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Climate Change Science and Policy Course - Syllabus with links to online readings

Module by: Keith Forbes. E-mail the author

Summary: Al Gore and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently won the Nobel prize and climate change is all over the news, yet no action is being taken commensurate with its scale. This course will provide students with the scientific literacy to understand the issue itself and consider existing solutions such as the Kyoto Protocol, numerous bills in the U.S. Congress, voluntary measures, etc. The guiding principle will be to promote the understanding needed to evaluate, develop, and propose emerging and creative solutions at individual, campus, and local levels, rather than analyze the essentially paralyzed global discussion.

ES-351A 003 Climate Change Science and Policy

Spring 2008

Taught at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, USA

Instructor: Keith Joseph Forbes, kforbes@gmx.net

Course Content

Al Gore and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently won the Nobel prize and climate change is all over the news, yet no action is being taken commensurate with its scale. This course will provide students with the scientific literacy to understand the issue itself and consider existing solutions such as the Kyoto Protocol, numerous bills in the U.S. Congress, voluntary measures, etc. The guiding principle will be to promote the understanding needed to evaluate, develop, and propose emerging and creative solutions at individual, campus, and local levels, rather than analyze the essentially paralyzed global discussion. Besides traditional lectures, the course will use games, discussions, debates, and guest lecturers. An avid interest in the issue and the ability to think analytically and express ideas in class are key to successful participation in the course.

Course Objectives

Global climate change is a planetary scale phenomenon that impacts upon all socioeconomic and natural systems. It is underway now and will continue over several decades. Attempting to encapsulate this temporal, spatial, political, scientific, and social complexity into a single course involves choosing a guiding principle to determine which topics to include and how to address them. The guiding principles adopted here are: (1) convey a "climate literacy" that enables students to think intelligently about the issue, (2) focus upon what is being done and what technically could be done, and (3) take the U.S. as a geographical delimiter. The course therefore starts with an understanding of climate science and the impacts of climate change; progresses to what is being done at the grassroots, government, and corporate level; and, after discussing what is being done, will consider what kinds of actions could be done, from a technical, not political, perspective. Finally, we will look at "tipping points," dangerous feedbacks from the climate system, that could create dramatic impacts generally absent in the mainstream discussion of the climate impacts.

Readings

All readings are listed in the course outline below. The emphasis is upon contemporary publications and reports, given the extremely fast paced development of the scientific and policy issues. The readings available in pdf format online have all been packaged as ES-351A_pdfs.zip.

Required Texts

Dow, Kirstin, and Thomas Downing. 2007. Atlas of Climate Change. University of California Press. 2nd edition. (This book is on 3 hour closed reserve at the library - please check with Elizabeth Putnam if there are any problems obtaining it)

Isham, Jonathan and Sissel Waage (Editors). 2007. Ignition: What You Can Do to Fight Global Warming and Spark a Movement. Island Press.

Pearce, Fred. 2007. With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change. Beacon Press.

Course OutlineReadings/Activities

Introduction

Discussion of course objectives and student interests

Climate Science

Impacts and Vulnerability

IPCC Third Assessment Report - Working Group II (AR3_WGII) 19.2, 19.3

http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/tar/wg2/pdf/wg2TARchap19.pdf

IPCC Fourth Assessment Report - Working Group II (AR4_WGII) 19.2, 19.3

http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-wg2.htm

Causes and Modeling

IPCC Fourth Assessment Report - Working Group I , Summary for Policy Makers, "Understanding and Attributing Climate Change" (AR4_WGI_SPM: pp.10-11)

AR4_WGI - 9.1

http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-wg1.htm

Hadley Centre. Climate change and the greenhouse effect. Slide 14, 15, and 17.

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/hadleycentre/pubs/brochures/2005/clim_green/slide14.pdf

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/hadleycentre/pubs/brochures/2005/clim_green/slide15.pdf

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/hadleycentre/pubs/brochures/2005/clim_green/slide17.pdf

WHRC - Increasing Temperatures & Greenhouse Gases; Improved Models, Growing Confidence; Accumulating Evidence

http://www.whrc.org/resources/online_publications/warming_earth/scientific_evidence.htm

WHRC - The Culprits

http://www.whrc.org/resources/online_publications/warming_earth/culprits.htm

Grassroots Action - What you can do about Climate Change

Initiating a Grassroots Effort

Ignition - 1, 2, 3

Preaching Beyond the Choir

Ignition - 4, 5

Broadening the Movement

Ignition - 7, 8

Climate Justice

Ignition - 9

IIED. "Critical list: the 100 nations most vulnerable to climate change"

http://www.iied.org/pubs/pdfs/17022IIED.pdf

Lehman Brothers. The Business of Climate Change II. - Chapter 8 "The Equity Dimension." pp.39-47.

http://www.lehman.com/

Ecoequity. Greenhouse Development Rights - The right to development in a climate constrained world - Chapter 3 "Human Development and Climate Protection." pp.12-23.

http://www.ecoequity.org/docs/TheGDRsFramework_highres.pdf

Government Action in the U.S. (various levels)

CA AB-32

Gov. Schwarzenegger Signs Landmark Legislation to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

http://gov.ca.gov/index.php?/press-release/4111/ (text), Videos (optional)

IHT. "California requires big businesses to report greenhouse gas emissions"

http://www.iht.com/bin/printfriendly.php?id=8628473

DOE Voluntary Registry of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
EPA Climate Leaders

Brief Overview

Program Guide (pp.1-2)

http://epa.gov/climateleaders/communications/index.html

Federal Legislation

Pew Center on Global Climate Change. "Comparison of economy-wide cap-and-trade proposals in the 110th Congress. (December 2007)."

http://www.pewclimate.org/docUploads/110th%20Congress%20Economy-wide%20Cap&Trade%20Proposals%2012-18-2007%20-%20No%20Chart.pdf

or http://tinyurl.com/yrukfw

Ignition - 14

Solutions

McKinsey

McKinsey. Reducing US GHG emissions - How much and at what cost? pp.39-66.

http://www.mckinsey.com/clientservice/ccsi/pdf/US_ghg_final_report.pdf

Greenpeace International and EREC. Energy Revolution - USA Report. pp.16-23, pp.79-83.

http://www.energyblueprint.info/fileadmin/media/documents/national/usa_report.pdf

Stabilization Wedges Game-Carbon Mitigation Initiative.

http://www.princeton.edu/wedges/Stabilization_Wedges_Game_w8_Oct07.pdf

With Speed and Violence. pp.35-76.

Tipping Points – Dangerous Feedbacks in the Climate System

With Speed and Violence. pp.77-124

With Speed and Violence. pp.127-164

With Speed and Violence. pp.167-209.

With Speed and Violence. pp.210-252.

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