerability to climate change and other factors.
  • Lisa Dale studies the laws, regulations, norms and voluntary actions that individuals and communities can take to adapt to climate change. Her work focuses on two main areas: developing nations, and the American West, especially the wildfires that occur there. She is author of the book Climate Change Adaptation.
  • George Deodatis is a civil engineer who assesses the vulnerability of urban infrastructure to natural and technological hazards, especially the effects of climate change and extreme weather, with the goal of establishing adaptation and mitigation strategies.
  • Alex de Sherbinin maps social vulnerability to climate change, and studies climate impacts on human migration and displacement, including managed retreat from coastal inundation.
  • Paul Gallay, an attorney and educator, leads the Resilient Coastal Communities Project, which seeks to mitigate flooding and promote social justice. He has been working since the 1980s to promote the sustainability of human and natural communities in the New York City region.
  • Mona Hemmati researches extreme weather events and assesses actions communities can take to resist or retreat from them, including storm surge and other flooding events.
  • Radley Horton’s research focuses on climate vulnerability, extreme weather, sea-level rise, and adaptation to climate change, especially in urban areas. A frequent TV guest, he has served as an advisor to New York City and the Obama administration. He is co-chair of Columbia’s Climate Adaptation Initiative.
  • Klaus Jacob has long been involved in mapping climate hazards in coastal areas and advising on adaptation measures. A longtime member of the New York City Panel on Climate Change, he is best known for accurately predicting the inundation of the subways and other parts of the city during Superstorm Sandy.
  • Malgosia Madajewicz is an economist who studies adaptation to climate change, and the effectiveness of adaptation strategies. Much of her research focuses on the role that institutions and networks play in influencing communities to act. In particular, she has studied flash flooding in New York, and sea-level rise in coastal tribal lands.
  • As former director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, Nilda Mesa directed the city’s long-term sustainability plan which, for the first time for a major U.S. city, tied environmental initiatives with economic development, equity and resilience.
  • Thaddeus Pawlowski manages the Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes. He seeks to integrate climate resilience against flooding and other events into the long-term development patterns of cities. He has worked with, among others, the New York City Office of Emergency Management.
  • Kate Orff is a landscape architect whose work on design for climate resilience has been developed with cities and institutions worldwide to create urban systems of the future, integrating social life, infrastructure and biodiversity. In 2017 she was named a “MacArthur genius.”
  • Cynthia Rosenzweig co-directs the Urban Climate Change Research Network, an international effort that helps cities design for resilience. She has served as co-chair of the New York City Panel on Climate Change.
  • Nadia Seeteram is a postdoc at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory who studies flooding and the potential for climate migration, green gentrification and managed retreat in response to sea-level rise.
  • Amy Turner is working with city legal departments and sustainability offices to provide key resources to efficiently and effectively address ways to adapt to warming climate.
  • Romany Webb of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law studies ways to make the electric grid and other infrastructure more resilient to climate-related impacts, including floods and cold and heat waves, and to develop a legal framework for large-scale carbon sequestration projects.
  • Daniel Zarrilli was formerly chief climate advisor to the New York City Mayor’s Office, where he led the city’s climate adaptation and mitigation plans. He is now special advisor to Columbia on sustainability and climate.


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Photo: Kevin Krajick
  • Walter Baethgen works to improve climate risk assessment and management in agriculture, health, water resources and natural ecosystems, especially in Latin America.
  • Benjamin Cook focuses on how climate change and variability affect the occurrence of drought in North America and other regions including the Mideast, and the subsequent effects on agriculture. He and colleagues have done key research on the current megadrought in the U.S. West. He has also looked into the effects of climate change on wine production.
  • Azhar Ehsan studies climate and climate change in the locust belt, from northern Africa through the Mideast and India.
  • Jessica Fanzo is a leading global scholar in the transdisciplinary field of food systems, focusing on greater diversity and quality of diets, and reducing carbon footprints and building resilience to climate change.
  • James W. Hansen researches farmers’ economic risk, conflicts in land use, climate-based crop forecasting, and tropical soil fertility and intercrop ecology.
  • Jonas Jägermeyr, a crop modeler and climate scientist, studies the potential effects of climate change on staple crops including corn, wheat and rice around the world. He has also investigated the possible effects of nuclear war.
  • Kevin Karl of the Center for Climate Systems Research focuses on the intersection of food and climate change, including estimating greenhouse gas emissions from food systems, modeling of food systems, and developing policy solutions that address the climate crisis. He had a previous career as a vegetable farmer.
  • Carolyn Mutter coordinates the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project, which places regional impacts of climate change into global context in order to assess vulnerabilities in world food security.
  • Daniel Osgood leads a team that has helped hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers in the developing world purchase weather-based index insurance that they themselves have helped design, through farmer-driven, science-based processes.
  • Michael Puma studies global food security, focusing on the susceptibility of the global food network to natural (e.g., megadroughts, volcanic eruptions) and manmade (wars, trade restrictions) disturbances.
  • Cynthia Rosenzweig investigates the potential effects of climate change on world agriculture, and the carbon footprint of the food industry. She was the 2022 recipient of the World Food Prize.
  • Wolfram Schlenker focuses on the potential impacts of climate change on crops, including in the United States, and on international human migration. He also looks at the effect of pollution on agricultural yields, agricultural markets and human health.
  • Lewis Ziska is world-renown authority on plant biology, pest management and the direct effects of carbon dioxide and changing climate on crops and other plant life, especially rice, along with public health.

