(3 Credits)

Courses in this area examine the relationships among sustainability science, policy and management. Students learn about the socio-political and economic contexts in which sustainability science is practiced and the opportunities and obstacles for integrating scientific knowledge in decision-making.

SUSC PS5270 Managing Diverging Stakeholder Interests in Response to Climate Change

Instructor: Dr. Robert Newton



This course will explore ways in which a changing climate drives divergent, often conflicting, responses from different segments of society: distinct economic classes, industries, communities, countries, etc. This course takes a case study approach, looking at how specific socio-economic impacts of global warming are changing alignments and/or deepening stakeholder entrenchment. It has become common to say that “society lacks political will” to implement effective climate policy; but a closer look indicates that it might be more accurate to say that strong, but conflicting, interests delay action. Further, when the costs of climate change and other environmental risks accrue to one social group while the benefits of new opportunities to another, regulatory policy can be badly distorted. To address this set of problems students will start with science-based projections of change in the Arctic and North America, and will look at how different stakeholders have already responded to change.

The course will include a segment on modeling stakeholder conflict. Several types of models will be described and students will have access to a version of the Human and Nature Dynamics (HANDY) model that has been modified to include delays in policy implementation. The HANDY model runs quickly enough to try out scenarios in class to test possible impacts of conflict and delay on environmental sustainability.


EEEB GU4005 Conservation Policy

Instructor: Sara Kross

Prerequisites: Students should have completed at least one course in ecology, evolution or conservation biology.


The purpose of this course is to arm emerging scientists with an understanding of conservation policy at the city, state, federal and international levels. Our focus will be on understanding the science that informs conservation policy, evaluating the efficacy of conservation policies for achieving conservation goals, and learning about the role that scientists play in forming policy.

FINC B8349 Finance & Sustainability

Instructor: Bruce Usher


Finance & Sustainability provides a high level introduction to the financial tools that can be used to address sustainability across a broad range of issues, including environmental (eg biodiversity, climate change) and social challenges (eg poverty, education, housing). By design, this course does not provide a deep dive on any specific issue. This course is suitable for both MBA students planning a career in financial services who want to understand the potential impact of their work on issues of sustainability, and for students planning a career in social enterprise who want to understand the application of financial tools. Specifically, the course objectives are to:

  1. Understand the relationship between finance and sustainability.

  2. Analyze which financial tools are effective (as measured by both sustainable impact and the ability to earn a financial return), and which are not.

  3. Learn how the effective implementation of finance to address sustainability can be practically applied in a variety of contexts.

INAF 6330 Energy Decarbonization 

EE students have access to over 90 advanced EE electives. The EE curriculum provides students with:

  • Advanced knowledge on global energy and environmental issues and how governments, businesses, and civil society can lead effective action 

  • A holistic understanding of how science, technology, policy, finance, and society shape energy, natural resources, and environmental risks and opportunities 

  • Quantitative and qualitative tools to analyze and model energy and environment-related issues

  • Practical skills to become effective leaders in energy, natural resources, and environment, in both the public and private sector 

  • Multicultural interaction, teamwork, and collaboration within an international context 

  • Experience working with clients to formulate energy and environmental policy and management decisions through applied projects, internships, and workshops 

LAW L6242 Environmental Law

Instructor: Michael Gerrard

This course examines laws and legal techniques to protect the environment. The focus is on U.S. federal law, but there is also some discussion of international law and of U.S. state and municipal law. The primary focus is on three major federal anti-pollution statutes, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act; one liability-conferring statute, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liabiity Act (Superfund); one information disclosure statute, the National Environmental Policy Act; and one natural resources statute, the Endangered Species Act. In addition, we will consider the common law as a source of environmental protection, information-based regulatory strategies, and economic instruments such as emission taxes and marketable permits.

This is a survey course. Because environmental law is predominantly statutory, students will have to come to grips with some statutory minutia. The overall goal, however, is not to learn the endless details of these complex statutes but to introduce the basic problems and approaches that characterize contemporary environmental regulation. There will also be considerable discussion of how these statutes operate in actual practice.

