Climate Change Initiative

House and trees in flooded water courtesy of Getty Images

Harvard Radcliffe Institute’s Climate Change Initiative is an effort to explore the impacts of the climate crisis through an interdisciplinary lens and to address issues of climate justice—particularly the disproportionate effects on marginalized communities locally and globally.  

At the heart of this work is the Institute’s commitment to supporting and sharing research that promotes innovative solutions and greater equity. This initiative is driven by the mounting urgency of the global climate crisis and our belief that Radcliffe’s unique approach—interdisciplinary by design and animated by a legacy of promoting inclusion—will generate valuable new insights.

The Institute brings together scholars, students, and practitioners to engage with issues that can only be fully understood by drawing on research from across all disciplines. Climate change is precisely such an issue, one already affecting the lives and livelihoods of people around the world. Radcliffe’s interdisciplinary approach has repeatedly proven to advance research in unexpected and fruitful ways by placing scientific inquiry in dialogue with insights into human behavior and other fields of study. The Institute will support research on issues as varied as reducing human-caused climate change, developing public education on the causes and consequences of the climate crisis, and mitigating the effects of climate change, particularly on the most vulnerable.

The legacy of Radcliffe College—an institution created to allow women access to a Harvard education—animates our ongoing commitment to opportunity and inclusion. This is the foundation upon which we continue to engage with issues affecting historically marginalized communities, which stand to be hardest hit by climate change. Women in particular bear a disproportionate burden, as the United Nations has documented. 

Human-induced climate change … has caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people. Across sectors and regions, the most vulnerable people and systems are … disproportionately affected.
—Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report

On a global scale, the most severe climate risks threaten nations in the Global South, which often lack the resources to mitigate climate impacts. While climate change affects the Global South most acutely, its causes lie primarily in the Global North: the World Resources Institute found that from 1850 to 2011, the United States produced 27 percent of the total climate change–causing carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. No other single country came close.  

Over the next five years, Harvard Radcliffe Institute will support our interdisciplinary community of faculty, fellows, staff, and students in their pursuit of climate solutions that address critical questions of human impact and equity. Radcliffe’s work will also include a range of efforts implemented in partnership with Harvard’s Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability.   

The climate crisis and its devastating effects demand urgent action and bold solutions. Indeed, by supporting rigorous interdisciplinary research, I believe that we can generate powerful new tools for reducing threats to our planet and the inequitable impact of the climate crisis locally and globally.
—Tomiko Brown-Nagin, dean, Harvard Radcliffe Institute

Among other activities, Harvard Radcliffe Institute will convene leading scholars, policymakers, artists, activists, and others to: 

  • foster the interdisciplinary exchange necessary to drive research and discern innovative solutions to the climate crisis; 
  • explore such issues as food sustainability and insecurity; human impacts of extreme weather events; uneven health and economic consequences; access to water, energy, and other vital resources; the role of business and industry; and the intersection of climate and gender; 
  • center the experience and elevate the insights of those most affected by the climate crisis; 
  • raise awareness of and support for climate justice work being driven by youth leaders at Harvard and beyond; and 
  • use our public programming and communications channels to bring climate science from academia and the private sector to a broader public audience.

Climate Policy Accelerator Workshops

In partnership with the Center for International Development (CID) at Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Radcliffe Institute’s new Climate Policy Accelerator Workshop program provides funding to Harvard scholars and practitioners to propel original research and bold ideas toward a specific outcome at the heart of the climate crisis.

With an eye toward accelerating the development and spread of innovative policy ideas concerning action to address climate change, especially climate justice, this workshop program brings participants together to refine their work as they prepare for dissemination and implementation.

Learn more about Climate Policy Accelerator Workshops

Public Programming on Climate 

Harvard Radcliffe Institute reaches national and international audiences through its public programming. Radcliffe supports vital conversations—from small group gatherings to major public conferences—that create productive dialogue around difficult and complex issues, advancing discourse on topics related to climate change and climate justice. 

Events related to climate include:

Research Support for Climate-Related Work 

Harvard Radcliffe Institute invests in the work of leading scholars, public intellectuals, and practitioners focused on climate change and climate justice through its Fellowship Program. Radcliffe also sponsors private multidisciplinary seminars led by Harvard- and Radcliffe-affiliated scholars to launch and support important research agendas. Each seminar convenes 10–15 scholars and practitioners from around the world to advance their work in a collaborative setting.

Awarded fellowships include:

Harvard Radcliffe Institute is perfectly positioned to tackle interdisciplinary issues such as climate change, and I admire the Institute’s vision to make climate change a theme for years to come. I feel that I am in the right place at the right time.
—Hong Yang, 2022–2023 William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Fellow, Harvard Radcliffe Institute

Select research seminars in recent years include:

In addition, Harvard Radcliffe Institute awards grants to undergraduate and graduate students at Harvard who are pursuing research, service, and creative projects in fields related to climate justice and climate science.

Archival Resources Related to Climate

Radcliffe’s Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America is accessible to researchers inside and beyond Harvard University. The Schlesinger Library is a resource for discussion about not only the threats to archives that climate change presents but also its threats to the cultural heritage of vulnerable communities.