The political differences we see on climate issues globally reflect different cultures and distinct stages of economic development. Just as global treaty negotiations work to bridge the divide between nations, Americans need to renew our search for common ground. For most of the 21st century, our national politics has been about how we differ. With the phrase “climate change” disappearing from U.S. federal government websites and increased talk of regulatory overreach, it is obvious that protecting the environment will continue to be a fault line in American political ideology. While there are plenty of examples of environmental regulations being administered with rigidity and inflexibility, there are far more examples of accommodation and a process that provides plenty of time for businesses and localities to comply with environmental standards.
Solar energy use has grown substantially in recent years both in the United States and globally. The first solar battery was developed in 1954 by Bell Labs, and large scale solar plants began popping up in the 1980s and 1990s, but it wasn’t until the early 2000s that solar technology gained significantly in popularity. Two factors made this possible: a) new financial models that made solar technology more affordable and b) government subsidies for solar energy.
Growing population, increased urbanization, a growing global economy, and increased use of natural resources have created a demand for sustainability. Sustainability is an interdisciplinary field that requires collaboration from multiple perspectives. The planet’s resources are all being used at a ferocious pace. Energy is at the center of this issue; dependence on fossil fuels is causing extensive damage to ecosystems and public health and is a major cause of global climate change. The goal of a renewable resource-based economy is therefore important for the future, but rather than attacking the fossil fuel industry, it should be achieved through a positive vision of sustainability—one that includes the need to invest in basic and applied science of renewable energy in order to make renewables cheaper than fossil fuels. We will discuss the opportunities in sustainability-focused education and research that are needed for the transition to a renewable economy. We will also discuss the trend toward urbanization and the opportunities that exist in urban areas to close the cycle of production and consumption. Not only does most of the world’s population live in cities, but cities are paving the path toward a sustainable future. All of these factors contribute to a positive and creative vision of sustainability that focuses on building something new and clean rather than defeating something old and dirty.
WE NEED CHEAP, RELIABLE, SAFE RENEWABLE ENERGY
Across the world we all inhabit, the economic system that we depend on is based on the one-time use of fossil fuels and other material resources. Our planet’s population has grown to over 7 billion people. We simply cannot continue using up materials and dumping the waste into a hole in the ground; we need to develop and deploy the technology to create a renewable resource-based economy. The future wellbeing of the United States, and of the planet as a whole, depends on the US government playing a more strategic and future-oriented role to bring about the transition to a renewable-resource-based economy.
We know that we must transition to renewable energy eventually, but with energy technology advancing every decade, why hasn’t the transformation to a renewable economy happened yet? What is preventing a more fundamental shift in our energy production and use? There are three barriers to this transformation: (1) technologies that still need advancing; (2) infrastructure that is not designed for distributed generation; and (3) complicated political challenges that limit our ability to make the tough choices necessary for long-term energy policies. The public sector is critical in the transition to a sustainable global economy. Smart sustainability policy and management can help the United States and other countries move past technological, market, and political barriers, and there are a range of federal policies that could lead us on the path toward a sustainable economy powered by clean energy.
Environmental policy makers use life cycle assessment (LCA) to reduce scientific uncertainties about the environmental impact of technologies and products. However, the structure of the U.S. policy-making system often acts as a roadblock to the use of LCA outputs in decision making. This chapter discusses specific characteristics of the U.S. political system, which often make uncertainty-reducing assessments like life cycle assessment fall in a decision-making context: the incremental nature of the U.S. policy-making system; the place-based nature of environmental politics in the United States; and the uncertainties associated with the most environmental and scientific challenges.
This paper presents the portfolio of activities that Columbia University’s Earth Institute undertakes to serve the public good by employing research, education, public outreach, and practice to move toward a more sustainable global economy. The mission of public service is embodied in activities across Columbia University’s Earth Institute. While primarily a research institution, the Earth Institute blends natural, physical and social scientific research, and cutting edge technical knowledge with education, outreach, and practical application of knowledge to address the critical issues of global sustainability. The Earth Institute promotes the ideal of public service by connecting our students and the public to issues of environmental sustainability and showcasing the problem-solving capacities of the public and non-profit sectors.
The overarching goal behind the research of the Earth Institute is to achieve environmental sustainability in the context of a world of environmental challenges—from rapid population growth and climate change to extreme poverty and infectious disease. With Columbia University as its foundation, the Earth Institute draws on the scientific rigor and academic leadership for which the University is known to create an interdisciplinary community dedicated to cutting-edge research. The Earth Institute has built research units to examine every facet of global sustainability.
This study provides an in-depth management and policy analysis of the independent contractor model in the modern U.S. economy. We pay extensive attention to the complex issue of misclassifying employees as contractors, a minor, but salient issue on the nation’s political and regulatory agenda. The report is divided into three sections: • Part I discusses the independent contracting model and relevant issues of organizational management. • Part II analyzes most common types of independent contractors, varied across industries and varied by size and discusses the complex policy and legal environment that independent contractors operate under in the United States. • Part III concludes with a discussion of independent contracting’s place in the current and future U.S. economy amid recently heightened national scrutiny and includes a discussion of best practices for companies who engage with independent contractors.
The Master of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy (MPA ESP) began in 2002 to train sophisticated public managers and policymakers who apply innovative, systems-based thinking to environmental issues. Students in the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program complete a total of 54 credits over the course of an intensive twelve months. The program’s objective is to provide students with the analytic, communication, and work skills required to be problem-solving earth systems professionals. Graduates are prepared for professional careers in the roles of analyst, manager, and translator of scientific knowledge. The program’s curriculum combines in-depth understanding of the issues of environmental sustainability policy with the traditional analytic and conceptual skills of a master of public administration (MPA) program. Two fundamental insights shape this master’s program: the realization that institutional, social, and economic processes interconnect to both sustain and endanger the planet and the need for professionals who can maintain the health of this interconnected system. Only by combining an understanding of earth systems issues with management strategies will it be possible to cope with the threats to planetary sustainability.
This paper describes Columbia University’s graduate offerings in sustainability policy and management, highlighting the expanding role of executive-style training in the growing fields of environmental policy and sustainability management. The purpose of the paper is purely descriptive: to provide a summary of the goals, curricula, and audiences for these three programs to help other universities that may be engaged in planning similar courses of study. Columbia University, across its many schools, provides a number of professionally oriented graduate degrees in environmental policy and sustainability management. This year, the School of International and Public Affairs launched a new concentration in Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management for the Executive Master of Public Administration (MPA) program. This concentration, coupled with the existing Executive MPA core, emphasizes integrated thinking, training students to analyze issues of environmental sustainability.