Climate Change and Business Program

Climate change poses significant challenges and opportunities for business. The Climate Change and Business Program focuses on using markets and business skills to identify and implement solutions to mitigate, adapt to, or reverse climate change and its impacts on society globally. The program offers courses, experiential learning opportunities, research, conferences and seminars that develop connections to bridge theory and practice.

Moderated by Dean Costis Maglaras, Professors Bruce Usher and Geoffrey Heal discuss climate change, one of the greatest threats to humanity, and how Columbia Business School and Columbia Climate School are positioned to make an impact.

Courses

Columbia Business School is home to many leading experts in the climate change field, and has offered courses in this field for over a decade. In addition, Columbia students have the option of taking climate change electives across the university in disciplines including law, earth sciences, policy, public health, and engineering to name a few. Columbia Business School courses include:

  • B8363 Climate Finance
  • B8201 Climate Change and the Energy Transition
  • B8448 The Business of Climate Change: Investing and Managing in a Changing Environment
  • B8224 Energy and Resource Economics
  • B8352 Financing Energy Markets
  • B8209 Climate Justice, Real Estate and Vulnerability
  • B8027 Challenges in Measurement & Disclosure of Environmental, Social and Governance Data

Students interested in this area may also register for the courses listed below:

  • B8784 Business and Society: Reconciling Shareholder and Stakeholder Interests
  • B8349 Finance and Sustainability
  • B8423 Investor Influence on Corporate Sustainability
  • B8762 Modern Political Economy
  • B8767 Investing in Social Ventures
  • B8527 Hacking for Humanity Venture Incubator

For more information about course listings, click here.

MBA students can find and cross register for courses across campus online.

Non-MBA students can cross register for MBA classes online.

A listing of climate-related courses in schools across campus can be downloaded here (PDF).

Three Cairns Fellowship

Past Fellowships:

2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018

The Three Cairns Fellowship at Columbia Business School provides support to MBA and EMBA students who complete semester- or year-long projects at the intersection of climate change and business. Students may apply individually or in teams for projects that work with Columbia research faculty, or any type of organization or business in the U.S. or abroad that is addressing sustainability and climate change issues. Projects should focus on using markets and business knowledge, skills, and tools to identify and implement solutions to mitigate, adapt to, or reverse climate change and its impacts. The Three Cairns Fellowship was endowed by Lise Strickler ’86 and Mark Gallogly ’86. Their recently established family office, Three Cairns Group, has a core commitment to making investments in decarbonizing the world economy.

Eligible projects

Projects can be semester or academic year-long projects, but must be completed by the end of April. Applicants may apply for projects scoped by the center (these will be circulated prior to the application deadline) or source their own proposed project with a Columbia faculty member, or client organization from any sector in the U.S. or abroad. Students who find their own project should also provide a project description that includes the key questions for the project team, data sets (if applicable) and sources of research to explore, faculty or organization contacts the students will work with, a timeline, and deliverables. Student projects without an external client (e.g. projects to develop your own social venture) are ineligible. Students should instead scope a project for an external business or organization in a relevant industry or sector.

Criteria for project and team selection

Fellowship applications should include:

  1. A clear purpose of the project and it’s potential to address climate change using business knowledge and skills, practices, or approaches;
  2. Clear expectations, realistic scope and deliverable(s) given the semester timeline;
  3. Collective skillset of the individual or team that applies to address the project needs and timeframe; and
  4. Internal organizational contacts and/or external advisors including Columbia faculty that have agreed to work with the applicant/student team.

Award and student obligations

Three Cairns Fellowships will be awarded to between four to six projects each academic year. The fellowship award provides individual students without a team with up to $3,000, or project teams up to a maximum of $6,000 per team, upon completion of the project. Project teams can be any size, though we suggest not more than four per team unless a compelling case can be made (e.g. unusual skillsets, significantly large project scope etc.) that requires a larger team.