Arts, Architecture, Culture and Education

  • Erica Avrami studies sustainable urban planning and the preservation of historic architecture in the context of climate adaptation and social justice.
  • Amale Andraos focuses on the impact of climate change on architecture. Former dean of Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, she now acts as advisor to the Climate School.
  • Psychiatrist Gary Belkin directs the Billion Minds Project, which seeks to link mental health to the climate crisis, and grow a robust social climate where people can work together to confront the challenges of sustainability. 
  • Lola Ben-Alon heads the Natural Materials Lab, where she and her colleagues design methods and substances that can be used in sustainable, low-carbon building, fashion and other endeavors.
  • Elizabeth Cline is teaching a new course on fashion policy as part of the Sustainability Management Masters Program at the Climate School.
  • Professor of English and comparative literature Sarah Cole is co-head of the Climate Imaginations Network, along with graduate student Ben Mylius. The network’s focus is on climate storytelling in all its forms, in both the humanities and sciences.
  • Psychologist and book author Peter Coleman studies the cultural and psychological factors that lead to polarized political attitudes on diverse subjects including climate change, and how seemingly intractable conflicts can be resolved.
  • Sandra Goldmark is a leader in circularity, encouraging people to fix and/or recycle as many consumer goods as possible. A designer by profession, she has held pop-up fix-it operations across New York City, and is the author of Fixation: How to Have Stuff Without Breaking the Planet.
  • Elan Goldwaser, a professor at Columbia University Medical Center, is a sports-medicine physician who has studied the effects of climate change on athletics, from skiing to soccer and other sports.
  • Economist Radhika Iyengar focuses on developing educational programs that promote climate literacy among young people domestically and internationally.
  • In addition to using satellite data to understand climate-related hazards, Caroline Juang is an artist who creates comics, illustrations and digital media related to climate and other scientific fields.
  • Kelton Minor applies tools from spatial data science and computational social science to study how humans adapt to and understand planetary changes and climate hazards.
  • Jorge Otero-Pailos works at the intersection of art, architecture and historic preservation, particularly in landscapes threatened by climate change.
  • Adjunct professor Julie Reiss teaches a new course, Art & Sustainability, which explores the history and impacts of art in video, writing, sculpture and other forms around the globe that address climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution and related issues.
  • Jeffrey Shrader is a labor and environmental economist who studies how people respond long-term climate trends as well as day-to-day weather forecasts.
  • Laurel Zaima teaches students and advises a variety of educational programs on the natural environment, climate and sustainability. Her focus is on empowering young people to shape a resilient future, and improving K-12 and educator offerings.

Carbon Capture and Sequestration

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Peter Kelemen in Oman, where he studies carbon-capturing minerals. Photo: Kevin Krajick

Cryosphere (Polar Regions, Mountain Glaciers)

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Polar scientist Robin Bell in Antarctica.
  • Robin Bell studies the ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland, focusing on ice sheet dynamics and mass balance, and linkages between ice sheet processes and subglacial geology and water. She has played a key role in the discovery of Antarctica’s many sub-ice mountains, rivers and lakes.
  • Indrani Das studies the physical processes that impact the mass balance and stability of ice sheets and ice shelves, as well as ice-atmosphere and ice-ocean interactions. She works mainly in Antarctica.
  • Pierre Dutrieux studies Antarctic ice and its interactions with the atmosphere and surrounding ocean. Among other things, he deploys autonomous robots that roam under the continent’s ice shelves.
  • Jonathan Kingslake models and observes the flow of ice and liquid water in polar ice sheets and glaciers. His work spans glacial hydrology and geophysics, remote sensing and mathematical modeling.
  • Benjamin Orlove is an anthropologist who examines the human effects of mountain glacier retreat, with an emphasis on water, natural hazards and the loss of iconic landscapes.
  • Lettie Roach studies the physics of sea ice both in the Arctic and Antarctic, and interactions between ocean and land connected to its waxing and waning.
  • Joerg Schaefer is a geologist who examines past and present changes in mountain glaciers and ice sheets across the world, including in New Zealand, Greenland and Europe, and their influence on sea levels. He is particularly interested in abrupt changes. His research has shown that the Greenland ice sheet melted almost completely in the recent geologic past.
  • Marco Tedesco explores the dynamics of ongoing ice melt in Greenland and Antarctica, using satellite data and on-the-ground observations.
  • Kirsty Tinto works to understand the dynamics of ice in all its forms, including sea ice, glaciers and ice sheets. Most of her recent work has been in Greenland.
  • Xiaojun Yuan studies the relationship of sea ice to atmospheric and ocean conditions in the Arctic and Antarctic, and how they connect to weather in the lower latitudes. She has developed forecast models for polar sea ice fields and maintains regular seasonal predictions.
  • Christopher Zappa and Ajit Subramaniam study the ocean surface, including investigations of how Arctic sea ice is changing, done in conjunction with indigenous people in Alaska. Subramaniam has been focusing recently on blooms of harmful algae.


