Climate Change: The Move to Action

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Course Information

AOSS 480 (Atmospheric Oceanic and Space Science)

NRE 480 (School of Natural Resources and Environment)

Climate Change: An Inter-disciplinary Approach to Problem Solving

Professor: Richard B. Rood

Tuesday and Thursday 10:00 - 11:30 // Dana Building 1024 // 3 credits

We are unique in history. Through sound scientific investigation, we are presented with the knowledge that the Earth’s climate is warming, and that the climate will warm rapidly for generations to come. We know that past changes of Earth’s climate, small in comparison to those which we will experience, caused great changes in society. These changes were sometimes positive, for example agricultural prosperity, and sometimes negative, for example agricultural failures, famines, and migrations. Climate change provides personal, regional, national and global challenges to our selves, our children, and our grandchildren. Adaptation to an always-changing climate will be required. With the knowledge that we hold, and the improved knowledge that we are generating, we have the luxury of choice. Do we invest today, pro-actively, in developing resilience and adaptation strategies, or do we simply, like our ancestors, react to changes in the climate?

This course explores the intersections of the science of climate change with society: policy, business, economics, public health, energy, ecosystems, environmental engineering, information science, journalism, religion, etc. The problem is approached from the perspective that there are communities with heterogeneous interests that are vested in both adapting to and mitigating climate change. The course will expose students to the fundamental factual and contextual elements of climate change and the interface of climate change to societal interests. In order to facilitate effective participation in the response to realized and predicted climate change, this knowledge is framed in a structured approach to complex problem-solving practiced in real-world projects

Introduction

This Page Contains Basic Information about the course. This course was created by Richard Rood in the Winter 2006 Semester at the University of Michigan. In that first semester there were students from 5 schools and 7 departments across the university.

The course is a lecture course, and has included numerous outside lecturers to provide some depth in specific subjects. Readings are drawn from a collection of material; they introduce context and support discussion. The course strives for rigor in thinking, but does not rely on a mathematical description of the science of climate change. A primary goal of the course is the development of critical analysis skills to address complex problems There is a project, and when possible the projects are with clients seeking to incorporate climate change into their management and planning.

Project Description

Syllabus and Official Documents

Here is the 2015 sample syllabus. Lecture topics for each week are outlined. All of the topics will be covered, but the exact order will depend on class projects, schedule and reading discussions.

Learning Objectives

  • Creativity and innovation – the capacity to synthesize knowledge to create solution strategies for complex problems
  • Ethical intelligence – the role of cultural points of view and social justice in development of solution strategies
  • Communication, collaboration and teamwork – the essential role of multi-lateral, iterative communication in problem solving
  • Entrepreneurial mindset – understanding the workplace opportunities through real-world projects, and the essential need to develop innovative ways to integrate climate change into business, planning, and management


The focus is on the synthesis of information in the context of applying knowledge to problem solving. The development of solution strategies for complex problems is an inherently creative process, built on understanding of how pieces of knowledge need to fit together. By focusing on the underlying principles of climate change and exposing the relationship of climate change to both its causes and its impacts, the ability of the student to develop intuitive approaches to problem solving is accelerated - that is, skills that might take half a career to discover are formally introduced and applied in team-based projects. Drawing from the literature of successful problem solving for environmental challenges, there is an emphasis on the iterative communication between knowledge users and knowledge providers - a direct goal of the course is to train students to become science-savvy translators on teams where many interests are at play, often in tension with each other. The values and cultural elements of stakeholders enter into the development of solution strategies, including understanding the roles of wealth and poverty in both the ability to address problems as well as evaluating the justness of impacts and solutions. Climate change is framed as an opportunity to use knowledge to thrive and prosper, to make the best possible futures - the goal is to prepare to use this knowledge in the public and private sectors.

Class Projects

Go to the Student Projects page, for a more complete list of projects.

Title Links
Natural Gas as a Bridge Fuel: A Case Study of Natural Gas and Coal in Pennsylvania View Report
Countering Climate Change Denial in the U.S. School System: Approaches and Strategies View Report
Michigan’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard: A Climate Change Solution? View Report
Residential Energy Efficiency Program Recommendations for New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG) View Report

Some writings that have come from this course

Rood: Solving the Problems of Climate Change and Sustainability

Rood: Climate Change: A fundamental shift of our place in the world

Rood and Edwards: Climate Informatics: Human Experts and the End-to-End System

Shearer and Rood: Changing the Media Discussion on Climate and Extreme Weather

Lemos and Rood: Climate Projections and Their Impact on Policy and Practice

McKenney et al.: Revisiting projected shifts in the climate envelopes of North American trees using updated general circulation models

Rood and Thoumi: Don't "Sell Short" the Earth:Carbon tax will ease transition to sensible climate policy

Rood: Faceted Search of Wunderground.com and Climatepolicy.org Blogs

Course Material Archive Database

The database contains resources used in the class. Powerpoints and .pdfs of some lectures are included. Most of these lectures have active links in them, but they may break over time. Anyone is welcome to use the lectures and acknowledgment is appreciated.

Currently being updated.

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