Our Mission - Center for Climate and Life

The Center for Climate and Life empowers innovative thinkers to generate new knowledge about how climate change impacts life’s essential resources — food, water, and shelter — and to develop sustainable energy solutions.


All living organisms have a symbiotic relationship with the natural world. The very existence of life depends on the physical and chemical properties of our exceptional planet.

Throughout Earth’s history, natural climate changes have shaped the course of evolution, embedding their signatures in all life. Today, those changes are happening much more quickly than can be accounted for by natural variability. Human activities, led by the way we burn fossil fuels and release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, are driving global changes.

Our oceans and climate are changing at a rate greater than our ability to understand the effects and their implications for global ecosystems and human populations. Because the global population has surpassed seven billion people, it is imperative that we ask how the web of life and resources upon which we all depend will fare on our rapidly changing planet.

How will the biological and physical systems that sustain us respond to climate change in the years ahead? How will ecosystems respond? Will ocean life adapt? Which crops will wither, and which will flourish? How will water resources be affected? How quickly will changes occur, and where will they occur? Will Earth in the coming centuries be anything like the home planet we now cherish, the world we pass on to our children and grandchildren?

Reliable access to food, water, and shelter is essential for human life. Our planet’s predicament creates an urgent need for actionable knowledge of climate impacts on these essentials, and for viable resource and carbon-management solutions.


The coming decades will present exceptional challenges that require exceptional knowledge. The Center for Climate and Life mobilizes teams of expert talent drawn from a cohort of over 120 climate and life scientists who conduct research at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth ObservatoryInternational Research Institute for Climate and Society, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and Agriculture and Food Security Center. Their research accelerates the vital knowledge needed to understand how rapidly changing climate affects the security of our supplies of food, water, shelter, and energy. Using this knowledge, we partner with academic, industry, finance, and government leaders to build a more resilient and sustainable future.

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