Climate System Science Major

The Climate System Science major is designed for students who are interested in how the past, present, and future climate system works and in solution strategies for the rapidly accelerating climate crisis. The overall goal is to establish the fundamental sciences at the core of the climate system, and to inspire solution-oriented analytical thinking and expertise. The flexible course structure combines geology, physics, biology, chemistry and math with a core in climate system science and climate solution, justice, policy and communication courses. Sample tracks through the major in sea level change, decarbonization and modern climate link to the mission and applied centers of Columbia’s Climate School. We believe that any admitted student has the potential to succeed in climate science.

The major requires a minimum of 43.5 points to be completed. Climate system science majors begin with foundational courses in the climate system and introductory courses in global warming, oceanography or other relevant topics. Supporting courses include a grounding in calculus and natural sciences. Five climate core courses include both paleoclimate and modern climate requirements, as well as three other electives. Students pursue topics in climate solutions, policy, justice and communication in courses outside the sciences, in architecture, economics, political science or engineering. All climate system science majors are required to complete a capstone experience, which can include a field course or an independent research project, typically at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory with guidance from a leading climate scientist. 

Students planning to go to graduate school in Climate Science should consult with their faculty advisor in DEES and/or the DUS, as requirements vary among programs.


CSS Major Overview
12 points minimum (four courses)

One course in Calculus I or higher: 
MATH UN1101 Calculus I

And any three of: 

  • PHYS UN1201 Physics I
  • PHYS UN1202 Physics II
  • CHEM UN1403 or BC2001 Chemistry I
  • CHEM UN1404 or BC2002 Chemistry II
  • EEEB UN2001 Evolutionary Biology I
  • EESC UN2300 Earth's Environmental Systems: The Life System

*Note: Higher level courses can substitute those listed above.

15 points minimum (five courses): 

At least one Paleoclimate Course: 

  • EESC GU4235 Sea Level Change
  • EESC GU4330 Terrestrial Paleoclimate
  • EESC GU4480 Paleobiology & Earth Systems History
  • EESC GU4920 Paleoceanography
  • EESC GU4937 Cenozoic Paleoceanography


At least one Modern Climate Course:

  • EESC UN3031 Chemistry of Climate
  • EESC UN3109 Climate Physics
  • EESC GU4008 Intro to Atmospheric Science
  • EESC GU4020 Humans and the Carbon Cycle
  • EESC GU4040 Climate Thermodynamics/Energy Transfer
  • EESC GU4925 Physical Oceanography
  • EESC GU4930 Earth's Oceans & Atmosphere


Could include other Climate System Courses: 

  • EESC BC3025 Hydrology (Barnard College course)
  • EESC UN3101 Geochemistry for a Habitable Planet
  • EESC UN3201 Solid Earth Dynamics
  • EESC GU4220 Glaciology
  • EESC GU4835 Wetlands & Climate Change
  • EESC GU4885 Chemistry of Continental Waters
  • EESC GU4923 Biological Oceanography
  • EESC GU4924 Intro to Atmospheric Chemistry
  • EESC GU4926 Chemical Oceanography 


Could include on Supporting EESC Course: 

  • EESC UN3400 Computational Earth Science
  • EESC GU4210 Geophysical Fluid Dynamics
  • EESC GU4223 Sedimentary Geology
  • EESC GU4230 Crustal Deformation
  • EESC GU4887 Isotope Geochem I
  • EESC GU4888 Stable Isotope Geochem
Climate System Core Requirements
6 points minimum (two courses)

Any two courses on Solutions, Justice, Policy and Communication: 

Solutions Courses

  • ARCH 3120 City, Landscape and Ecology 
  • EESC BC3045 Responding to Climate Change (Barnard College) 
  • EAEE E2002 Alternative Energy Resources 
  • EAEE E2100 A Better Planet By Design
  • EAEE E4001 Industrial Ecology-Earth Resources
  • EAEE E4002 Alternative Energy Resources
  • EAEE E4006 Field Methods in Environmental Engineering
  • EAEE E4300 Intro to Carbon Management
  • EAEE E4301 Carbon Storage
  • EAEE E4302 Carbon Capture
  • EAEE E4305 CO2 Utilization and Conversion
  • CIEE E3250 Hydrosystems Engineering
  • MECE E4211 Energy Sources & Conversion
  • SDEV GU4250 Climate Change: Resilience & Adaptation


Climate Justice, Policy, Economics

  • ANTH BC3932 Climate Change/Global Migration/Human Rights (Barnard College)
  • ANTH V3861 Anthropology of the Anthropocene
  • ARCH UN3400 Environmental Visualizations of NYC
  • ECON BC3039 Environmental & Natural Resources Economics (Barnard College)
  • ECON BC3040 Environmental Law (Barnard College)
  • ECON UN2257 Global Economy
  • ECON GU4750 Globalization and Its Risks
  • POLS UN3648 Governing the Global Economy
  • POLS GU4814 Global Energy: Security/Geopolitical
  • POLS GU4863 International Political Economy of Developing Countries
  • SDEV UN2050 Environmental Policy and Governance
  • SDEV UN3355 Climate Change & Law
  • SDEV UN3360 Disasters & Development
CSS Solutions, Justice, Policy, Communications Table
3 points minimum (one course)

EESC 3xxx Undergraduate Research Project
*course is under development
*Students who choose this option cannot be considered for departmental honors.


EESC UN3901 Senior Seminar 
*can be taken twice, or in sequence with EESC BC3800 (Barnard course) 


Approved Field Course focused on the Climate System
*must be proposed to and approved by the DUS. Field course must be minimum 126 hours in the field - e.g. 9 hours a day for 2 full weeks.  
*Students who choose this option cannot be considered for departmental honors.

To keep track of your degree requirements, use the Climate System Science Major Checklist.