Columbia’s Earth Institute has begun collaborations with global investment management firm AllianceBernstein to create a new environmentally conscious curriculum for portfolio managers. AllianceBernstein will also be serving as lead sponsor to the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory’s annual open house on Oct. 5.
The curriculum, which is being hailed as a “first-of-its-kind,” will focus on better understanding the risks and consequences that climate change will have on economics and investing.
Spearheading the project on behalf of the Earth Institute is Arthur Lerner-Lam, deputy director of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and science coordinator for the program in environmental science and policy. According to Lerner-Lam, a prototype curriculum will be finalized in about two weeks, although the Earth Institute will be working alongside AllianceBernstein to further develop it over time.
News of the collaboration comes after University President Lee Bollinger recently announced the formation of a new task force to address climate change, as well as another to expand the impact of the University on a global scale. The climate change task force will be led by Alex Halliday, director of the Earth Institute.
According to Lerner-Lam, a collaboration of this nature with a leading member of the financial sector is key in pursuing the goals of the new task forces by leveraging the resources of the financial sector to the advantage of climate science.
“I think it’s appropriate to link this [collaboration] in the context of these two initiatives that Bollinger just announced,” Lerner-Lam said. “What we’re doing, I believe, is completely in sync with these two task forces.”
Though not directly involved with the program, Jason Smerdon, Lamont research professor and adjunct professor of ecology, evolution and environmental biology, sees it as an important next step in advocating for climate change action.
“Often the way climate change and climate change mitigation is discussed is that it is something that will cost money and represent a downside to business. But the truth is, not doing anything about it probably will cost more money,” Smerdon said. “Recognizing the risks that it represents, recognizing the need to pursue mitigation measures, as well as thinking about it as a risk factor in the way that people do business [are important]. There’s a business interest in this, even if you don’t do anything to address climate change.”
As of now, the “Climate Science and Portfolio Risk” curriculum will be geared toward training and educating portfolio managers at AllianceBernstein, whose investment teams will all be registered for a pilot program in the next year.
Lerner-Lam was open to parts of the curriculum being offered to a broader audience, including students at Columbia, though he noted that the future of the program has not been decided at the moment.
“Elements of the curriculum, depending on how this experiment works out, will certainly end up being available, or made available,” Lerner-Lam said. “Elements of what we’re teaching [at AllianceBernstein] are already part of the curriculum for our [students]. What’s new in what we’re doing is the way we are posing elements of those curricula in the context of decisions that portfolio managers have to make.”