More US Universities Deliver Climate Change Programs

05:36 June 8, 2024

More US Universities Deliver Climate Change Programs

Colleges and universities in the United States are increasingly creating climate change study programs. They are meeting the demand from students who want to help find ways to deal with the effects of climate change.

Kathy Jacobs is director of the University of Arizona Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions, which launched 10 years ago. She said, “Lots of centers and departments have renamed themselves or been created around these climate issues.”

The aim, she added, is to appeal to students and professors.

Students are increasingly interested in climate-related study programs. For some, the interest comes from seeing the effects of climate change in their own lives. For others, a rise in climate-related jobs is driving their interest, experts say.

In the last four years, schools like Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have started climate-related studies. The University of Texas at Austin plans to have climate studies offerings in the fall. And Hampton University, a private, historically Black university in Virginia, is building one now.

Columbia University in New York City opened its Climate School in 2020. It offers graduate degrees now and is working on creating undergraduate programs.

Other schools that have created climate-related education programs include the University of Washington, Yale University and Utah State University.

In these programs, students study the science of climate change. The offerings require professors who teach biology, chemistry, physics, and social sciences, among others.

But students also study ways to communicate about climate change with the public. They look at the ways communities can prepare and deal with climate change before it worsens. And they learn about the roles lawmakers and businesses play in cutting greenhouse gasses.

Meeting a growing demand

When colleges and universities put their programs together, they often use existing meteorology and atmospheric science studies. But climate studies need to go beyond those departments to satisfy some incoming students.

In Kennebunk, Maine, high school student Will Eagleson has lived through storms that caused coastal destruction. The sea level is rising in his hometown. As the 17-year-old considers college, he said he is looking for schools that offer “more climate change-focused programs.” He added that he is looking for climate study programs that go beyond the usual Earth and environmental study programs.

Lucia Everist is a student at Edina High School in Minnesota. She said she wants to attend a program that goes deeper into the effects that climate change can have on human populations. She noted that climate change is especially affecting minority populations and poorer neighborhoods. Everist, who is 18, said she only applied to programs that had course offerings on the social effects of climate change.

Many American colleges and universities are losing students and public financial support. This is pushing them to offer new programs that interest students. They hope that offering such programs will bring more students – and more money.

John Knox is an undergraduate coordinator for the University of Georgia’s Atmospheric Sciences program. He is considering whether the school should offer a climate certificate.

Knox said colleges and universities do have to pay attention to “consumer demand” when making decisions about courses they offer.

But, he added, “In the end, I’m worried more about our students succeeding than marketing something to somebody.”

I’m Gregory Stachel.

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