PUBH GU4200 Environment, Health, and Justice: Concepts and Practice

Instructor: Ana Navas-Acien

This course introduces key concepts on environmental health sciences and environmental justice and their application to address environmental health disparities affecting communities in New York City, across the United States and globally. The course will present theory and methods needed to characterize, understand and intervene on environmental health problems with a focus on methods that are particularly appropriate for environmental justice research and interventions. We will describe environmental health disciplines such as exposure sciences, environmental epidemiology, environmental biosciences and toxicology, as well as methods to assess expected environmental health impacts. 

SUMA PS4100 Sustainability Management

Instructor: Dr. Lex van Geen


This course will lead participants through a series of case studies of environmental contaminations of natural or man-made origin. Topics include soil contamination with lead from mining and other industrial activities, and natural well-water contamination with arsenic are some of the topics to be covered. One of the goals of the course will be to develop the critical sense needed to distinguish undisputable harm from poorly substantiated claims and concerns by both reading the primary environmental and public health literature and analyzing existing data sets. The course will cover cases of egregious exposures in developing countries, as well as some environmental issues in and around New York City. The course will provide students with the opportunity to learn how to use and deploy several field kits and monitors for analyzing water, and soil, and assess the quality and implications of their own data. An emphasis on empowerment through measurement, mapping, and sharing of information will lead to a discussion of regulation, policies, and mitigation to reduce the burden of disease caused by environmental exposures in both industrialized and developing nations.

The course will provide students with the methods and tools to understand, monitor, and analyze current environmental health threats in water and, and explore strategies for solving these at times complex challenges. Students will leave the course with a stronger sense of the power, and limitations, of environmental data and better equipped to evaluate and communicate the effectiveness of new interventions. After completing the course, students will more confidently apply core scientific concepts to evaluating and addressing public health challenges posed by, for instance, soil and water contamination with lead.

SUMA PS5148 Managing Ground Water Resources (Area 2 or 5)


SUMA PS5197 Financing the Clean Energy Economy

Instructor: Curtis Probst


We need to transition toward a more environmentally-sustainable society given both pollution and its health effects, and the impacts of extreme weather and climate change. The production and consumption of energy is the largest contributor to these concerns, and so the transition to a clean energy economy is essential. The increasing energy needs of the world’s growing population make this an ongoing challenge. At the same time, energy security and affordability, and social and economic inequities, must also be considered. New technologies and effective policies are needed to help drive increased deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency. Finance is also a key lever to drive the implementation of clean energy. The availability and cost of capital is a key determinant in scaling renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

This course focuses on the finance and market aspects of the clean energy economy, and integrates technology, policy, and finance to evaluate both the opportunities and challenges. There is a focus on renewable energy generation, as mass electrification using cleaner generation sources is necessary to sustain our energy-dependent lives and economies. The course also looks at energy efficiency, including specific end-uses of energy that are responsible for the majority of emissions (e.g., personal vehicles, buildings). Throughout the course, finance will be analyzed as a barrier to, or enabler of, greater adoption of clean energy.

This is a full semester course. Interactive lectures, and guest speakers where appropriate, will cover these topics in the first twelve classes (the final two remaining classes will be reserved for group presentations). The course can be divided into three sections (class numbers shown in parentheses):

  • Acquiring a basic understanding of the U.S. electricity market: (1) history of the energy industry and the importance of finance, (2) energy fundamentals and electricity markets today, and (3) clean energy and grid integration.

  • Applying the tools of finance to clean energy: (4) overview of key financing concepts, (5) financial modeling for energy projects, (6) review of key financing concepts.

  • Integrating knowledge of the electricity market and finance to explore: (7) opportunities and challenges of clean energy, (8) rate design and the financing of distributed energy resources, (9) financing mechanisms for clean energy, (10) electric vehicles and the grid, (11) building energy efficiency, and (12) equity, environment, and economics

SUMA PS5320 Sustainable Investing

ENVP U6239 The Politics and Policy of Urban Sustainability

The Urban Policy focus area is designed to provide students with an understanding of the policy challenges and opportunities that are particular to cities in both the developed and developing world. SIPA focuses on the traditional urban policy fields like city management, urban planning, land use, housing, urban education, transit, as well as the most recent urban policy innovations in environmental sustainability, technological integration, globalization and business development.

