The Center at a Glance

Our Mission

Research by Sonya Dyhrman, a microbial oceanographer at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Center affiliate, reveals how different strains of algae are influenced by changes in marine environments, such as ocean acidification and warming temperatures, and how these tiny organisms influence Earth’s systems as a whole.

The Center for Climate and Life supports leading scientists from Columbia University to generate new knowledge about the ways climate change will impact our food, water, shelter, and health—and to develop sustainable energy solutions.

We accomplish our mission by:

  • Funding novel, high-risk, high-reward research that helps society understand and respond to climate change.
  • Building partnerships with private and public institutions to advance engagement on climate change issues.
  • Supporting and training the next generation of scientists.

More than 120 Columbia University scientists are affiliated with the Center for Climate and Life and help carry out our mission. These researchers are based at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, and NASA GISS.

Our work bringing scientists and stakeholders together to build solutions for one of today’s biggest challenges has resulted in the following accomplishments over this 2016-2018 biennial period.

Funding Critical Science: We’ve supported innovation by awarding over $2.1 million in research fellowships through our Fellows Program to 10 exceptional Columbia University scientists. Their bold ideas are helping us understand and respond to climate change.

Advancing Understanding of Climate Change: The scientists we fund lead critical research that addresses a range of climate concerns. Their work has already had an impact, for example, by shaping our understanding of wildfire risk in a warming world.

Fueling Future Research: The $3.2 million in direct support we’ve provided to our Fellows and affiliated scientists has leveraged more than $9.5 million in additional federal funding for these researchers—a return on investment of nearly 300 percent.

Developing Strategic Partnerships: Engagement with the private sector provides vital funding for research by Center scientists and enables them to share the knowledge they generate with stakeholders in industry, finance, and all levels of government.

Creating Collaborative Networks: We co-hosted two climate science forums for business leaders in partnership with the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise at Columbia Business School. The first resulted in a white paper that describes how advances in climate research can be used to reduce investment risk and improve returns.

Preparing Future Leaders: In our first two years, 33 local high school students participated in our annual summer intern program, which provides vital hands-on lab and field experience for aspiring young scientists.

Expanding Our Fundraising: We continue to experience yearly growth in donor support, which increased from $1.1 million in FY17 to over $3 million in FY18. We received our largest single gift of $2 million in late FY18 from Dirk Ziff and Daniel Ziff to support a focused, mission-critical research program.

Looking Forward: The need for actionable science has never been greater. Our model of engaging science philanthropy to support science, build partnerships, and secure Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory’s future in a time of diminishing federal support is succeeding. Our scientists are energized, optimistic, and enthusiastically leading our innovative and impactful research program. Our near-term goal is to raise $20 million to endow long-term support of this research program, which will help secure and diversify funding for climate research at Lamont.