In addition to the final deliverables specified in the project description, Three Cairns Fellows must:

  1. Provide a short written summary of the project and its impact, to be made available online;
  2. Deliver a project presentation in April, which will be open to students, faculty, alumni, supporters, and external organizations; and
  3. Complete a short online survey about the project experience.

Students also have the option of reaching out to Professor Bruce Usher to see if he would be willing to engage with them for independent study course credit for their Three Cairns Fellowship projects.

Application process and deadlines

For MBA/EMBA students
Information will be circulated by email to students every fall, and a team finder spreadsheet will also be circulated by email prior to application deadlines. MBA and EMBA student applications are due early in the fall semester every year. Students have the option of finishing their project at the end of the fall semester or completing it over the course of the whole academic year. All projects, however, must be completed by the end of April each year and must participate in a final project presentation in April. Please apply online here.
For potential client organizations
If you are interested in working with a Three Cairns Fellow (individual or team of MBA/EMBA students), we accept applications on a rolling basis. Project descriptions are circulated at the start of the academic semester to which students may apply for the Three Cairns Climate Fellowship prior to the application deadline. These climate change projects may address research or strategic questions, market/customer segmentation growth, competitive or impact analyses, product development, or operational/supply chain/financial issues faced by your organization or business. Students can typically work up to 10-15 hours per week on projects during the academic semester.

Please note that if you are matched with a student team, they will be required to make a presentation about their project that is open to the public, and provide a short written description of the project for the Tamer Center’s website. Client organizations may work with their teams to determine the information to be shared. In addition, student teams should not be asked by client organizations to sign confidentiality agreements.

Please download the application form online here.

Please contact the center if you have any questions: [email protected].

Experiential Learning

In addition to the Three Cairns Fellowship, Columbia Business School provides a wide array of programming outside of courses for students to apply their problem-solving and decision-making abilities to the intersection of climate change and business. These opportunities leverage the many connections across the School and University -- in New York and beyond -- and provide a rich landscape for students to deepen their experiences and exposure to innovative market-based solutions to tackle climate change. These include:

Pro Bono Consulting Projects
Columbia Business School students may participate in pro-bono consulting projects with climate change related organizations through Columbia Pangea Advisors, Columbia Impact Investing Initiative (CI3), and the Small Business Consulting Program. Previous organizations with which students have completed projects include: SolarKal, One Degree Solar, MPOWERD and Volta River Authority.

Social Enterprise Summer Fellowships
The Tamer Center for Social Enterprise helps students from across campus gain experience with climate-focused organizations through Social Enterprise Summer Fellowships. These fellowships provide financial support to Columbia and Barnard undergraduate and graduate students engaged in summer internships that create social and environmental value. Examples of past organizations with which summer fellows have worked in the climate space include the White Roof Project, the Natural Resources Defense Council, E+Co, Qualitative Alternatives, Coalition for Rainforest Nations, One Architecture, Watt Fuel Cell, and Social Solar.

Nonprofit Board Leadership Program
The Nonprofit Board Leadership Program (NBLP) helps support nonprofit organizations, including those working to address climate change, and cultivate the next generation of nonprofit board leaders at Columbia Business School. Each NBLP student is matched with an alumnus who serves on a nonprofit board, and together they agree on a project for the student to complete during the course of the academic year. This project bolsters the nonprofit board’s understanding of an issue important to the organization and provides the student with a meaningful experience that draws on his or her course work at Columbia Business School. Students in the past have completed projects with Environmental Advocates of New York and Brooklyn Urban Garden Charter School, among others.

Columbia Business School Student Organizations
The Green Business Club is a professional student organization that provides students with a network of like-minded individuals to share knowledge and facilitate career building. The club provides educational and career development resources and events focused on a wide range of green business industries, and advocates for sustainable practices through campus greening projects.

The Energy Club empowers future leaders of the energy sector with the industry knowledge and networks needed to make a difference. They provide recruiting support for firms in the energy space and facilitate access to professional networks, industry talks, and other MBA energy organizations.

