Global Challenges: Sustainability
Earth Systems Science
Climate change represents one of the most pressing issues currently facing human societies. This course introduces students to the key scientific issues that surround the climate change debate, the spatial patterns of both physical and human dimensions of climate change, and marginally touches on a wider social and political context as this has important bearings upon both the scientific debate, policy responses and options to master the challenges of climate change. Topics covered in this course will be:
The climate system and climatic characteristics
Main factors contributing to natural climate change, methods of climate reconstruction for geologic and Quaternary timescales
Climate change over the past 11000 years: sources of evidence, impact on human civilizations, feedbacks
Anthropogenic forcings of the climate system: observations, evidence, and effects
Projected impact of climate change on the environment and human societies
The battle for solutions: Mitigation, adaptation, social systems, politics, ethics.
By focusing on evaluating original climate data and scientific journal articles students develop skills and competence in critically evaluating data (statistical analyses, plotting skills), scientific arguments, and arguments brought up by different political and economic interest groups practiced giving an insightful presentation. Furthermore, another assignment trains students in writing up a review of the current state of knowledge concerning a specific issue associated with climate change in a specific region.
Students will learn what is driving climate change across a range of temporal and spatial scales, and how drivers of climate change interact with other earth cycles and human societies:
Students can describe the interconnectedness of and feedbacks between the main controls of climate change, environmental earth processes and human systems
Students can distinguish long-term and short-term perspectives on natural climate change
Students can critically reflect on projected impacts of climate change on the environment and human societies
Students can lay out ethical and political issues associated with climate change.
Once available, timetables will be published here.
Mode of instruction
This course will centre around lecturing, reading and discussing scientific sources to further the understanding of the past to recent history, drivers and effects as well as projections of future climate change.
Weekly sessions will introduce a facet of the climate change debate by means of lecturing and/or in-class discussions. Some sessions will be focusing on the more in-depth discussion of a specific topic, which may include to read student reports (assignment) in advance and student presentations on a specific topic.
Depending on the number of students, paired students will delve into a topic of interest by means of editing a report-style paper (4000 words) that is related to climate change. For the report, students will be responsible for identifying, and reading thoroughly, at least 10 scientific papers dealing with the selected topic next to other suitable sources of information. Each paper shall be based on an annotated bibliography (one or two paragraphs long per paper/source). The review paper is due in Week 4 and basic to an in-class presentation followed by a structured discussion (starting from Week 4 or 5).
Assessment 1: In-class participation, weight 17% (indiv.)
Assessment 2: Data evaluation and plotting lab, weight 30% (indiv.), deadline: week 2 or 3 (tbd)
Assessment 3: Review paper, weight 30% (student pairs), deadline: week 4/5
Assessment 4: In-class presentation, weight 23% (student pairs), ongoing weeks 5 - 7
Grading of student pairs: Students will be given the opportunity to reflect on their teamwork in order individually adjust a grade for individually variable contributions
There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.
There will be no required textbook for all of the course. Required readings will draw on a textbook made available by LUC, and other materials from various sources may be posted on BB. Among others, students are required to evaluate information and materials from the IPCC assessment reports (links will provided on Blackboard).
Course textbook (chapters on atmosphere and climate):
- Skinner, B.J., Murck, B., 2011. The Blue Planet: An Introduction to Earth System Science. 3rd ed., Wiley.
This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Education
Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.