Course description: Examines links between climatic changes and human societies and examines social influences on our current state of knowledge, impacts, and potential responses.
This class was such a learning experience. We had readings to reflect on each week, plus a number of assignments.
Briefing Memo – IPCC SPM (pdf) – The object was to summarize the latest IPCC Fifth Assessment Report Summary for Policymakers in one page, as if you were a staff member at a Congressperson’s office summarizing for them what they needed to know about the IPCC report to make an informed vote on climate change. The Summary for Policymakers (pdf) is itself a summary of the entire IPCC report, and it is 29 pages. We had to boil that down to one page. Note: We were dealing with just one part of the Fifth Assessment Report, the Physical Science Basis by Working Group I.
Briefing Memo – COP 20 – United States (pdf) – For week 12 of the course we did a model enactment of UN climate negotiations. This was the most memorable part of the course. Each person represented a different country. I got the United States. We did this exercise about a week before the actual 20th Conference of Parties meeting, or COP 20, in Lima, Peru. It turns out that many of the things our class negotiations got hung up on, such as the Green Climate Fund, are also what the actual negotiators got hung up on. At literally 11 p.m. the night before our class meeting, the news broke that President Obama had made a historic climate change agreement with China. This gave a lot of momentum to the talks in Lima, which laid a crucial stepping stone for COP 21 in Paris in December 2015, when nations have committed to reaching a legally binding emissions agreement.
Climate Impacts – Energy (pdf) – This assignment was to summarize the impacts of climate change on various sectors or industries. I worked with Jonathan Ogland-Hand to look at the impacts of climate change on energy production. Our current energy system based on fossil fuels is the root cause of climate change, but energy production is also greatly affected by climate change.
Climate Literacy Tool – Carbon Fee (pdf) – This assignment was to create a tool for explaining some aspect of climate change to a general audience. I created a brochure to explain the Citizens Climate Lobby’s carbon fee and dividend proposal.
Climate Interviews (pdf) – This assignment involved interviewing three people about their attitudes toward climate change. Most people interviewed friends, neighbors or family. I decided to interview three random people at a cafeteria in town where I often eat. Classifying them by the groups in the Six Americas report from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, I got a Concerned, a Disengaged, and a Dismissive.
7380 Final Paper – Cap and Trade vs Carbon Tax (pdf) – Since I am interested in policies to address climate change, I did my final paper on comparing two often-discussed policy options: cap and trade and carbon tax. I discussed the differences between the two in economic terms, and looked at examples of emissions trading in the United States and Europe, and examples of a carbon tax in British Columbia and Australia. In some areas the policies worked well, while in others they didn’t work well or even failed completely. I tried to figure out why. Also see References (pdf).