The Social Enterprise Club caters to students at Columbia Business School who want to use business skills to create social, environmental, and economic value within the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. Through diverse events and numerous resources, they: 1) connect students interested in social enterprise with each other, faculty, alumni, professionals and organizations, 2) enrich their members' understanding of industries, ideas, and initiatives that create social impact, and 3) inspire students to become leaders who improve the world.

Research Projects

Corporate Climate Change Initiatives and Employees
Vanessa Burbano and Stephen Meier
Professors Burbano and Meier are examining whether, how, and under what circumstances corporate climate change-related pledges and practices influence employee behavior and outcomes, as well as how employee behavior can be influenced to more positively affect corporate climate change outcomes. Through both experimental and field methodologies, they evaluate these relationships through a behavioral lens in order to help companies understand how their climate initiatives influence a key stakeholder group: their employees.

Understanding and Shaping Consumer Behavior to Fight Climate Change
Gita Johar, Eric Johnson, Michael Morris, and Vicki Morwitz
Professors Johar, Johnson, Morris, and Morwitz are collectively undertaking research to better understand consumer behavior in the face of green choices. Eric Johnson’s research focuses on how to enable consumers to identify greener products, as well as to identify cases where there is a tradeoff between product categories, promoting improved carbon mental accounting. Vicki Morwitz and Gita Johar are researching the incorporation of theoretical climate change mitigation interventions and customer metrics into a digital platform to enable consumers to make more sustainable decisions. Michael Morris focuses on mechanisms to motivate consumers to buy green products. Each focus area demonstrates various methods to move consumer behavior in a more sustainable direction.

Buying Green Starts in the Body: Exploring Communication Strategies to Increase Green Consumerism via Psychophysiology
Sheena Iyengar, Modupe Akinola, Michael White, and Sean Kaczmarek
Professors Iyengar and Akinola, PhD candidate White, and Research Staff Associate Kaczmarek examine how and to what extent physiological responses to climate change conversations are shaped by how information is delivered, as well as how subsequent behavior changes in relation to green consumerism. The researchers will employ a variety of contexts, samples, measures, and designs in an effort to better understand effective climate change communication techniques, ultimately demonstrating how psychophysiological reactions to organizational communication might impact consumer intentions and behaviors.

Using Climate Change Prediction Markets to Shift Climate Beliefs
Sandra Matz, Moran Cerf, and Malcolm MacIver (Northwestern)
Professors Matz, Cerf, and MacIver are examining the extent to which engagement with prediction markets can change attitudes and increase support for climate science. The researchers are evaluating which psychological mechanisms lead to changes in opinion towards climate science to: 1) better understand public opinion on climate solutions; 2) help policymakers understand their constituents; 3) offer predictions about climate outcomes that can be aggregated and used for scientific assessment; 4) introduce an additional financial instrument to help potentially mitigate climate risks; and 5) enable individuals to direct monetary resources into climate solutions.

Are Carbon Reduction Pledges Credible? The Case of US Oil and Gas Companies
Shiva Rajgopal, Hemang Desai (Southern Methodist), and Pauline Lam (NYU)
Professors Rajgopal, Desai (Southern Methodist), and Lam (NYU) are evaluating how the US oil and gas sector has responded to the increased pressure to decarbonize and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The researchers will compare companies’ pledges and related actions to better understand company behavior and the ways that the market responds to these commitments or their absence. This research will provide insights into mechanisms for achieving net zero, the feasibility of transition by various firms, the seriousness of different commitments, and the ways that capital markets react to these pledges.

Clean Growth and Climate Change
Conor Walsh and Costas Arkolakis (Yale)
Professors Walsh and Arkolakis are examining the implications of falling power prices in renewables for both growth and emissions across regions and at a global scale. Using data on global power grids, energy capital, energy resources, and productivity growth, the researchers are assessing the effects of renewable adoption on global production and how productivity changes as a result of access to cheaper energy. This research will ultimately contribute to improvements in climate modelling on energy investment and trade patterns out to 2050.

