Past Panel Events

Climate Change Impacts: Relocation to Safer Ground
Tuesday, December 5th, 6:30pm
Faculty House

Around the world, sea-level rise could lead to widespread migration, as people along vulnerable coastlines escape rising water levels. But coastal flooding isn’t the only extreme event that can impact migration patterns. As evidenced just this year in the United States by Hurricanes Maria and Harvey, and the widespread and devastating wildfires in Northern California, there are many types of extreme weather events that require relocation to safer ground.

This panel looked at the issues of retreat and relocation as they relate to extreme weather events and climate change. The idea of retreating, whether temporary or permanent, is unpopular, controversial and brings a host of challenges. Yet around the world, extreme weather has displaced people from their homes, causing disruption to communities and lives. This panel provided an interdisciplinary exploration of the issues and challenges associated with climate-induced migration. What does climate science tell us about who may need to migrate? What are the legal issues surrounding managed retreat? Is relocation a feasible climate adaptation strategy? How can we ensure that people relocate to safe and secure places? Is ‘orderly’ retreat at a large scale even possible? Panelists explored these questions and more.

Moderator: Radley Horton, Lamont Associate Research Professor, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, The Earth Institute


  • Lisa Dale, Lecturer, Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development
  • Michael Gerrard, Director, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School
  • Alex de Sherbinin, Associate Director for Science Applications, Center for International Earth Science Information Network, The Earth Institute


Collaborating for Change Panel Event

The Sustainable Development Capstone Workshop in conjunction with the Earth Institute hosted a panel discussion at Columbia University, Collaborating for Change, bringing together a range of experts working within the field of climate adaptation in order to showcase the diversity of work on this topic. The full video of the event can be found here. The event provided an opportunity to identify and discuss the most pressing issues pertaining to climate adaptation and to devise collaborative, interdisciplinary solutions. The discussion was moderated by award-winning environmental journalist Andrew Revkin. As a reporter for the New York Times, Revkin wrote Dot Earth, an environmental blog examining the environmental impacts of human activity. Revkin currently works as the senior reporter for climate and related issues at ProPublica.


  • Adela Gondek, Professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology at Columbia University, specializing in environmental ethics
  • Peter Marcotullio, Director of the CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities and Professor of Urban Planning at Columbia University
  • Shaun Martin, Senior Director, Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
  • C. Salyer, Lawyer and Professor of Anthropology and Human Rights at Barnard College

The event began with pre-recorded remarks by Thomas Friedman, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist, best-selling author and contributor to the hit documentary series “Years of Living Dangerously.”