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Maria Uriarte collecting data on how Puerto Rico’s forests were altered by Hurricane Maria. Photo: Kevin Krajick
  • Natalie Boelman is investigating  how warming climate is affecting birds, vegetation, tree growth, wildfires and animals in the boreal forest and tundra regions of northern Alaska and Canada.
  • Ruth DeFries examines human transformation of the landscape and its consequences for climate,  biodiversity and ecosystem services. A particular focus of her work is tropical deforestation in India, Brazil and elsewhere. A recipient of a MacArthur “genius” award, she has also explored the lessons that human technology can adopt from nature.
  • Maria Diuk-Wasser studies the distribution and interactions of humans with ticks, mosquitoes and other disease vectors, and their relation to climate and other factors. The ailments she studies include malaria, dengue fever and Lyme disease.
  • Kristina Douglass is an archaeologist and anthropologist whose research focuses on human-environment interactions, integrating ecological and biological data to understand the relationship between communities and their changing environment over time. Much of her work is in Madagascar.
  • Sonya Dyhrman studies marine microbes that form the basis of the web from the poles to the tropics, their role in cycling carbon and nutrients, and their interactions with climate.
  • Joaquim Goes focuses on climate change and its impacts on ocean biota, especially harmful algae blooms appearing in the Mideast and elsewhere. He also studies the presence of plastics in the oceans and other water bodies.
  • Kevin Griffin is a tree and plant physiologist who studies how vegetation takes up and gives off carbon. He is looking into how climate change may affect these processes, as well as future species composition of forests and tundra. He works around the world including in the New York area.
  • Andrew Juhl studies how algae and plankton in oceans, lakes, streams, and Arctic sea ice are changing as the world warms, as well as how manmade pollutants enter and travel through water bodies.
  • Jenna Lawrence is a behavioral ecologist and conservation biologist who studies biodiversity and sustainability in relation to climate change.
  • Shahid Naeem studies the consequences of biodiversity loss due to climate change, habitat destruction and other factors. He is interested in how changes in the distribution and abundance of plants, animals and microbes affect how ecosystems function and how ecosystem services are affected, along with immediate questions such as how to make farming more sustainable.
  • Matthew Palmer studies the biodiversity of urban and suburban areas including the effects of climate change on trees and plants, and the spread of invasive species.
  • Dorothy Peteet analyzes pollen, spores, and plant and animal fossils in swamp, marsh and bog cores to understand past climate change and to study the effects of changing climate and sea levels on carbon storage in wetlands. Her work spans the U.S. Northeast to Alaska, including New York City.
  • Mukund Palat Rao researches how climate affects forests and other natural ecosystems. His research spans South Asia, Mongolia, Europe, Latin America and various parts of the United States, where he employs dendrochronology, plant ecophysiology, remote sensing and climate science.
  • Maria Uriarte studies tropical forests and their response to climate and disturbances such as hurricanes. She recently found that more frequent big storms whipped up by a warming climate could permanently alter forests across much of the Atlantic tropics.