More than half of the world’s population resides in an urban areas.  Cities now have responsibilities in virtually every policy arena including: infrastructure development, safety and security, environmental sustainability, economic development and job creation, education, healthcare, housing, and social welfare.  Global urbanization is guaranteed to continue over the course of the 21st century and this policy track prepares students to understand how economic, social, political, geo-physical, and technological factors shape cities.

The range of policies that fall under the umbrella category of urban policy is extensive.  For this reason, students are encouraged to develop specialized policy knowledge within one of the Suggested Urban Policy Subfields listed below. The subfield categories are to be used as a guide to help students structure their elective coursework around a particular policy field. Although it is encouraged, students are not required to choose one subfield and have the flexibility to take courses in several subfields based on their interests.

  • Urban Politics and Governance

  • Management in Urban Public Sector or Not For Profits

  • Urban Social Policy (includes: Family, Race, Ethnicity, Gender, Immigration & Poverty)

  • Economic Development Policy, Urban Planning and Land Use

  • Sustainability and Environmental Policy

  • Housing Policy

  • Education Policy

  • Health Policy

  • Crime, Safety and Security Policy

  • Employment and Labor Policy

FINC B8363 Climate Finance

Instructor: Bruce Usher


Climate change may be today’s most serious challenge to the future well being of our planet. The extent of the environmental and economic impact from climate change is uncertain; however, the recent scientific evidence is increasingly worrisome, suggesting that the world’s businesses and governments may have to take aggressive and coordinated steps in order to avert a catastrophe.  Combating climate change will require a radical reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), in deforestation, and in overall energy use. Transforming the global economy to a low emissions economy will require a broad array of financial tools and techniques that will have far-reaching implications for corporate balance sheets, investors and shareholders. Carbon finance - which refers to investments in GHG emission reduction companies and projects, and the creation of financial instruments that effectively put a price on carbon emissions – is required to transform our global economy. 

This course will explore the science of climate change and its related economic and environmental impacts, and carefully examine the financial tools and techniques that can be applied to combat climate change in the context of evolving global policy. Specific areas to be covered include the use of capital markets to create market-based emissions trading systems, venture capital to develop low emissions technologies, project finance to build clean energy projects, and corporate finance to manage businesses impacted by climate change and ultimately, related regulatory changes.

LAW L6038 Climate Change Law and Policy

Instructor: Michael Gerrard


This course concerns the issues of law and policy that are involved in the regulation of climate change. Most of the course concerns U.S. law but a consiberable amount of international law is studied as well. It begins with an overview of the causes and effects of global climate change and the methods available to control and adopt to it. We will then examine the negotiation, implementation and current status of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, its Kyoto Protocol, and efforts to create a successor agreement. The focus will then turn to the past and proposed actions of the U.S. Congress, the executive branch and the courts, as well as regional, state and municipal efforts. The Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and relevant energy laws will receive special attention. We will evaluate the various legal tools that are available to address climate change, including cap-and-trade schemes; carbon taxation; command-and-control regulation; litigation; information disclosure; and voluntary action. Implications for international human rights, energy security, economic competitiveness, federalism, environmental justice, and international and intergenerational equity will be discussed. Adaptation to climate change and geoengineering are examined as well.

LAW L8421 Sustainable Food Systems and US Environmental Law

Instructor: Peter Lehner


N.B. only 2 credits; students will be required to complete another 1 credit

We eat food every day. The food system, from agricultural production to processing and distribution to consumption and waste, shapes our environment, climate, and public health. This course uses our daily foods to demonstrate the environmental impact of modern agriculture and the U.S. laws that attempt to address it. Most environmental laws were first enacted in the 1970’s. The predominant model of farm and ranch at that time led Congress to largely exempt agriculture. Since then, agriculture has grown increasingly concentrated and industrial. While it is highly productive, it is also a major source of environmental and health harm. Agriculture is the main driver of habitat loss; monoculture row crops dependent on fertilizers and pesticides pollute waters; almost all meat is produced in industrial-scale facilities that generate vast amounts of waste yet often lack effective treatment systems; over-grazing causes erosion and water pollution; the food system as a whole contributes a quarter to a third of total greenhouse gas emissions. This seminar studies the U.S. environmental and farm laws that directly and indirectly seek to reduce these harms. We explore their strengths and weaknesses and alternative approaches to environmental and public health protections. We start and end with climate change and address other impacts and statutes between.

