The M.S. Program in Carbon Management is an interdisciplinary systems approach to studying the management of carbon with key emphasis in the following areas: engineering, natural sciences, policy and law, business and economics, and decision science. The interconnection of these areas of emphasis locate the program in a sustainable development framework focused on managing the flows of carbon from energy and land use, through technological innovation, and keeping in mind the latest research on environmental decision making.

Through this approach the program seeks to enable graduates from the program to make decisions on carbon management informed by the latest knowledge in science, engineering, law, and economics/business aspects. Thus, it bridges the gap between innovating solutions and managing their implementation.

The Carbon Management program requires a minimum of 10 courses (30 credits), which may be completed within one year of full time study. The curriculum is comprised of seven core courses and three electives, which may be chosen from a pre-approved list or in consultation with an advisor. The entire core curriculum was developed specifically for the Carbon Management program.

Course of Study

Core Courses


The list of pre-approved courses for the Fall 2014 term is TBA. Students will also have the opportunity to select elective courses from throughout Columbia University in consultation with their advisor. All elective selections must be approved by an advisor prior to registration.

Course Descriptions

Introduction to Carbon Management

This course defines and presents the case and options for carbon management. The motivation for reducing atmospheric carbon levels and the basic science, psychology, economics and policy background on how to go about doing so are first presented systematically and then through a series of case studies. In each case study the interactions between science, technology and engineering, economics and business, law and policy and behavior and psychology will be addressed. In all cases we will use a simple carbon emission model to estimate the impacts of a specific intervention with regards to national, per capita and global emissions. This course is the required introductory course for the Master’s in Carbon Management to prepare the students for subsequent coursework.

Carbon Management and Decision Making

This class will introduce the principles of descriptive and prescriptive decision science with a focus on applications for carbon management. It will use classic and carbon specific examples to explore current models of behavior under uncertainty. This course will provide students in the master’s program with insights into heuristics, biases, decision models (normative, descriptive and prescriptive), and other behavioral aspects of real world carbon management problems. This course will also cover effective decision making under competing goals and objectives.

Humans and the Carbon Cycle

This is a required core course for students in the new masters program in carbon management at Columbia. It is anticipated that students have had little exposure to this topic beyond the primer (“Introduction to Carbon Management”). It provides the scientific background on the carbon cycle required by follow-up courses in the program. This is an introductory course on the carbon cycle with a focus on the human perturbation. While this course is meant to be accessible to non-science majors, and hence eschews equations and complicated math, it is important that students come away with a solid quantitative picture of the carbon cycle. Thus, particular effort will be made to present some of the basic “numbers” and (confusing) plethora of units used in this field so that students may build intuition about the scales involved and understand the jargon to describe them.

Land Use and Carbon Management

A core course for the Carbon Management Masters program, Land Use and Carbon Management builds on students’ understanding of the basic biogeochemistry and economic and social dynamics introduced in the first year of the Carbon Management Program. This course aims to provide students with an understanding of issues related to land use management and terrestrial biological carbon sequestration (TBCS) in rural and natural landscapes. The course will introduce various sustainable forestry and agricultural management practices for mitigating climate change in both the developed and developing world, and at the site and regional scale. The course will explore the social, economic, and ecological complexities of working with rural communities, non-governmental organizations, and other land managers to develop carbon contracts to manage forests and agricultural land for both environmental stewardship and climate change mitigation. At the end of this course, students will be have the knowledge and tools necessary to select specific methodologies, financial mechanisms, and policy approaches to facilitate, design, and implement TBCS carbon contracts for a range of management practices and regions.

Carbon Capture (part one),
Carbon Storage (part two),
Carbon Measurement, Monitoring & Reporting (part three)

These three courses are part of a series of courses on the technologies considered for capturing carbon dioxide, storing it away from the atmosphere, and respective monitoring and reporting: capture; storage; and measurement, monitoring, and reporting. Over the last 200 years, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have risen by more than 30%. More than one third of this increase occurred in the last 20 years. Carbon sequestration (i.e., capture, storage, and monitoring) represents a major research thrust in the department and is of international importance as more and more countries are obligating themselves to substantial carbon reductions. over the past years, technological advances on one hand (e.g., oxyfuel power plants, air capture, C14 monitoring of possible physical leakage) and practical applications on the other (e.g., LIDAR-based CO2 monitoring, LCA-based carbon footprinting, corporate emission reporting) create a need for more depth and widened scope of the existing sequestration theme. To cover the spectrum from the required basic science and engineering content of each technology to the interdisciplinary, systems approach of the M.S. in Carbon Management Program, all three courses will include economic, environmental, regulatory, and political/policy aspects, and their implication for regional and global carbon management strategies of the future.