The single biggest thing you can do for a sustainable future is help change the rules around climate. This means (1) getting rid of massive subsidies for fossil fuels, and (2) paving the way for energy efficiency, and solar and wind power, and for the innovative carbon-trapping agriculture and forestry practices that together, can stabilize the global climate.
To do this full-time, as a career—to get paid to do it-- you need to have both a good grounding in climate science, and an understanding of policy: the local, state, national and global rules that determine what kind of energy future, and climate, our kids will inherit. Beyond that, you also need the know-how and the experience to actually change the rules.
Part of the task is in public education, and part of it is in taking advantage of critical “policy windows” to drive change. In this post, we will look at the challenges around public disengagement, and how gaining your own professional education in climate science and policy can help overcome that.
Let's Talk About the Widespread Ignorance About Climate Science
Sustainability leaders in today’s world face a major challenge. The majority of the American public does not believe that global warming and climate change will pose a serious threat to them in their lifetime. Despite the proven evidence of climate change and its undeniable effects, the average American is unconcerned and unmotivated to take action and change their personal habits.
Whether influenced by political alliances, or stemming from a lack of interest or personal investment, many refuse to accept the evidence for climate change. But the proof is there - in the rising temperatures, increasingly frequent extreme weather events, poor air quality, food security issues, and more.
The statistics are alarming. Global monthly average concentrations of carbon dioxide have risen from around 339 parts per million in 1980 (averaged over the year) to 402 parts per million in 2016, an increase of about 19%. The minimum sea ice extent in the Arctic has decreased by about 32% since 1979. The global sea level has risen by approximately 8 inches since scientific record keeping began in the 1880s, and continues to increase at a rate of a little more than an inch per decade.
So what can you do? Once the basis of knowledge is there in the general population, creating and enacting policies and laws that halt natural resource degradation and support methods of ecosystem restoration becomes much more feasible.
It's time to get educated about the science of climate change and use that knowledge to educate others and impact policy decisions in the years to come.
What Is Climate Science and Policy?
At the graduate level, studying Climate Science and Policy provides a solid grounding in changing environmental and climate systems. It also offers critical insight into the policies and laws are both creating climate destabilization, and the changes that could drive climate solutions. While the politics and policies of the current US administration have been undermining efforts to reduce global warming pollution, the planet continues to heat up. During the 2020’s, countries across the world will be racing to tackle the problems we are ignoring now, and the world will desperately need well-trained professionals who understand both climate science and the range of effective policy solutions to slow global warming.
A Master’s in Climate Science and Policy is a distinctly purposeful, relevant, and mission-oriented degree in today’s economic, political, and social climate.
This is a degree filled with purpose, because the areas which it seeks to preserve are our very life-blood. We cannot live healthy lives in a world with depleted resources, polluted cities, and rising sea levels. And before anyone says, ‘well that’s not my problem, it doesn’t affect me’ - it does and it will. For example, as sea levels rise, some experts predict that it will result in massive numbers of climate change refugees (2 billion by 2100) relocating from islands and coastal areas, such as Florida.
This degree is relevant, not only because it addresses issues that our world is facing at this moment, but it also poises educated policy makers to contribute to a solution in the future. There are plenty of concerned individuals in the world today, but this degree gives graduates the network and knowledge they need to influence change.
Finally, the degree is mission-oriented. This creates an understanding of the importance and urgency of the work, and also supplies drive and passion when obstacles arise. A degree in Climate Science and Policy seeks to empower and educate the people who will halt and even reverse the damaging climate change happening in our world. This goal is at the center of every course and lecture, project and internship.
About Bard’s Master’s In Climate Science and Policy
At Bard, our Master’s in Climate Science and Policy is a unique advanced degree that enables students to gain master's level understanding of climate science, along with economics, policy, and law. It is one of only a few in the world, and a degree that is perfectly designed to meet the needs of our current and future planet. This degree program covers the interplay between climate systems, ecosystems, and agricultural systems on one hand and energy solutions on the other, training future policy leaders to guide efforts in greenhouse gas mitigation and adaptation.
Our program is typically completed in two years, and includes a professional internship and culminating master’s project. Courses over the four semesters include Climate Science, Natural Resource and Environmental Economics, Energy Policy, Climate Policy, various courses in tools for environmental analysis, and courses in communication.
The Extended Professional Internship is part of Bard’s CEP program, and is completed in the second year of study. Past students have worked at high-level internships across the United States and the world. Typically, these internships last for four to six months, and the area of concentration forms the basis for the student’s capstone project. The experience the internship provides is invaluable on a resume, and between 30 and 50 percent of the internships offer students employment upon graduation.
The master’s project is a student driven capstone, and serves as an opportunity for students to develop expertise in their chosen field of interest, and present their findings to peers and professors in a master’s Seminar. At Bard, the capstone project is unique because it is entirely driven by a student’s passion and area of interest, whereas at other schools graduate students complete a project that is derivative of a faculty member’s interest.
When considering what graduate field to study, it is important to consider both the present and future value of the degree. A Master’s in Climate Science and Policy is one that offers you the education and training to make an impact now, while also positioning you to protect the future through informed and persuasive policy. If those possibilities sound exciting to you - we can’t think of a more relevant education or a better place to begin than at Bard.