My daughter wants to help tackle climate change. Are there courses in this field?

Ask Brian: A growing number of colleges are offering courses in sustainability

My daughter is due to take her Leaving Cert in June and is determined to do two things: attend Trinity and find a career involved in addressing climate change thanks to Greta Thunberg. I admire this passion – but do courses in this sector provide a good career path?

Every generation produces the dynamism and energy to recreate society and its values. In my youth, I remember watching Ruairí Quinn and Marian Finucane addressing crowds of fellow students from a window of a building on the corner of Hume Street, which they were defending against demolition. Both of these students later emerged as leaders in their own fields.

Within Trinity, its engineering, environment and emerging technologies (E3) project offers options that aim to empower students to find “balanced solutions for a better world”. The college says its E3 education is designed to give graduates the skills they need to create solutions that enable society to live sustainably and equitably.

There are two new E3 undergraduate degree courses that may be of interest to your daughter: the BSc/MAI MSc degree in environmental science and engineering, and the joint honours degree in computer science and geography.


The BSc/MAI MSc degree includes two foundation years of environmental science and engineering modules, followed by three years of specialisation (in either environmental science or environmental engineering) based on student preference.

The computer science and geography joint honours degree is aimed at developing skills that enable students to address the increasingly important global issues of our time

Students complete an integrated five-year course consisting of a four-year BSc plus an additional year of study leading to either a master’s in engineering – specialising in environmental engineering – or a MSc in applied environmental science. Trinity says these skillsets will place students at the forefront of initiatives to develop solutions that address the UN’s sustainable development goals.

It seems likely that graduates will be attractive candidates for employment in both industrial and governmental organisations in Ireland as well as overseas. Recent graduates from the civil engineering stream who have specialised in environmental engineering are working in R&D, civil engineering and environmental consultancies and the energy sector. Many have set up new ventures and spin out companies of their own.

The computer science and geography joint honours degree is aimed at developing skills that enable students to address the increasingly important global issues of our time. Such skills include those in geographical information systems (GIS), which underpin decision-making in urban planning, land use planning and energy distribution, and remote sensing/earth observation, which include cutting edge techniques used to study and understand the impact of global change.

Graduates of computer science and geography will be well placed to develop the next generation of GIS and may also apply “big data” techniques to geographic data. For example, they may do so to predict flooding, model urban traffic, explain demographic change, or monitor long-term environmental change.

Graduates with these skills will therefore be at the heart of the design of our planet’s future smart and sustainable cities and societies.