Harvard C-CHANGE Youth Climate Summit

In Collaboration With

Confronting Climate Realities with Concrete Action

July 25–August 2, 2020

Tuition: $3,750  Location: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA

Join like-minded students, engaging educators, and inspiring mentors this summer for a climate change program at the Harvard School of Public Health. Choose an action focus and delve into climate issues related to your interests, strengths, and passions. Gain perspective from world leaders and politicians. Meet inspiring climate activists, scientists, renewable energy innovators, and entrepreneurs at the forefront of addressing the climate crisis. Engage with climate change themes such as health, energy, water, transportation, and agriculture, and, over the course of the program, develop a capstone project focused on transforming your ideas into action.

The majority of our Pre-College programs are postponed until next summer. Be the first to know when we announce 2021 dates and new programs: Sign up for our newsletter!

Looking for a program this summer? View our Pre-College Vermont program!


Learn from experts at the Harvard School of Public Health and other experts, including academics, policymakers, and scientists working in fields related to climate change. Participate in workshops, attend lectures, and take advantage of all Boston has to offer.

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Guest Speakers

Gain inspiration from the experiences and perspectives of political and industry leaders, including the former administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the former governor of Vermont.

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Develop a capstone project based on your interests and round out the program with a presentation to your peers, sharing your vision for practical action to make change in your community.

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“I am excited to be a part of a program at Harvard that will help give students the tools to tackle both the biggest challenge and opportunity of any generation born to this earth so far.”

— Harvard Senior fellow Governor Peter Shumlin


The Harvard Youth Climate Summit brings together motivated and like-minded young people to learn from and be inspired by political leaders, climate activists, scientists, energy innovators, entrepreneurs, and each other.

Action Focus

Each student chooses an Action Focus based on their interests—Science & Technology, Industry, Policy & Security, Community, or Press & Media. This Action Focus acts as the lens through which students view the challenges of climate change. Each day, Action Focus groups and instructors meet to delve into the complex systems within their Focus, discuss and brainstorm how to address challenges, and prepare capstone projects.

Program Location

Daily workshops, Action Focus meetings, and guest speaker events take place at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. Offsite and field-based learning activities balance classroom and workshop time.

Residence & Accommodations

Students and residential instructors reside at Smith and Tree House Residence Halls at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, just a short walk away from the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School. Rooms are doubles and assigned by age; genders are separated by floor; and staff reside on the same floors as students. Residence Halls have 24-hr front desk security, high-speed wifi, air conditioning, and on-site laundry facilities.

Activities & Excursions

In addition to thematic program activities, students have the opportunity to explore all the culture, history, and cuisine that Boston and Harvard have to offer, from the Boston Common and the North End to the Harvard Museum of Natural History and Harvard Yard. Stroll the streets of Harvard Square, kayak the Charles River, or play frisbee on the quad.


Become part of a community of high school students and instructors with diverse interests and a shared passion for addressing the climate crisis. Students hail from across the U.S. and around the world, creating a vibrant and dynamic community of motivated, driven individuals.

Inspiring Leaders

Guest lecturers and workshop leaders provide important context for our climate challenges, as well as inspiration for ways forward. In addition, residential program instructors lead smaller Action Focus teams in discussions, hands-on activities, and field trips, while serving as mentors and helping students shape their capstone project presentations.

Your Action Focus

When applying to the Harvard Youth Climate Summit, you will choose a particular Action Focus based on your interests and personal goals for the future—Science & Technology, Industry, Policy & Security, Community, or Press & Media. This Focus is the angle from which you will approach the climate crisis over the course of the week, along with peers who have chosen your same track. The entire Climate Summit community comes together for guest lectures and many activities, but part of each day is dedicated to working closely with your Action Focus peers and instructors as you build toward your capstone presentation.

Science & Technology

What roles do technological innovation and scientific advancement play in the mitigation of climate change and our adaptation to its effects? What current technologies have already been employed and what further developments await on the horizon? Delve into the efficacy of renewable energy production and carbon capture, then expand your discussions to emergent geoengineering methods such as solar radiation management, stratospheric aerosol injection, and ocean fertilization. Assess the tradeoffs and timelines associated with each approach and address the risks and psychological ramifications of holding out for a technological “silver bullet.”

