Climate Change Minor

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, from the potential of sustainable energy to replace fossil fuels, to the slow response of governments worldwide. The climate change minor gives students the opportunity to explore climate change from varied disciplinary perspectives while gaining 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.

The minor is offered collaboratively with classes across campus coordinated by Peter Hess (BEE/CALS), Christy Goodale (EEB/A+S), Natalie Mahowald (EAS/ENG),  and Karen Pinkus (COML/A+S). 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.

During your final semester (or earlier if you have already completed your minor requirements), you should submit a completed climate change minor certification form to Sierra Henry in 2102 Snee Hall for approval. Please contact Sierra Henry ( with any questions about the minor certification process and to obtain the climate change minor certification form.  We have an email list with special events for climate change minors, so please email us to put your name on the list  (

Learning Objectives:

  1. Describe the physical mechanisms that underlie climate change and the drivers of uncertainty in the future climate projections.
  2. Recognize how climate forces changes in ecosystems and agriculture, and how these can further amplify or mitigate climate change forcings.
  3. Explain how humans interact with climate change, including historical, social science perspectives, mitigation and/or adaptation solutions.
  4. Synthesize and communicate the multi-disciplinary complexities and uncertainties in the possible solutions to climate change.


    Curricular topics: Natalie Mahowald (
    Administration: Sierra Henry (

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 major at Cornell to obtain the minor.

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.

New for incoming students in Fall 2022: Only one course at the 1000 level can count for the minor, and at least 12 credits must be at the 3000 level or higher.
Note: Students enrolled before Fall 2022 can use theold minor requirements including courses.

Category 1: Physical Science Behind Climate Change

Category 2: Ecosystems, Water Resources and Climate Change

a. Water resources

b. Ecosystems and Agriculture

Category 3: Humans and Climate Change

a. Economics and Policy

b. Understanding the Context

c. Solutions: Mitigation, Adaptation and Remediation

Category 4: Additional Climate Change Courses


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 Sierra Henry ( with the course syllabus and a statement from the instructor indicating that at least 30% of the course content is about climate change. Only Cornell classes, and some transfer classes, count towards the minor. AP credit cannot be used towards the minor. No more than 3 unstructured credits can count towards the minor.

Academic Standards

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