Additional Research and Insights

Research Forums
Papers and Working Papers
Rising Oceans: Economics and Science
Working Paper (2018)
Geoffrey Heal and Marco Tedesco

Governance and Climate Change: A Success Story in Mobilizing Investor Support for Corporate Responses to Climate Change
Journal of Applied Corporate Finance (2016)
Mats Andersson, Patrick Bolton, Frederic Samama

Applying Asset Pricing Theory to Calibrate the Price of Climate Risk
Working Paper (2015)
Kent Daniel, Robert Litterman, Gernot Wagner

Hedging Climate Risk
Working paper (2014)
Mats Andersson, Patrick Bolton, Frederic Samama

Ambiguity and Climate Policy
Working Paper (2011)
Geoffrey Heal, Antony Milner, Simon Dietz

The Drivers of Greenwashing
California Management Review (2011)
Magali Delmas, Vanessa Burbano

Towards an International Green Fund
Working paper (2010)
Patrick Bolton, Roger Guesnerie, Frederic Samama

Corporate Environmentalism: Doing Well by Being Green
Is Economic Growth Sustainable? (2010)
Geoffrey Heal

Are We Consuming Too Much?
Journal of Economic Perspectives (2004)
Geoffrey Heal, Kenneth Arrow, Partha Dasgupta, Lawrence Goulder, Gretchen Daily, Paul Ehrlich, Simon Levin, Karl-Goran Maler, Stephen Schneider, David Starrett, Brian Walker

Uncertainty and Climate Change
Working Paper (2002)
Geoffrey Heal

Climate Change and Uncertainty
Working Paper (2002)
Geoffrey Heal, Bengt Kristrom
For more information about research on climate change, see the Program for Financial Studies.
Books and Chapters
Renewable Energy: A Primer for the Twenty-First Century
Book (2019)
Bruce Usher

Endangered Economies
Book (2016)
Geoffrey Heal

The Spectacular Growth of Solar PV Leasing
Renewable Energy Finance: Powering the Future (2015)
Bruce Usher, Albert Gore III

Tipping Climate Negotiations
Chapter in Climate Change and Common Sense: Essays in Honour of Tom Schelling (2012)
Geoffrey Heal, Howard Kunreuther

Environmental Markets: Equity and Efficiency
Book (2000)
Graciela Chichilnisky, Geoffrey Heal

Nature and the Marketplace: Capturing the Value of the Ecosystem
Book (2000)
Geoffrey Heal

Valuing the Future: Economic Theory and Sustainability
Book (1998)
Geoffrey Heal
Press and Media
Reasons to Be Upbeat about Clean Energy
Ideas and Insights (2019)
Bruce Usher

PG&E: The First Climate-Change Bankruptcy, Probably Not the Last
The Wall Street Journal (2019)
Bruce Usher

Sea Level Rise and Coastal Development: Science Speaks Directly to Business
Columbia Business School News (2018)
Geoffrey Heal and Bruce Usher

How Vacations Can Fuel Sustainable Economic Activities
Ideas and Insights (2018)
Geoffrey Heal

Why are We Politicizing Hurricanes, the Environment?
USA Today (2018)
Geoffrey Heal

Places at Greatest Risk of Hurricane Disaster
24/7 Wall St. (2018)
Geoffrey Heal

Carbon Taxes a Mixed Blessing for the Climate
The Hill (2018)
Geoffrey Heal

Sea Levels Must Rise to the Top of the Agenda in Washington
The Hill (2018)
Geoffrey Heal

Commentary: Why Now Is the Perfect Time to Invest in a Low-Carbon Index
Fortune (2018)
Patrick Bolton

We Already Know How to Curb Climate Change
Ideas and Insights (2017)
Geoffrey Heal

