Climate change is the greatest challenge facing the world. Unaddressed, it will lead to catastrophic and irreversible impacts on the prospects for greater human welfare and development, and the likelihood of environmental and natural resource conservation. The impacts of climate change are likely to be particularly severe for the most vulnerable and poorer peoples on the planet, and ecosystem services and biodiversity in more fragile environments. Further, the adverse impacts of climate change are likely to be exacerbated by ongoing global processes related to demographic shifts, market integration, economic growth, urbanization, and erosion of ecosystem services. We now know that even if the most optimistic assumptions are reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) are realized, ten global systems is committed to a sizable change in global temperatures and precipitation. To begin to address the environmental and economic challenges associated with climate change, therefore, it is critically necessary to understand better how different human societies can adapt to social dislocations that climate change will inevitably produce.
This course will provide students a thorough grounding in social dimensions of the global processes related to climate change, with a particular focus on environmental and developmental impacts of climate change and potential adaptation strategies. In examining the social dimensions of climate change, the course will introduce students to the key concepts and areas of knowledge related to climate impacts, vulnerability and resilience, historical human adaptations to climate variability, changes, and impacts and future adaptation needs. In particular, the course will identify the major areas in which coordinated efforts by governments, civil society organizations, and market actors can create joint solutions to climate impacts related to migration, public health, and urbanization. After introductory week of class, instruction in the course will focus on four major sets of issues:
- What is climate change? Two weeks-including an introduction to the basic concepts related to climate change such as impacts, mitigation, and adaptation;
- What are the major impacts of climate change and their human dimensions? Four weeks about ecosystems, biodiversity, agriculture, food security, urban settings, and human health;
- How have and can human societies addressed climate impacts? Three weeks about past and future adaptations with regard to climate and development; and
- What are the policy and governance options available to undertake adaptation to climate change impacts in the future? Three weeks about geoengineering; finance, institutions, information; behavioral changes.
Final paper 30%, policy brief 20%, editorial 15%, questions 15%, and class discussion 20%.
This course can be taken by any undergraduate student interested in effects of and responses to climate change.
3 hr/week lecture format. The final three weeks of classes will entail short group presentations based on student research on pre-assigned topics.