SUMA PS4030 Hungry City Workshop


SUMA PS4145 Science of Sustainable Water (Area 2 or 5)

Instructor: Wade McGillis 

Area 2 or 5

The sustainability of water resources is a critical issue facing society over the coming decades. Water resources are affected by changes not only in climate but also in population, economic growth, technological change, and other socioeconomic factors. In addition, they serve a dual purpose; water resources are critical to both human society and natural ecosystems. The objective of this course is to first provide students with a fundamental understanding of key hydrological processes. Students will then use this understanding to explore various sustainable strategies for integrated water resources management. Numerous case studies will be highlighted throughout the course to illustrate real world, practical challenges faced by water managers. Students will be asked to think critically and to use basic quantitative and management skills to answer questions related to sustainable water development. Considering the importance of water to society the understanding that students obtain from this course will be an essential part of their training in sustainable management.

SUMA PS5162 Responsiveness & Resilience

Instructor: Lynnette Widder


A sustainable and resilient built environment is part of a dynamic system. Conventional infrastructure and building has aimed to hold back or transform the non-anthropogenic forces around it. In this course, we will work to understand how manmade conditions can also accommodate and adapt to changing environmental conditions. Rather than focus on resisting forces – potentially adverse effects of climate, weather, and material properties in the environment – we will discuss solutions that allow us to be responsive and adaptive to change

21st century civic infrastructure can contribute to improving the way cities respond to long-term and catastrophic climate events while also enhancing their citizens’ daily lives. We will study techniques and conditions contributing to this change in approach, and have the opportunity to apply our findings in a concrete setting. In past iterations of this course, students have developed solutions for sites in Brooklyn and Bronx, NY; Newark, NJ; Butte, Montana; Bridgeport, Ct; and Blue Island and Robbins, Il. This year, we will be collaborating with the city of Ford Heights, Il, south of Chicago. It is part of the Calumet Corridor, a region whose susceptibility to flooding is being addressed at present by collaboration among government, community, private sector firms and convener organizations. Unlike other communities in which this class has worked, Ford Heights is at the very beginning of its planning for resiliency

Ultimately, we will look for ways to work with anthropogenic processes that will allow our physical environment to attain and maintain resilience, from the scale of the product all the way up to the scale of a city. We will consider cultural shifts required for delivery systems to become sustainable. And we will ask fundamental questions about how resilience and sustainability can be made relevant to social, spatial and technological approaches to the physical world. This class will also teach you how to visualize, diagram and convey these vital ideas.

SUMA PS5301 International Environmental Law

Instructor: Richard Horsch


International Environmental Law is a fascinating field that allows students to consider some of the most important questions of the 21st century – questions that have profound ramifications for the quality of life for our generation as well as future generations. Global environmental problems are real and urgent. Their resolution requires creative and responsible thought and action from many different disciplines.

Sustainability practitioners must understand global environmental issues and their effects on what they are charged to do. At one level, this course will consider the massive challenge of the 21st century: how to alleviate poverty on a global scale and maintain a high quality of life while staying within the bounds of an ecologically limited and fragile biosphere -- the essence of sustainable development. From a more practical perspective, the course will provide students with an understanding of international environmental policy design and the resulting body of law in order to strengthen their ability to understand, interpret, and react to future developments in the sustainability management arena.

After grounding in the history and foundational concepts of international environmental law and governance, students will explore competing policy shapers and the relevant law in the areas of stratospheric ozone protection, climate change, chemicals and waste management, and biodiversity. The course will finish with a discussion of international environmental corporate standards. The course satisfies the public policy course requirement for the M.S. in Sustainability Management program