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Course Description

This course studies the social drivers of global environmental change and examines how influential governance organizations work in response. The course explores interactions among socio-economic systems, governance institutions, and biophysical processes. Specific attention is given to the causes of climate change and its implications for people and the places they call home.

Note: This course can be taken individually or as a part of a certificate program.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, the learner should be able to:

  1. Define climate, describe the greenhouse effect, and discuss post-industrialization emissions and climate change trends and patterns driven by human activity;
  2. Summarize the history of the United Nations and outline key meetings, agreements, development goals, and other events important to the integration of environmental concerns into this international body;
  3. Discuss and provide examples that support the claim that environmental change is uneven and socially complex;
  4. Describe key methods and approaches used in climate and environmental science and explain how indicators help us to track and monitor the social-ecological impacts of global environmental change;
  5. Explain achievements, challenges, and advances in global environmental governance and discuss reasons for 'hope' in the face of global environmental change;
  6. Illustrate and apply key course concepts, including (but not exclusive to) mitigation, adaptation, sustainable development, environmental (in)justice, double exposure, common but differentiated responsibility, and social-ecological systems; and
  7. Synthesize research on a specific country, an economic sector within that country, and climate science projections relevant to that country and sector.

Course Topics

  • The Greenhouse Effect, Global Warming, and Climate Change
  • The United Nations and International Action on Global Environmental Change
  • Global Environmental Change – Uneven and Socially Complex
  • Taking Stock and Thinking Like a Social Scientist
  • The UN and Efforts to Address Global Environmental Change
  • Sustainable Development as a Response and Approach to Global Inequality and Rapid Environmental Change
  • Global Surface Temperatures
  • Extreme Weather and Climate
  • The United Nations’ Approach to Global Environmental Change – Limits and Progress
  • Caring, Sharing, and Talking About Global Environmental Change

Additional Requirements

Prerequisite(s): 7.50 credits


Assessment Item Weight Learning Outcomes
Quiz 20% 1, 2, 3, 5, 6
Project Proposal 15% 3, 7
Major Course Project 30% 3, 4, 6, 7
Small Group Discussion 15% 3, 4, 5
Take-Home Final Exam 20% 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Total 100% 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7


Applies Towards the Following Certificates

Technical Requirements

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*Course details are subject to change.


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