There's More Than One Route to Doing Well by Doing Good
Ideas and Insights (2016)
Vanessa Burbano

On the Heels of a Boom, a Foggier Future for Solar
Ideas and Insights (2016)
Bruce Usher

Up in Smoke
Ideas and Insights (2015)
Mats Andersson, Patrick Bolton, and Frederic Samama

Climate Change and the Next Great Recession
Ideas and Insights (2015)
Geoffrey Heal

The High Cost of Climate Uncertainty
Ideas and Insights (2015)
Kent Daniel

VW Scandal Just the Tip of the Greenwashing Iceberg
Ideas and Insights (2015)
Vanessa Burbano

Real Progress on Emissions Can Lead to a Global Pact
The New York Times (2014)
Bruce Usher

The U.S. as a Climate Change Leader?
Huffington Post (2014)
Bruce Usher

For more articles and insights on climate change at Columbia Business School, see Ideas at Work.
Cases
Architects of the Future? Tesla, Inc., Energy, Transportation, and the Climate
Columbia CaseWorks (2017)
Geoffrey Heal, Bruce Usher

From Pioneer to Pariah: SunEdison, Inc., and the Global Solar Photovoltaics Industry
Columbia CaseWorks (2017)
Geoffrey Heal, Bruce Usher

Pattern Energy and the YieldCo Sector
Columbia CaseWorks (2016)
Bruce Usher

Stanford Dumps Coal
Columbia CaseWorks (2015)
Andrew Ang, Bruce Usher

E+Co: A View from the Boardroom
Columbia CaseWorks (2013)
Bruce Usher

Keystone Solar
Columbia CaseWorks (2013)
Bruce Usher

The Mossi Ghisolfi Group Monetizing Beta Renewables
Columbia CaseWorks (2013)
Geoffrey Heal

The Jersey-Atlantic Wind Farm
Columbia CaseWorks (2012)
Bruce Usher

Citigroup and the Equator Principles
Columbia CaseWorks (2008)
Geoffrey Heal
Podcasts
Climate Science, Explained
WNYC (2019)
Peter deMenocal

Taxing Carbon: Boon for Economy & Climate?
Columbia Energy Exchange, Center on Global Energy Policy at SIPA (2018)
Glenn Hubbard

Faculty Leadership

Learn more

Patrick Bolton
Barbara and David Zalaznick Professor of Business

Vanessa Burbano
Assistant Professor

Kent Daniel
William von Mueffling Professor of Business; Chair of Finance Division

Geoffrey Heal
Donald C. Waite III Professor of Social Enterprise

Bruce Usher
Co-Director of the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise; Elizabeth B. Strickler '86 and Mark T. Gallogly '86 Faculty Director; Professor of Professional Practice

Connections across Columbia University

The Climate Change and Business Program hosts interdisciplinary events in collaboration with other centers and schools across the University.

  • The Climate Business & Investment Conference brings together climate scientists and business leaders to understand how new advances in climate science can inform investments in specific sectors of the global economy. The forum explores topics that address the value and opportunity of using a science-based approach to inform and guide business and investment decisions.
  • The Northeast Workshop on Energy Policy and Environmental Economics is of primary interest to Northeast scholars involved in research in energy policy and environmental economics. A set of papers was presented on a variety of topics reflecting the latest advances in energy and environmental economics.

Read about other recent events here and past events here.

The program is also part of many environmental initiatives across the University. Key programs, centers, and student groups at Columbia University include:

The Earth Institute
Cross Campus
Columbia Business School
Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation, and Planning
Graduate School of Arts & Sciences
Barnard College
Columbia University Medical Campus
Columbia University Medical Campus is comprised of four schools: College of Physicians and Surgeons, College of Dental Medicine, Mailman School of Public Health, and School of Nursing.
Columbia College
The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science
School of General Studies
School of International and Public Affairs
Journalism School
Law School
School of Professional Studies
Union Theological Seminary