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This course views climate change from a variety of perspectives at the intersection of the natural sciences, technology, and the social sciences and humanities.
Specific topics included are:

  • the scientific basis for human-induced climate change, including uncertainties and controversies, the historical context for identifying the climate problem, links to other issues such as air pollution, and the evidence for extreme as well as irreversible climate changes;
  • communication and social responses to the scientific evidence, including the role of science in the media;
  • assessment of climate impacts and adaptive management; and
  • mitigation of emissions, including the design of national policy instruments, the roles of market failures such as in technological innovation, and the role of institutions in managing international collective action. 


Below you will find the course topics for each week. You will have access to a more detailed syllabus on the course start date.

This course has 19 lessons, weekly activities, a mid-term, and a final exam. The topics are as follows:

Week 1: Basic Science of Climate Change

  • Lesson 1: Climate Change Science: History, Foundations, Detection, Attribution
  • Lesson 2: How Much Will Climate Change? Climate Models and Sensitivity

Week 2: The Nature of Scientific Knowledge

  • Lesson 3: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change:
    How Do We Know We’re Not Wrong? Part 1
  • Lesson 4: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change:
    How Do We Know We’re Not Wrong? Part 2

Week 3: Climate Change Mitigation

  • Lesson 5: Physics and chemistry of climate mitigation
  • Lesson 6: Why Climate is an International Problem

Week 4: International dimensions of climate change

  • Lesson 7: International Cooperation on the Ozone Layer:
    A Useful Model?
  • Lesson 8: International Cooperation on Climate Change:
    Models for Reform (with a Focus on Mitigation)

Week 5: The Impacts of Climate Change

  • Lesson 9: Extreme weather, climate change and communication 
  • Lesson 10: Impacts of Climate Change

Week 6: What may be in store for the world?

  • Mid-term
  • Lesson 11: Coping with Climate Change in the Next Half-Century  

Week 7: How the public views climate change

  • Lesson 12: Merchants of Doubt, Part 1
  • Lesson 13: Merchants of Doubt, Part 2

Week 8: How regions are preparing to adapt

  • Lesson 14: Ice, Snow, and Water
  • Lesson 15: Arctic and California Climate Change Assessments

Week 9: What we can do, Part 1

  • Lesson 16: What if climate change turns ugly? The Pros and Cons of Geoengineering.
  • Lesson 17: Technology Innovation (With a Focus on Energy)

Week 10: What we can do, Part 2

  • Lesson 18: It’s Not Too Late to Mitigate
  • Lesson 19: Avoid the Unmanageable, Manage the Unavoidable