Global Climate Change

This course, for undergraduate and graduate students, has three major parts:

  1. The basic scientific principles of the earth’s climate.

  2. Impacts and possible responses to climate change.

  3. The politics of climate change.

A laboratory section gives students a chance to analyze climate data and work with interactive computer models of the climate system.

Science of Climate Change:

In the first part of the semester, we cover the basic scientific principles of how the earth’s climate functions, causes of climate change (both natural and human), and examining how these theories compare to the evidence from direct measurements and the geological record of climate over the past several million years.

Impacts and Adaptations to Climate Change:

In the second part of the semester, we study impacts and possible responses to climate change: How is climate likely to change in the future, how might this affect people’s lives, and what can be done both to adapt to life in a changing climate and to limit the severity of future climate change. Much of this section uses methods from economics to assess the risks of climate change and the relative advantages and disadvantages of different policy options.

Policy and Politics of Climate Change:

In the last part of the seemester, we study the politics of climate change: how does the political process respond to the risks of climate change, what makes proposed policies more or less likely to succeed, and what characteristics might make proposed climate policies more likely to be adopted into practice?


In the lab sessions, students work with interactive computer-based climate models and examine data from climate monitoring networks and the geological record.

Syllabus (PDF)

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