Confronting Our Climate Future

The next ten years will be pivotal for addressing climate change. We’re creating the tools to meet the challenge

Sep 15 2020 | VIDEO CREDIT: JANE NISSELSON

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report made it clear: the 2020s will be the single most consequential decade for taking action to avert a climate crisis. Rising to this historic challenge requires developing new tools for adapting to the changes we can no longer avoid while reinventing just about every system by which we generate and consume energy between now and 2030.

It’s a watershed moment, and a profound opportunity. To cite just one example: approximately 60% of the infrastructure necessary to accommodate the coming wave of urbanization has yet to be constructed; in emerging markets, that could translate into a $25 trillion boom in green buildings over the next ten years. Engineers and applied scientists are increasingly integral to the future of a healthy planet. That’s true not just for the sustainable technologies they produce—materials to pull carbon from the air and slash the energy consumption of a digitized world; zero carbon fuels to keep the economy moving—but also for their ability to create mechanisms for systemic change, reconceiving how markets invest in clean tech and how cities balance the fiscal and cultural impacts of rising seas. Such innovations grow organically at Columbia, which has contributed to more IPCC reports than any other American university. Here, researchers think critically about what it means to create technology for the long-term—in harmony with humans and their environment.

From photonics to flooding, our engineers take an innovative, whole systems approach to combating climate change. Learn how our labs are building resilience into everything we do.