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Climate Change Minor

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Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time, and dozens of courses at Cornell explore the many facets of a warming world – from impacts on farming and food, to the causes of climate change, the potential of sustainable energy to replace fossil fuels, to the slow response of governments worldwide.  Now a new climate change minor, which launched in September of 2012, gives undergraduates the opportunity to explore climate change from varied disciplinary perspectives, while getting a firm grounding in the basic physical, ecological and social science as well as its interactions with history, philosophy and the arts. Based in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the minor is available to all Cornell undergraduates.

This minor is offered collaboratively with classes across campus coordinated by Peter Hess (BEE/CALS), Christy Goodale (EEB/A+S), Natalie Mahowald (EAS/ENG), Karen Pinkus (COML/A+S), and David Wolfe (HORT/CALS). This coordinating committee can add or subtract courses from this list, based on proposals by professors or students. The minor is administered by the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.


A brief meeting with one of the climate change coordinating faculty as you plan your minor is required. You can find the climate change minor certification form here! During your final semester (or earlier if you have already completed your minor requirements), you should bring the completed climate change minor certification form to Savannah Williams in 2124 Snee Hall for approval. If you are a student in a college that requires a minor advisor to sign off on your application to graduate, please bring your application to graduate with you at the same time. Please contact Savannah Williams ( with any questions about the minor certification process.

Minor Requirements

Many courses across Cornell deal with the multi-facets of climate change. The minor is structured such that students without prerequisites can obtain the minor, thus enabling students from most any degree at Cornell to obtain the minor. If the minor requirements change during a student's time at Cornell University, the student may request to complete the minor under the old requirements. To do so, the student should contact Savannah Williams (

This minor requires that students complete at least 18 credits of appropriate coursework as follows: 

1. BEE 2000 Perspectives on the Climate Change Challenge (1 credit spring seminar consisting of public lectures on climate change)

2. At least one course in each of the following categories:

  • Category 1: Physical Science Behind Climate Change
  • Category 2: Ecosystems and Climate Change
  • Category 3: Humans and Climate Change

3. Additional courses to meet the 18 credit requirement, chosen from the broad list (Categories 1-4) below. 

Category 1: Physical Science Behind Climate Change

Category 2: Ecosystems and Climate Change

a. Water resources

b. Ecosystems

c. Agriculture

Category 3: Humans and Climate Change

Category 4: Miscellaneous Climate Change Courses

a. Cross-Disciplinary Courses

b. Sustainable Energy

Note: courses marked with a * have minimal prerequisites (most students should be able to take). Courses marked with ** only require 1 year of math, physics or chemistry (most students in engineering or physical science should be able to take).  Courses marked with *** require 1 semester of biology (students in life sciences should be able to take). Courses without asterisks may have multiple prerequisites.

If a student would like a new course to be considered for the minor, they should email Professor Natalie Mahowald and Savannah Williams with the course syllabus and a statement from the instructor indicating that at least 20% of the course content relates to climate change.

Academic Standards

At least C- in each course, or, for S/U only courses, S.