Energy Policy and Technology

  • Jason Bordoff, a former advisor to the Obama administration and director of the Center on Global Energy Policy, is one of the world’s top energy policy experts. His research and policy interests lie at the intersection of economics, energy, environment and national security.
  • Geologist and climate scientist Daniel Babin studies the ocean bottom; he recently started an initiative to look into the prospects and effects of deep-sea mining for minerals such as nickel and copper needed to build out clean-energy technologies.
  • Chris Bataille has for decades focused on the carbon footprint of various sectors and the transition to a globally sustainable energy system, especially through changes in managing heavy industry such as cement, steel, and petrochemicals.
  • Erica Downs is a policy analyst who focuses on Chinese energy markets and geopolitics.
  • Matthew Eisenson leads the Renewable Energy Defense Fund, which uses legal research and engagement to support siting utility- and community-scale renewable energy facilities and associated transmission and storage equipment.
  • Jonathan Elkind worked on international energy and climate issues at the U.S. Department of Energy, helping to coordinate energy policy and leading climate and energy programs with global partners.
  • Antoine Halff has worked as chief oil analyst at the International Energy Agency and lead industry economist at the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
  • Upmanu Lall  studies the climate-related factors that could lead to and “droughts” of energy in the wind, hydropower and solar sectors.
  • Melissa Lott is a professor at the Columbia Climate School, where her work focuses on achieving an equitable transition to net-zero energy. She is an expert on the power sector, renewable energy and energy grids, and the challenges to them posed by changing climate, including energy droughts.
  • Vijay Modi leads the Sustainable Engineering Lab, which focuses on expanding and improving access to clean, inexpensive energy and other services, including heat pumps. The group’s work includes installation of solar microgrids in rural areas of the developing world, and design of “smart” buildings of U.S. urban areas.
  • David Goldberg of the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy and Alan West of the Columbia Electrochemical Energy Center and colleagues are working to improve creation and storage of various forms of renewable energy. Some associates, mainly at Columbia Engineering, include Daniel Esposito (solar cells), Yuan Yang and Daniel Steingart (advanced batteries), Robert Farrauto (hydrogen fuel cells, reusable fuels), Vasilis Fthenakis (life cycle analyses of renewable and nuclear technologies) and Jingguang Chen (fuel cells and seasonal energy storage).
  • Nicholaus Rohleder, an adjunct professor, is co-chief investment officer of New American Energy, a private investment firm and foundation focused on the economic impact emanating from the energy transition in the United States.
  • David Sandalow served as acting secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy. He writes and speaks widely on energy and climate policy, including the financing and geopolitics of renewable energy.
  • Abraham Silverman develops policies to deal with legal, regulatory and economic barriers to renewable energy and a robust power grid, with a focus on just deployment of infrastructure.
  • Katherine Spector is a longtime energy market analyst, focusing on traded and financial energy markets, with an emphasis on oil and natural gas.

Extreme Weather and Natural Disasters
(See also: our list of hurricane experts)

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Hurricane Irma forming over the Atlantic Ocean in September 2017. Image: NASA
  • Michela Biasutti is an atmospheric scientist who focuses on monsoons and climate in the tropics and subtropics, in particular on what controls the location and intensity of rainfall during hurricanes, cyclones and other extreme weather.
  • Jatan Buch is part of a group group studying the factors that cause wildfires, including climate, vegetation and atmospheric conditions, along with mapping vulnerable populations. His work currently centers on the U.S, West.
  • Suzana Camargo studies tropical cyclones (hurricanes) and their relationship with the climate. She is executive director of Columbia’s Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate.
  • Robert Field has helped develop fire danger rating systems for Canada, Indonesia and Malaysia. He currently studies the effects of the water cycle on fires, and the cause, fate and effects of emissions from fires.
  • Caroline Juang uses satellite imagery and other data to understand climate-related hazards, especially wildfires in the U.S. West.
  • Kai Kornhuber investigates drivers, impacts and future risks of extreme climatic events such as heat waves, droughts, heavy rainfall and floods. He has identified recent changes in the jet stream linked to such phenomena.
  • Chia-Ying Lee uses models to study typhoons, cyclones and hurricanes, along with drought, and their relationship to climate change and cycles such as El Niño/La Niña.
  • Richard Seager analyzes the causes of multiyear droughts and other extreme weather around the world, and how climate change will impact global hydroclimate. His most well-known studies are on American West megadrought, the influence of El Niño and the role of climate change in violent conflicts.
  • Adam Sobel is director of Columbia’s Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate, and author of the book Storm Surge, about Superstorm Sandy. He studies weather and climate, with a focus on extreme weather events.
  • Michael Tippett is a pioneer is forecasting monthly tornado activity. He also investigates how severe thunderstorms (resulting in tornadoes, hail or damaging wind) and tropical cyclones are related to climate, now and in the future.
  • Marcus van Lier-Walqui studies the genesis of thunderstorms and the tornadoes they sometimes spin off, including the possible roles that climate and air pollution could play.
  • Yutian Wu studies atmospheric general circulation, climate dynamics, and climate change. One of her recent studies showed how warming taking place in the low and mid-latitudes leads to bursts of cold air breaking out of the Arctic.