Policy & Security

Where does the U.S. stand on the international stage in its response to the climate crisis? What role does it play in international governing bodies, and what domestic policies and political considerations have influenced this role? Moreover, as security experts and intelligence officials increasingly describe climate change as a “threat multiplier,” how do national and global security considerations play into U.S. domestic and international policy? Discuss how climate hazards threaten infrastructure, health, and security, and what policy or action could help shape our response to such security threats.


From the oil and gas industries to agriculture and transportation, industries can have serious negative environmental and health impacts. Indeed, the majority of fossil fuel emissions (70%) come from just 100 companies. But as corporate social responsibility and sustainability initiatives gain momentum, what positive impacts can major industry players have? Delve into the historical relationship between industry and climate science, track the evolution of industry messaging, and explore case studies to understand differing corporate responses to the climate crisis. How effective are corporate climate initiatives? Where do business, economic, social, and environmental interests intersect, and can they be balanced to reduce global climate change? How can and should policy mandate corporate action, and how much influence do consumers and citizens have?


What are communities and groups doing to change the behavior of people, governments, and other entities? How can regular citizens be active participants in climate change awareness and action? From groups such as the Sunrise Movement and 350.org to local organizing around community solar programs, explore the diverse strategies of various communities, organizations, and movements. Are individual actions enough to combat climate change, or what systemic change required? Which countries and communities are taking leadership on climate issues, and what techniques have they used to ignite positive changes? Assess the efficacy of different types of community actions, both historically and today, and evaluate the most effective way forward for individuals and citizen groups.

Press & Media

While the scientific consensus around climate change is clear, the polarization of media outlets and the abundance of misinformation have complicated the process of coming to a shared public understanding of the facts. How do mainstream and alternative news outlets narrate stories of climate change differently? What are the responsibilities of media when it comes to presenting opposing viewpoints that contradict factual information? Consider and explore the challenges in communicating complex scientific information to the general public, as well as what type of information is most effective at persuading readers—science and data, or narratives and stories?

Program Structure

Each day features a combination of Action Focus seminars, hands-on activities, excursions, and guest speaker events with the entire program body. After breakfast, depending on the day, Action Focus learning may start in classrooms and meetings spaces on campus, or the students and instructors may travel to a nearby site for field-based learning. After lunch, Action Focus seminars continue. Afternoons and evenings offer opportunities to explore the cultural side of Boston, participate in sporting activities, or work on independent projects. After dinner, students and instructors from all Action Focus groups convene for guest speaker events and evening activities. On the final two days of the program, students focus on their final projects, which they present on the final evening.

Guest Speakers

Guest lecturers bring to the program diverse backgrounds with high-level, real-world experiences and insights. Each speaker structures their lecture to relate to the five Action Focuses and their area of expertise. For example, an expert in oceanography might discuss how climate change is affecting the ocean and include the current technology used to mitigate the effects, the industries involved, the policies regulating (or not regulating) the problem, any community response or involvement, and the media’s role in disseminating information thus far.

Gina McCarthy

Guest Lecturer

13th Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; Professor of the Practice of Public Health, Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Chair, Board of Directors, Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment (Harvard C-CHANGE)

Governor Peter Shumlin


81st Governor of Vermont; Menschel Senior Leadership Fellow, Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Co-Director, Putney Student Travel

Outcomes & Final Project

The Harvard Youth Climate Summit is designed to educate, empower, and prepare students to take leadership roles in addressing the climate crisis.

Students who attend the program will:
Attain critical climate change content knowledge.
Develop an action plan that can be implemented in their schools, communities, or life paths.
Grow a network of peers and climate change leaders to continue the work started at the summit.

Students receive, upon presentation of their Community in Action Plans, a certificate of program completion, presented by former Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin and endorsed by Gina McCarthy from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.


Putney Student Travel is offering a limited number of full scholarships* for the Harvard Youth Climate Summit to qualified applicants.


Scholarship eligibility is limited to students who are U.S. residents, whose parents’ combined annual income is no more than $50,000, and who have few assets. Scholarships are awarded annually. Many applications are received and allocation is competitive. Preference is often given to students who have not had similar educational or travel opportunities.


To be considered for a scholarship, your completed Harvard C-CHANGE Youth Climate Summit (HYCS) application and two completed teacher references must be received by mail at the address below no later than April 30, 2020. Late or incomplete applications will not be considered.

* Scholarships cover tuition in full and any domestic airfare (if necessary) to have the student meet the group. The scholarship does not cover spending money, required packing list items or baggage fees.