HONR229L  Climate Change: Science, Economics, and Governance

Hardly a day goes by without some news worthy item being reported on Earth’s changing climate (aka global warming).  Often the stories are contradictory, tainted by parochialism, skepticism, and extremism by not only the conservative and liberal media, but also the camps of believers and deniers.  This seminar will begin with a critical examination of the science that underlies climate change.  We will then discuss the economics of possible large-scale adaptation of energy provision by means other than the combustion of fossil fuels.  Next, we will examine governance issues, with a focus on how the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted by 188 governments to the December 2015 meeting of the United Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will be implemented.  During the final few weeks of this seminar, students will break into three groups representing the U.S., China, and the Developing World, with the assignment to formulate how each group will implement their INDC commitment.

Course Enrichments: We will offer a field trip either to a meeting of the Air Quality Control Advisory Council (AQCAC) at the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) in Baltimore Md, on which Prof. Salawitch is a long-serving member, or else hearings in the DC-area about legislation such as the Clean Power Plan, which will likely be adjudicated during the teaching of this class.

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Appreciate the scientific, economic, and political complexities that are needed by the world’s governments to address climate change;
  • Critically appraise the contradictory views regarding climate change espoused by entities such as MSNBC and FOX;
  • Become more comfortable speaking in front of a group;
  • Improve writing skills, especially in terms of succinct summary of a moderate to lengthy reading;
  • Experience a role playing exercise that formulation of an agreement that will likely involve significant levels of negotiations.

Assignments include:

  • Short writing assignments (no more than 1 page) asking students to reflect on specific questions about each reading (i.e., every reading will be accompanied by a brief writing assignment);
  • A mid-term paper (6 to 8 pages, single spaced, including moderate use of illustrations but not including references) on a topic of each student’s choosing;
  • Each student will lead at least one discussion of a reading during the semester, for which they will receive evaluation from the class instructor as well as their peers;
  • The “INDC implementation plan” (group effort, with a grade assigned to each of the role) as well as a final paper, 2 to 4 pages, that reflects each student’s views of their role in the negotiation of the implementation plan.  Students will determine who plays which role (i.e., President, Agriculture, Energy, Transportation, three-person Senate), once the three groups have been formed.

Readings include:

Frequently Asked Questions about Climate by IPCC (2007): https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-faqs.pdf

Earth: The Sequel: The Race to Reinvent Energy and Stop Global Warming by Fred Krupp

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond

Readings will also include numerous, selected news articles.