Disaster Response

  • Andrew Kruczkiewicz integrates remote sensing into early warning systems for extreme events such as flash floods, storm surge, wildfires and landslides. He works directly with governments and humanitarian agencies.
  • Marc Levy maps the interaction between humans and earth’s surface, generating global images vital for assessing hazards and risks ranging from sea-level rise to forced migration.
  • John Mutter‘s research focuses on the role of natural disasters in constraining development opportunities for poor and emerging societies. He is author of the book The Disaster Profiteers, about how the rich often benefit from disasters, and the poor suffer.
  • Irwin Redlener founded the National Center for Disaster Preparedness. He works to understand and improve the world’s capacity to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. He is a widely recognized expert on all aspects of disasters.
  • Jeffrey Schlegelmilch, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, has broad expertise relating to disaster policy, preparedness and response, including their application to wildfires.
  • See also our Guide to Disaster Experts


  • As former head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, James E. Hansen prophetically warned the world of human-driven global warming starting in the 1980s. He now heads the Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions program, which seeks to advance science-based action against climate change.
  • Gavin Schmidt directs the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which monitors the planet’s temperature and models the various forces that affect climate. He is one of the most actively outspoken scientists on the effects of greenhouse gases and general questions about climate change.
  • Jason Smerdon studies how climate has evolved over past decades to centuries. Co-director of the Earth Institute’s Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development, he frequently appears in media to explain and discuss a wide variety of basic climate-related questions. Some of his specific research has been on megadrought in the U.S. West.
  • Alex Ruane at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies investigates a wide range of climate impacts on agriculture, water resources, urban areas, infrastructure, energy and human health. He was among the lead authors of the 2021 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.


  • Kim Knowlton focuses on issues related to the health impacts of climate change. She partners with city and state governments to make health a more central feature of climate adaptation plans.
  • Matthew Neidell specializes in environmental, health, and labor economics. Recently he has studied how climate change and rising temperatures affect cognitive performance, labor supply, and outdoor leisure.
  • Robbie Parks is an environmental epidemiologist. He is primarily interested in understanding the impact that climate, weather and air pollution can have on mortality, including through accidents and violence.
  • Frederica Perera studies how pollution from fossil fuels and warming climate affect public health, with a special focus on effects of prenatal and early childhood exposures, including both physical challenges and anxiety about climate change.
  • Historian David Rosner has long examined the links between industrial and mining pollution, and health, including from asbestos, lead and PCBs, and more recently the interactions of pollution and climate change.
  • Jeffrey Shaman, interim dean of the Climate School, investigates how climate affects vector-borne disease transmission, and how atmospheric conditions impact the survival, transmission and seasonality of pathogens such as flu. His work has shown that malaria and encephalitis might increase under climate change.
  • Cecilia Sorensen is a physician who works on climate change and health. Her work spans domestic and international emergent health issues, including heat stress and worker health, wildfires and health care utilization, emergence of the Zika virus, and climate change and women’s health.

Justice and Equality

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Photo: Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier
  • Jully Meriño Carela is director of the Women in Energy Program, which elevates women in energy by advancing equality and opportunity.
  • Joan Casey has shown that historically redlined neightborhoods are disproportionately burdened with pollution-producing oil and gas wells.
  • Courtney Cogburn is a professor of social work who examines the role of racism in producing unequal health outcomes, including through climate-related factors.
  • Lawyer Sheila Foster is expert in how laws and regulations on levels from local to national affect disadvantaged populations, in regard to energy access, land use and other areas. She is a longtime member of the New York City Panel on Climate Change.
  • Nikhar Gaikwad is a political scientist who, among other things, investigates the politics of creating cultural coalitions to confront climate change.
  • Adela Gondek is a political scientist who studies the ethics of environmental justice, politics and sustainable finance.
  • Annel Hernandez teaches environmental justice and climate resiliency, and is associate director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. She works on city and state levels, focusing on advocacy and research that further equitable investments in coastal resiliency, green infrastructure, renewable energy and resilient energy systems.
  • Diana Hernandez is a professor of sociomedical sciences who studies the links between health and housing, energy sources, especially in disadvantaged urban communities.
  • Joyce Klein-Rosenthal researches social and economic heat vulnerability in New York City and current cooling programs, and shares recommendations with authorities for how such efforts could be refined and improved to be more equitable.
  • Jacqueline Klopp, co-director of the Center for Sustainable Urban Development, explores the intersections of climate with transport, land use, air pollution and other urban issues, with an eye to creating landscapes that are more equitable across economic and social groups.
  • Adjunct professor Dan Mathis teaches a course in Equity, Policy, and Sustainability, designed to help students learn how to incorporate equity into their sustainability endeavors. His work focuses on housing and climate policy, particularly federal and state adaptation policies and disaster recovery efforts.
  • Hugo Sarmiento is an urban planner who focuses on climate change, natural disasters, and inequalities in housing and infrastructure. Specifically, his research considers how inequalities including racial segregation contribute to risk and vulnerability.
  • Marco Tedesco has studied the economic pressures that lead to climate gentrification, including when residents are driven out of lower-income neighborhoods on high ground as higher-income people retreat from low-lying coastlines.

