Draft Proposal for:
The Rutgers Climate & Energy Institute

This is a draft proposal produced by the Climate Change Task Force (members listed below) commissioned by the Office of the Chancellor-Provost, to consider climate change scholarship at Rutgers New Brunswick. As members of the existing institutes concerned with climate change and renewable energy (RCI, REI, & EOAS), we are now seeking your direct and exclusive feedback. 

Using the form found here and at the bottom of this webpage, the Task Force is pleased to consider all feedback, and will revise the proposal in light of the information as we move into the next phase of proposal development via the Office of the Chancellor-Provost.

This webpage and feedback mechanism will be available until April 7, 2023. 

Proposal Presented by Climate Change Task Force Members:

Julie Lockwood (Chair)
Dunbar Birnie (SOE)
Oscar Schofield (SEBS)
Clinton Andrews (BSPP)
Anthony Broccoli (SEBS)
Rachael Shwom (SEBS)
Debashish Bhattacharya (SEBS)
Robin Leichenko (SAS)
James Wright (SAS)
The Challenge of Climate Change Scholarship

The Earth’s climate reflects a complex interplay between the atmosphere, ecosystems, oceans, human activity, and the solid earth. Insightful and actionable climate change scholarship demands interdisciplinary approaches and Rutgers must organize to undertake state-of-the art integrated approaches to studying climate change. It is only through an all-hands-on-deck approach that we, as Rutgers climate change scholars, can provide the deep scientific understanding, improved predictive capacity, and meaningful responses and solutions needed to meet the challenge of climate change.
Credit: Dennis Schroeder/National Renewable Energy Lab, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Rutgers-New Brunswick faculty are increasingly combining their expertise to grow new knowledge, understand the range of climate change impacts, and develop innovative and equitable climate change mitigation and adaptation solutions. Addressing climate change requires novel combinations of disciplinary approaches that can identify and achieve technological, ecological, social, and policy solutions to slowing the rate at which greenhouse gasses are emitted into the atmosphere, and inspiring and guiding the responses of society to the current and pending impacts of climate change.

Simply put, no single approach or disciplinary perspective to confronting the climate change challenge will work in isolation as the task is too large and complex for silver-bullet solutions.
The way forward is to strategically ‘blend’ disciplinary tools, Rutgers communities, and their perspectives, and to foster a convergence of ideas that begins to match the scale and urgency of the climate crisis.

Key Questions
How does Rutgers-New Brunswick create a cultural and administrative environment that can fully embrace and facilitate this level of interdisciplinary scholarly convergence?
How can Rutgers-New Brunswick faculty and students tell the story of how our planet, and our relationship to it, is changing in the wake of climate change?
How can Rutgers-New Brunswick faculty and students best serve the needs of the state’s citizenry, industry, and administration as we collectively look to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the worst of climate change impacts, while also identifying opportunities to enhance resiliency of our social and ecological systems?
The Rutgers Climate & Energy Institute

We propose the establishment of the Rutgers Climate and Energy Institute (RCEI) with a mission that serves to elevate the local, national, and international profile of Rutgers-New Brunswick (RU-NB) as a locus for climate change scholarship and outreach.
This new institute takes full advantage of existing climate, renewable energy, and earth system science programs, while expanding the range of disciplinary perspectives brought to the task. This series of ambitious and wide-reaching goals generate the following mission statement:


The Rutgers Climate and Energy Institute will be a force multiplier that enables RU-NB to make significant advances in producing the knowledge needed for a resilient, equitable, and sustainable climate future beyond the current situation, communicating that scholarship to the public, and inspiring climate action.

