Jan. 9, 2013

New climate change minor covers science and solutions

radar of storm
Provided
A new climate change minor that launched in fall 2012 allows undergraduates to explore climate change from varied disciplinary perspectives, while getting a firm grounding in the basic physical, ecological and social science of the planetary crisis.

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time, and dozens of courses at Cornell explore the many facets of a warming world -- from impacts on farming and food, to sustainable energy to replace fossil fuels, to the slow response of governments worldwide.

Now a new climate change minor, which launched this academic year, gives undergraduates the opportunity to explore climate change from varied disciplinary perspectives, while getting a firm grounding in the basic physical, ecological and social science of the planetary crisis. Based in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the minor is available to all Cornell undergraduates.

Covering broad territory, including climate science, ethics, renewable energy and climate-smart city planning, the minor encourages students to pick from a long list of available courses to meet the minimum of 18 credits necessary for the minor. Three required core courses introduce students to climate science, the effects on ecosystems and biodiversity, and the human relationship to climate change.

"The minor emphasizes the diverse courses at Cornell touching on climate change, since students across the disciplines will confront the impacts of the Earth's changing climate," says Natalie Mahowald, professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and one of the minor's coordinators.

Reflecting the multidisciplinary nature of Cornell's depth in climate change research and education, the minor is a brainchild of faculty from three colleges and five departments. In addition to Mahowald, the minor's coordinating team includes Professors Peter Hess, biological and environmental engineering; Karen Pinkus, Romance studies; David Wolfe, horticulture; and Christine Goodale, ecology and evolutionary biology.

"I'm excited that we now can offer a minor like this to all of our students," said David Wolfe, chair of the Atkinson Center Climate Change Focus Group. "Having some depth of understanding about climate change issues will make them effective leaders in whatever career track they follow after Cornell."

Lauren Chambliss is director communications for the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.