Law, Policy, Economics, History

  • Leah Aronowsky is a historian of science and environmental history, including climate science, climate denialism and the current politics of climate and energy policy.
  • Scott Barrett is an economist whose research focuses on international agreements and institutional remedies to transnational challenges, including global climate change and the control of infectious diseases.
  • Satyajit Bose teaches sustainable investment, cost-benefit analysis and carbon pricing. He is associate director of the Earth Institute’s master’s program in sustainability management.
  • Michael Burger is executive director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. He oversees a team of attorneys working to combat climate change, focusing on legal strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote pollution control, resource management, land use planning and green finance.
  • Steven A. Cohen, former executive director of the Earth Institute, is an expert in environmental policy and sustainability management. A former EPA official, he often speaks on federal, state and city environmental policies, and sustainability education.
  • Jesse Coleman is a legal researcher at the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment who focuses on investment law and policy, natural resources, and the intersection between human rights and sustainable development.
  • Climate School professor Caroline Flammer specializes in studying sustainable finance, banking and investment, and their roles in addressing climate change.
  • V. Page Fortna studies the domestic and international politics, ethics and sociology of climate change and climate activism, along with international climate agreements.
  •  Ama Francis specializes in developing legal solutions to disaster displacement and climate migration. She also analyzes and supports the implementation of adaptive measures in small islands and poor countries.
  • Michael Gerrard, one of the nation’s top environmental lawyers, directs the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. He and colleagues monitor climate-related legal developments, and government efforts to thwart action against climate change. Among other things, he is leading an initiative that provides legal support for renewable energy projects.
  • Cynthia Hanawalt is a securities lawyer whose work supports financial regulation on climate-related risk at the federal and state levels. She collaborates with a range of investor networks and environmental groups, and writes regularly on issues of financial regulation and policy, including cryptocurrency.
  • Geoffrey Heal is a global thought leader in studying the economics of sustainable natural-resources use and climate change.
  • Robert Johnston of the Center on Global Energy Policy studies the use of natural resources in the oil, gas and electric power industries, and the mining of critical metals needed for clean-energy technology.
  • Noah Kaufman is an economist who has worked on energy and climate change policy in both the public and private sectors. He has studied carbon pricing, the economic impacts of climate policies, and long-term decarbonization strategies.
  • Christoph Meinrenken focuses on computer modeling to improve the technological and economic performance of low-carbon energy systems. Recent research projects include energy storage in smart buildings, and an automated system to measure the carbon footprints of major consumer products.
  • Leslie Rich is an equities analyst who teaches a course in financing the clean energy economy. Her expertise includes electric, gas and water projects.
  • Jeffrey Sachs is a world-renown economist. He focuses on many different aspects of climate-related sustainable development, including public health, economics, social inclusion and food security.
  • Lisa Sachs heads the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment, which encourages governments and industries to maintain a livable environment and human rights through sustainable investment and finance practices. The center focuses in part on the roles that mining and other extractive industries, energy production and land use play in climate change. Among those staff members focusing on mining, metals recycling, electronic waste and their relation to clean energy technology are Martin Dietrich-Brauch and Perrine Toledano.
  • Maria Antonia Tigre is a lawyer who is expert in tracking and analyzing international laws regarding climate litigation and environmental protection.
  • Bruce Usher is author of an Earth Institute primer on the financial and business aspects of sustainable energy, an expert on carbon offsets and carbon footprints, and the role finance banking and investment can play in dealing with climate change.
  • Gernot Wagner is a climate economist. His research, writing, and teaching focus on climate risks and climate policy, along with sustainable investment, banking and finance. He has written several books including Geoengineering: the Gamble, and Climate Shock.
  • Jessica Wentz is a lawyer whose work spans a variety of topics related to climate change and environmental justice and human rights. Much of her research focuses on how existing can be used in conjunction with climate science to hold governments and private actors accountable for contributions to climate change.