RCEI will support, coordinate, generate, and communicate the broad range of climate change scholarship that takes place across the Rutgers-New Brunswick campus.

rcei circular logo

7 RCEI Initiatives
Provision of resources and staff to support ideation sessions, inter-disciplinary synthesis, and outreach events that galvanize scholarly efforts across RU-NB to move ideas into action.
Provision of resources, space, and staff support for groups that are engaged in grant writing, or similar efforts, that will fund innovative convergent climate change scholarship.
Provide post-grant communications support and meeting spaces that facilitate realization of grant proposal goals and increase the impact of funded scholarship.
Create an inviting and convenient physical space at RU-NB that can house RCEI and provide a potent symbol of what we can achieve under its mission.
Create a climate change and renewable energy postdoctoral fellows program that supports under-represented groups in climate scholarship, facilitating their advancement as impactful climate change scholars.
Create an artist-in-residence program that allows artists to fully engage within a research team helping the group to conceptualize ideas that lie outside the scope normally defined by the sciences and open the field of climate change science to questions that might otherwise go unasked.
Engage and sustain climate change and renewable energy scholarship, education, and outreach partnerships with industry, government, and stakeholders within New Jersey.
A Strong Foundation


Rutgers-New Brunswick is home to world-leading faculty and staff in the disciplines interwoven in climate change scholarship with almost 250 individuals from across the university identifying as having climate change or renewable energy as a part of their scholarship or outreach interests.

Over the past two decades, subsets of these faculty and staff have organized under existing institutes and centers and achieved considerable success in climate change and renewable energy scholarship, outreach and education.

It is imperative that our effort to realize a broader climate change scholarship mission acknowledges and builds upon these successes.

A Dynamic Future

Building on this foundation, we propose a new organizational structure:

  • With the founding of RCEI, RCI and REI will be fully subsumed and cease to exist as independent units at Rutgers.
  • Elements of EOAS will move into RCEI, however it will remain an independent institute with a mission and structure shifting toward the continuing interests and needs of its associated faculty.

This proposed reorganization, if fully resourced, will enable RU-NB to embark upon a dynamic future for climate change scholarship and outreach described below.

RCEI as a Scholarship Hub

We propose several new initiatives that directly address the RU-NB master plan goals of scholarly leadership, innovative research, and increasing faculty diversity.

We propose dedicated sources of annual funding that will support groups of faculty and staff engaged in convergence research related to climate change and renewable energy scholarship. These funds target stages of scholarship progression from synthesis and ideation, to securing needed funding, and finally to ensuring funded work is impactful.
light bulb
RCEI can play a pivotal role in training, attracting and retaining a diverse set of climate change and renewable energy scholars at RU-NB. We see RCEI leadership and affiliated faculty as providing the dynamic and engaged community of scholars that can accelerate success for young scholars and new faculty, and ensure they are participatory and productive members of the RU-NB community.
RCEI can substantially increase climate change community engagement by becoming a central locus for research-to-application efforts within industry, state government, municipalities, and stakeholder groups. RU-NB serves a critical role as the institution charged with moving innovative and novel research into practical applications that benefit New Jersey residents.
The importance of this mission cannot be understated in the context of likely impacts of climate change on New Jersey communities, and the need to provide the technological innovations that allow residents to thrive within a novel climate future and de-carbonized energy future.
RCEI as an Integration Hub

RCEI will foster collaboration and amplify the vast climate scholarship being conducted at RU-NB facilitating or sponsoring several highly successful existing or new programs.

RCEI will be a facilitating partner for existing efforts to connect faculty with stakeholders throughout New Jersey.

RCEI as a Communication Hub

As climate change impacts worsen over time, and the global energy economy moves toward decarbonization, it will be of paramount importance to effectively communicate the value and impact of climate change scholarship at RU-NB.
Equally important is the ability of Rutgers faculty and staff to innovate climate change communication modalities, finding ways to reach populations that remain under-engaged in addressing climate change or responding to a changing energy economy.

In keeping with its mission to realize high visibility and impact, RCEI will serve as communication hub that engages with scholars across RU-NB in their efforts to invite participation by communities that have lacked access to the natural environment and that have been excluded from discussions of climate change thus far.
Leadership and Governance

  • RCEI is confronted with a real and formidable task of organizing faculty, students and staff around salient themes within climate change scholarship and education.
  • We propose a ‘federal-state’ organizational structure where higher-level (federal) administrative, communication, outreach, and philanthropic tasks are handled by the Director of RCEI and a dedicated group of staff.
  • Three Area Leads, each overseeing broad thematic areas will galvanize faculty focused on scholarly synthesis and convergence, effective communication of climate change scholarship, and research co-production with stakeholders and industry.
Earth System





Existing members of RCI, REI, and EOAS can follow the link below to fill out a brief survey to share your thoughts with the Task Force members.