Earth Institute

Earth Institute
(1995; Columbia University, New York;

A research institute that was founded to advance the basic understanding of earth science and apply that knowledge to decisions made by governments and businesses around the world. They aim to find “Solutions for Sustainable Development,” as regards public health, poverty, energy, ecosystems, climate, natural hazards and urbanization. More than 30 research centers and some 850 scientists, postdoctoral fellows, staff and students. Units focus on food security, environmental sustainability, hazards and risks, rivers and estuaries, sustainable cities, earth engineering, energy, and climate science awareness and solutions (headed by James E. Hansen). At the largest research unit, the renowned Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, leading scientists study geology, oceans, freshwater systems, climate, and atmosphere.

Research Programs:

  • Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions – Working to halt the global march toward catastrophic climate change via a strategy that leads as rapidly as possible to a near-universal carbon fee on fossil fuels.
  • Program on Child Well-Being and Resilience – Serves as an academic center for Columbia University faculty and researchers, across various academic departments and schools, to support greater understanding of the issues, challenges, and opportunities involving children and youth.
  • Program on Sustainability Policy and Management – Provides a rigorous analytic base to help inform sustainability decision-making. Our research addresses the fundamental issues facing professionals and policy makers implementing sustainability strategies.
  • Postdoctoral Research Program – Provides innovative postdoctoral scholars with the opportunity to build a foundation in one of the core disciplines represented within the Earth Institute (i.e. social, earth, biological, engineering, and health sciences), while at the same time acquiring the breadth of cross-disciplinary expertise needed to address critical issues related to sustainable development.

Research Programs:

Research Units:

Joint Projects:

  • Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED) – An interdisciplinary center that studies individual and group decision making under climate uncertainty and decision making in the face of environmental risk.
  • Cooperative Institute for Climate Applications and Research (CICAR) – Brings together scientists from NOAA climate-oriented organizations, in particular the Climate Program Office in Silver Spring, Maryland and the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, New Jersey, and scientists of The Earth Institute’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), to advance climate research, education and outreach.
  • Laboratory of Populations – A cooperation with The Rockefeller University that seeks to understand how stochasticity – random influences such as changes in weather or resources, or chance events of birth and death – creates novel patterns in nonlinear dynamics of population change.
  • Sabin Center for Climate Change Law – Develops legal techniques to fight climate change, trains law students and lawyers in their use, and provides the public with up-to-date resources on key topics in climate law and regulation.
  • Urban Design Lab (UDL) – A research unit of Columbia University’s Earth Institute created in 2005 to address the need for a design-based approach to shaping the long range future of sustainable urbanism.
  • Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment – A joint applied research center and forum with Columbia Law School dedicated to the study, practice and discussion of sustainable international investment.


Leadership: Alex N. Halliday (Director)

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