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Photo: U.S. Coast Guard
  • Ryan Abernathey is an oceanographer studying the strength and structure of global circulation, and its implications for climate.
  • Susanne Bauer studies aerosols from both human pollution and natural sources such as volcanoes, and their interaction with clouds and climate.
  • Mark Cane is best known for co-creating the first working model of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, a cyclic change of surface conditions on the Pacific Ocean that affects weather across much of the world. Outgrowths of his work are now applied globally to decisions about agriculture, health and water issues.
  • Róisín Commane measures the sources and fates of carbon dioxide, methane and other gases across the planet, including New York City and the most remote areas of the world.
  • Azhar Ehsan focuses on climate variations at timescales from weeks to years, as driven by El Niño, sea-surface temperature and other forces, especially in regard to rainfall. His current regional foci include the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.
  • Arnold Gordon looks at ocean stratification, circulation and mixing, and their roles in the planet’s climate system.
  • Baerbel Hoenisch’s research is focused on understanding the history of carbon dioxide levels in the ocean and their effect on acidification.
  • Nancy Kiang conducts research on the interaction between the biosphere and the atmosphere, focusing on life on land, including photosynthesis, the cycling of water through plant leaves, seasonal cycles of growth and decay, and occasional big events like wildfires.
  • Pushker Kharecha studies a broad range of issues involving greenhouse gases, including the influence on the atmosphere of different forms of energy generation, including coal burning and nuclear.
  • Yochanan Kushnir studies how the oceans influence climate variability over scales of years to decades. His recent work has focused on climate swings in Europe, the Mediterranean and Mideast.
  • Braddock Linsley tracks past and present changes in ocean temperature and other conditions, and the oceans’ ability to absorb carbon using massive coral skeletons.
  • Galen McKinley studies the movements of carbon through the oceans and atmosphere. Her work includes assessing how future change in ocean carbon fluxes will interact with human emissions.
  • Jerry McManus studies a wide variety of climate-related ocean processes, including past and potential changes in circulation patterns, fertilization of the ocean by iron and other substances, and biological cycles.
  • Ron Miller studies the effects of aerosols, especially wind-blown soil dust, upon the climate, including perturbations to temperature and precipitation.
  • Yves Moussallam is a volcanologist who, in addition to working to improve eruption forecasts, studies how gases that emerge from volcanoes may affect climate.
  • Lorenzo Polvani’s research encompasses many aspects of atmospheric dynamics, including the response of climate to ozone-depleting substances, and the effect of Arctic and Antarctic climate change on the lower latitudes.
  • Michael Previdi‘s work falls under the broad category climate dynamics. This includes how aerosols, atmospheric circulation patterns such as the jet stream, and other factors influence precipitation and differential warming, such as amplified warming in the Arctic.
  • Andrew Robertson heads the climate group at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, which looks into the influence of El Niño and other forces on monsoon rains, dry spells and other significant weather.
  • Mingfang Ting is an atmospheric physicist who studies climate and the regional effects of the jet stream and other circulation patterns such as atmospheric rivers on droughts, heat waves and extreme precipitation, including rain and snow in North America and elsewhere.
  • George Tseloudis heads a research team that analyzes observations and model simulations to investigate cloud, radiation, and precipitation changes, and their relation to climate.
  • Dan Westervelt studies climate modeling, aerosol-climate interactions, and air quality in many places, including Africa and China, with special attention to communities that suffer outsize impacts from air pollution. Among those working with him is PhD. candidate Garima Raheja.
  • Christopher Zappa is carrying out investigations of waves, sea ice and ocean-air interactions and other phenomena using drones and other innovative methods. In one key project, he has been working with native collaborators in Alaska whose livelihoods depend on fast-changing sea ice.


billy d'andrea pulls up sediment core on easter island
William D’Andrea (second from left) pulls up a sediment core from a wetland on Easter Island. Photo: Andrea Seelenfreund
  • Edward Cook heads the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Tree Ring Lab, which uses tree-ring data from across the world to study climates going back hundreds to thousands of years, and the implications for the future. He has assembled atlases of tree-ring history for much of the planet that have informed a wide range of studies. Other tree-ring scientists working in various parts of the world include Mukund Palat Rao, Rosanne D’Arrigo, Brendan Buckley and Caroline Leland.
  • Mark Chandler studies extreme climates of Earth’s past in order help better understand the potential impacts of future climate change, as well as the potential habitability of planets in other solar systems.
  • Jacqueline Austermann studies sea levels ranging from millions of years ago through the most recent glacial cycles and the present, including the contribution of mountain glaciers. She has a special interest in how levels of land masses themselves shift.
  • William D’Andrea analyzes the remains of plants and other organisms preserved in lake and bog sediments to examine past environmental changes. He works mainly on islands across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. He has shed light on past cultures including the Vikings and the early dwellers of Easter Island.
  • Steven Goldstein, currently acting director of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, has been quantifying the timing of climate changes through dating of sediments thousands to millions of years old, in the Mideast and on the ocean floors.
  • Paul Olsen is a paleontologist who studies the patterns, causes and effects of climate change on ecosystems and mass extinctions across geological timescales going back hundreds of millions of years. Among other things, he studies the evolution of dinosaurs, and the effects of changing interplanetary motions on Earth’s climate.
  • Maureen Raymo is a marine geologist and co-founding dean of the Columbia Climate School. Her research revolves around understanding the history of the ice ages and particularly how sea levels have changed dramatically in both the recent and distant past, and what this may presage for the future.
  • Brendan Reilly heads the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Deep Sea Core Repository, which holds cores from around the globe that have been key in studying past climates. He has participated in many seagoing expeditions. He is particularly interested in paleomagnetism, the periodic changes in Earth’s magnetic field, which can be used to date many events in the past. He also studies the prospect of deep-sea mining.
  • Gisela Winckler studies climate change on timescales ranging from decades to thousands of years, and large-scale processes controlling global cycling of biogeochemical and physical tracers in the ocean, including dust blown from the land.

