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Bekenstein Climate Leaders Program Expands Pathways to Climate Careers

An exciting gift from Anita and Joshua Bekenstein ’80 will establish a university-wide program to increase the ranks of YSE and Yale graduates in climate leadership roles and accelerate climate action.

“Climate change is an existential threat to our beautiful planet. It is critical that we implement solutions at speed and scale. We are proud to partner with Yale University and YSE to help increase the number of passionate young climate leaders who will help solve the climate crisis,”  Anita Bekenstein says on behalf of the couple. 

The intensive interdisciplinary education and training that master’s students at YSE receive position them to become climate leaders. However, some YSE graduates find that to pay off student loan debt they must forgo climate-related work in favor of more remunerative positions. To help reduce these financial barriers, the Bekenstein Climate Leaders Program will offer a $10,000 scholarship to up to 30 qualified master’s students in each class who are focused on careers in climate mitigation, with a particular emphasis on the clean energy transition. The funding will also enable the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication to offer an expanded climate communication curriculum and new in-person and virtual trainings, including a certificate program in climate communication for working professionals. In addition, the program includes funding for competitively awarded internships and postgraduate stipends (for eligible graduates from any of Yale’s professional schools) who are pursuing climate leadership careers.

“YSE alumni, and graduates across Yale, are developing cutting-edge climate science, shaping innovative policies, and protecting and managing ecosystems across the globe,” Dean Indy Burke says. “The Bekenstein Climate Leaders Program will have a profound impact on our efforts to educate and train highly effective leaders who are capable of solving the climate crisis. We are incredibly grateful to Anita and Josh Bekenstein for the opportunity to spearhead this transformative program.”

People looking at map on a computer display

Profiles of Courage and Leadership

The Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Sustainability Initiative (JEDSI) has launched a comprehensive database detailing the careers and personal stories of environmental professionals of color in the U.S. 

The database, called “People of Color Environmental Professionals: Profiles of Courage and Leadership,” is the most comprehensive of its kind and features 200 professionals in the energy, Indigenous land rights, conservation, climate, and environmental justice fields. It includes information on their early life and education, career, research and publications, institutional websites, LinkedIn profiles, and mentors and is searchable by specific filters such as areas of the country, fields, and job positions. At least 500 more profiles will be added this year with plans to continually expand. 

“In environmental spaces, a person of color often finds they are the only person of color in the room. These profiles provide a way for people to tell their stories,” says Dorceta Taylor, professor of environmental justice at YSE and JEDSI director, who is leading the project. “Projects like this help environmental professionals of color, especially young people, identify each other and help build networks that can complement their educational and work experiences. It provides opportunities for students and environmental professionals to know who they can reach out to who can help with questions about job opportunities and career paths.”

Taylor '85 MFS, '91 PhD, along with Karen Seto, Frederick C. Hixon Professor of Geography and Urbanization Science, lecturer Pat Gonzales-Rogers, and YSE alumni Gary Barrett ’96 MF, Don Chen ’89, ’92 MES, and Kartikeya Singh ’11 MESc were featured in the database at launch. 

Yale Climate Connections Provides Climate News in Spanish

YCC En Español, a news site run by Yale Climate Connections (YCC), is providing news and information about climate change and extreme weather events in Spanish to Latino and Hispanic communities. The site, which has been translating its English stories into Spanish, has brought in four Spanish-speaking contributors, including an atmospheric scientist based at the University of Puerto Rico, and will soon begin publishing original content in Spanish.

“Latinos are one of the fastest growing demographics in the U.S., with a growing influence in American politics, economics, and culture. Our research has found that Latinos in the U.S. are very engaged with the issue of climate change,” says Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and YSE senior research scientist. 

YCC En Español has published more than 90 articles and garnered more than 500,000 page views. In the next phase of the project, which was seed funded by CO2 Foundation, YCC will also report on the consequences of climate change, climate solutions, and actions individuals can take to protect themselves and their communities. 

YSE Awarded Energy Earthshot Funding to Study Natural Carbon Capture

Peter Raymond, Oastler Professor of Biogeochemistry, is leading a U.S. Department of Energy study that explores promising methods to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and mitigate climate change.

The study, funded by the DOE’s Energy Earthshots Initiative, will create a modeling framework that connects rainfall, soils, rivers, coastal oceans, and open oceans to fully evaluate the impact of enhanced mineral weathering and ocean alkalinity enhancement on atmospheric CO2 concentrations, ecosystems, and ocean pH. 

It will be conducted by scientists who have been working together through the Yale Center for Natural Carbon Capture. The research team from Yale includes James Saiers, Clifton R. Musser Professor of Hydrology at YSE, and Noah Planavsky, Matthew Eisaman, and Juan Lora from Earth and Planetary Sciences at Yale. Scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Princeton University, and Texas A&M University are also partnering on the study.

Aerial view of a highway interchange in a densely populated urban area

Preparing Urban Leaders for Climate Challenges

Cities are responsible for about 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and in the next 25 years the population of urban areas is expected to increase by 2.5 billion, straining infrastructure, energy systems, and ecosystems. Urbanization can offer crucial opportunities to help solve climate change, as cities are often resource and energy efficient and are sites of innovation and economic growth. To help urban policymakers and practitioners around the world implement climate solutions, YSE and the Hixon Center for Urban Sustainability have launched a new certificate program in Urban Climate Leadership

The program is aimed at public, private, and nonprofit professionals — especially those from the Global South—committed to the work of building and adapting cities for a changing climate. 

Karen Seto, Frederick C. Hixon Professor of Geography and Urbanization Science, and Mark Ashton, senior associate dean of The Forest School and Morris K. Jesup Professor of Silviculture and Forest Ecology, are co-leading the nine-month program.

The Urban Climate Leadership certificate program is funded through the Three Cairns Climate Program for the Global South at YSE, which expands access to advanced education and training for qualified students and professionals committed to working to address climate change.

Leadership Council 2024

Rae Wynn Grant reading from her new book
Rae Wynn Grant ’10 MESc

YSE’s Leadership Council met April 18–19, addressing the theme “Beyond Climate: Biodiversity Under Pressure in a Time of Global Change.” Keynote speaker Rae Wynn-Grant ’10 MESc discussed the skills she learned at YSE that led her to become a wildlife ecologist and co-host of “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.” Alumni panelists Saleem Ali ’96 MES, Laly Lichtenfeld ’99 MFS, ’05 PhD, and Max Lambert ’13 MESc, ’18 PhD illuminated challenges and opportunities from a range of complementary perspectives. Professors Os Schmitz and Dave Skelly shared their thoughts on the future of biodiversity conservation. On the lighter side, Yale’s own Redhot & Blue, Yale’s oldest all-gender a cappella group, serenaded the audience. 

Leadership Council panel in Burke Auditorium
From left: Professors Os Schmitz addresses alumni panelists Saleem Ali ’96 MES, Laly Lichtenfeld ’99 MFS, ’05 PhD, and Max Lambert ’13 MESc, ’18 PhD illuminated challenges and opportunities from a range of complementary perspectives.
Dave Skelly speaking at Leadership Council
Dave Skelly (center) shared their thoughts on the future of biodiversity conservation.