ATM S 111: Global Warming
Understanding the Issues

Class Description

Human-induced climate change - popularly known as "global warming" - has emerged as one of humanity's great challenges in the 21st century.  Ignoring this problem could impose severe environmental consequences on for future generations.  But to prevent these consequences, the current generation would have to rapidly and dramatically transform the energy basis of the global economy.  At stake are deeply felt values as well as entrenched economic interests.  This course will examine the science behind the controversy.  The text and lectures will provide a critical analysis of the current scientific consensus.  We will also examine stronger claims made by advocates on both sides - "skeptics" and "alarmists," as they are sometimes called.  Through in-class activities and weekly discussion sessions, students will develop their understanding of these ideas and express their reactions to them.

Course Goals

The overall goal of this course is to help society deal with this enormous and complex challenge by fostering citizens who understand the basic science and can think critically about proposed solutions.  More specifically, students should come away able to answer such questions as: 

* Why does the burning of fossil fuels - coal, oil, and natural gas - increase the Earth's greenhouse effect?
* Can we be confident that recent warming is due to human, and not natural, causes?
* Can we believe a 100-year climate prediction even though we know that a 100-day weather prediction would be nearly worthless?
* How would continued global warming impact things like sea level, agriculture, biodiversity, and the frequency of extreme weather events?
* What changes are projected for the Pacific Northwest?  Are industry and government preparing for these changes?

Prerequisites

None. Open to all undergraduates.

Textbook

Varies with instructor.

Sign up for ATM S 111

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