Prediction and Modeling

  • Alessandra Giannini models the climate of northern Africa’s Sahel region, and its relationship to ocean and atmospheric circulation.
  • Gregory Cesana studies the intricate interplay of clouds and climate models—one of the least understood areas in climate science.
  • Alexey Kaplan examines climate variability, predictability and prediction. His research involves historical weather data and climate analyses, and paleoclimatic reconstructions.
  • Allegra LeGrande specializes in characterizing extreme past climates and improving models of future climate change in instances where there is a mismatch between simulated and inferred (from proxy archives) climates.
  • Simon Mason works on seasonal climate forecasting and verification, climate change, and southern African climate variability, as influenced by El Niño and other forces.
  • Robert Pincus studies how to refine climate models so that we can make more accurate climate projections for the future, especially as regards the difficult questions of how clouds may influence the planet’s energy balance.
  • Linda Sohl works on reconfiguring global climate models to make them more accurate in predicting future conditions. She also is interested in modeling how climates of other planets may develop in relation to our own.
  • Michael Way models climate conditions of the distant past and distant future, as well as the atmosphere of other planets in the Solar System, and how they compare to that of Earth.


  • Pierre Gentine investigates continental water cycles and their interactions with vegetation, clouds and rising carbon dioxide levels.  He hopes to answer questions about the probabilities of extreme precipitation and droughts, wildfires and their effects on agriculture. He also heads an initiative to use artificial intelligence to refine climate and weather-forecast models.
groundwater irrigation
Groundwater irrigation. Photo: Columbia Water Center
  • Upmanu Lall directs the Columbia Water Center. He is a world-renown expert in modeling of hydrologic and climatic systems, and their relation to water management. He and colleagues have worked in the United States, India and Latin America to help governments design water systems that can withstand future challenges.
  • Paulina Concha Larrauri focuses on water management for agriculture, urban water supply and climate adaptation. She has studied many water issues related to mining, rainwater harvesting and decentralized supply systems.

Climate School Centers, Affiliates and Programs

  • The Advanced Consortium on Conflict, Cooperation and Complexity strives to foster sustainable peace by enabling and supporting integrative research and constructive conflict engagement.
  • The Center for Climate Systems Research works closely with the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies to advance climate science and improve societal resilience to challenges in the United States and around the world.
  • The Center on Global Energy Policy advances smart, actionable and evidence-based energy and climate solutions through research, education and dialogue. Its scholars cover every source of energy throughout the world.
  • The Center for International Earth Science Information Network works at the intersection of the social, natural, and information sciences, mapping human interactions with the environment on fine scales across the world.
  • The Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes uses planning and design to help communities and ecosystems adapt to the pressures of urbanization, inequality and climate uncertainty. It works with public, nonprofit and academic partners.
  • The Center for Sustainable Urban Development addresses urban sustainability, equity and planning issues, including land use, infrastructure, transport and education.
  • Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions works to halt the global march toward catastrophic climate change by connecting the dots between basic science, public awareness and policy actions.
  • The Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment works with governments and industries to attract, encourage, and shape investment that advances the well-being of the planet and all its citizens.
  • The Columbia Electrochemical Energy Center works to overcome the intermittency of solar and wind power by addressing energy storage and conversion using batteries, fuel cells, and electrolyzers in transformative ways.
  • The Columbia Water Center tackles challenges where water and climate interact with food, energy, ecosystems and urbanization. Combining scientific research with policy, it aims to design reliable, sustainable models of water management.
  • The International Research Institute for Climate and Society aims to enhance society’s capability to anticipate and manage the impacts of medium-term climate trends, especially in developing countries.
  • Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory develops fundamental knowledge about the origin, evolution and future of the natural world, from the planet’s deepest interior to the outer reaches of its atmosphere.
  • The Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy develops new technologies to provide energy while maintaining the stability of the earth’s natural systems. It works across natural sciences, engineering, social sciences and economics.
  • The NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies is affiliated with Columbia University. It broadly studies natural and human-driven changes in our environment, especially atmospheric forces leading to global warming.
  • The National Center for Disaster Preparedness works to understand and improve the nation’s capacity to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters, through both governmental and non-governmental systems.
  • The Resilient Coastal Communities Project seeks to foster actionable, equitable solutions to flood risks along with complementary benefits like habitat restoration, job creation and more empowered communities.
  • The Sabin Center for Climate Change Law develops legal techniques to fight climate change, trains students and lawyers in their use, and provides up-to-date resources on key topics in climate change law and regulation.
  • The Quadracci Sustainable Engineering Lab addresses practical engineering issues to help bring sustainable energy, water, health and other resources to people, especially in the developing world.