According to a 2022 report by a United Nations working group, the coming decade will be a critical one for the planet to develop strategies to reduce emissions and potentially limit global warming.
The good news is the Pew Research Center reports that younger generations, including Millennials and Gen Z, are more active than older generations about addressing climate change, and they prioritize finding solutions to the problem.
So, if you are interested in a career that allows you to contribute to efforts to slow global warming and limit the impact of climate change, here are seven majors you should consider.
#1. Environmental science
As an environmental science major, you'll study the science necessary to solve a wide variety of environmental problems, including statistics, biology, geology and environmental science. You'll also take classes in environmental law and policy to help you understand the economic, legal and social factors that impact conservation efforts and the environment.
Whether you end up working as a scientist or researcher or take your degree into a related field like public policy, understanding the science behind the forces impacting our environment is crucial to developing solutions that can aid conservation efforts and help protect our planet.
#2. Environmental engineering
Environmental engineers use their knowledge of science and their technical skills to design and build systems and solutions that promote environmental sustainability. Environmental engineers may focus on strategies to purify drinking water through design of water treatment plans or to prevent water pollution by better understanding urban design and development. With a strong grounding in the science and an engineer’s ability to design and refine key infrastructure, environmental engineering can play a key role in helping to build sustainable communities.
#3. Public health
Extreme weather such as heat waves or increasing air pollution threaten our planet, but they also threaten our health. Public health majors learn how to understand trends in community health and play an important role in providing data about how a changing climate impacts different communities and how communities can respond these risks and take steps to reduce them.
Public health workers also can be instrumental in communicating the impact of climate change to the public and working within all levels of government to develop strategies to address climate change.
News organizations around the world are taking notice of climate change and taking steps to expand their coverage of climate change and its impact. Using the tools of their trade, including data journalism, social media and storytelling, journalists are key players who can keep the public informed about climate change and bring awareness to the ways that climate change impacts all sectors of our lives.
Climate change is problem that isn’t going anywhere soon, which means future generations will need to be prepared to live in a changing climate and find solutions to the impacts of climate change.
A 2021 article by the Brookings Institute suggests an investment in climate education for middle- and high-school aged students can reduce emissions by motivating changes in their behavior and teaching “green skills” that students can use to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Through programs like NevadaTeach at the University of Nevada, Reno, you can earn dual degrees in secondary education and a science field such as atmospheric science or environmental science. Equipped with both scientific knowledge and the training to become an educator, you can also help address a considerable shortage in STEM-trained educators in U.S. high schools.
#6. Political science
Understanding the science behind climate change is a crucial step to developing solutions, but those solutions need to be implemented through policy and laws. Political scientists are experts at understanding how political parties and institutions work, and they can play an important role in designing policies that address climate challenges.
Climate change solutions also require coordination across various levels of government, from adapting differentiated strategies for cities and rural areas, to international treaties and agreements that address climate change on a global level. With a major in political science or international relations, you’ll be able to play an important role in helping data-driven solutions find their way into public policy and law.
#7. Ecology and conservation
Ecology and conservation majors can focus on different specialties, such as forests, rangeland or wildlife. Regardless of your specialization, these majors will teach you to understand the unique ecology of our natural resources so you can develop strategies for managing and conserving natural resources. You may focus on fire suppression, forest management or on supporting agriculture in drought-impacted areas. Wildlife ecologists may work to protect vulnerable ecosystems and animal habitats. Ecologists and conservation workers can work on field lab-based research or focus on consulting and contributing to policy and legislation based on research results.