Course Overview

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Course Information


Sarah Das and Fiamma Straneo

6 Unit Seminar Course - Pass/Fail - Spring 2012
Meeting Thursday: 10:30-12:00  - Clark 437

Course Number 12.757

Climate Change is one of the greatest challenges facing today’s earth scientists (including oceanographers) and one that we believe all earth scientists should be familiar with. This course is designed to provide students with a basic knowledge of the ‘big questions’ behind today’s climate change science and with the tools to discourse about climate change with diverse groups. The course will cover 5 major themes: Greenhouse Gases, Carbon Cycle, Sea-level Rise, Hydrologic Cycle and Abrupt Climate Change. Within each topic we will summarize the science (including evidence of change), the attribution, the controversy and solutions. Scientific experts within each of the topics will participate in the class discussion. Two guests, an IPCC author and a science journalist working on climate change, will join the course during two separate lectures. The course format will include weekly student presentations, weekly written assignments and a final presentation of climate change topics at a public venue (e.g. a museum). We will meet once a week for one and a half hours. As part of the course, we will also discuss non-refereed outlets such as climate science blogs and climate skeptic blogs, as well as climate-change discussions in a range of media (e.g. blog, podcast, videocast, presentation). Particular focus will be given on how to vary presentation styles as a function of the audience.

General Structure

• 5 Main scientific topics will be covered with ~2 classes/topic, along with some invited guests/experts

• Additional topic of communicating climate change science will be covered in 2 classes with invited speakers Susan Solomon (MIT) & TBD science journalist.

Required Reading Assignments

Weekly readings will be assigned ~1 week before each class.  We will either provide copies of the reading in the class drop box (see below), or provide a link to the document if it is available online.  We also welcome additional suggestions from you for readings.  You are required to read the assignments, and come prepared to discuss them, irrespective of whether your group is presenting the topic the next week.

Required Writing Assignments:  1 page to be handed in weekly at the start of class.

Write a 3-part synthesis (1 page total) of ONE article or resource on this week’s topic (your choice from a list provided by us?.) The goal is to distill the message down in order of descending complexity:

a)    a half page summary

b)   a few sentences (~elevator conversation)

c)    a tweet (~headline/sound-bite)

Required Class Participation

As this class is a seminar, your individual preparation, attendance and participation is a mandatory part of taking this course.  In addition, students will be working in small groups (of 2-4 depending on final class size), with one group presenting material ~every other class.

Final Project

Students working in groups will present a final project that synthesizes one (or more) aspects of climate change to a non-scientific audience. Possible venues include the web, the Cape Cod Natural History Museum, the MIT Museum, You Tube and others….


Class structure for each topic

Class A 

Student Group Presentation – science, attribution, controversy, solution

Discussion (including papers)

Class B

Expert Presentation



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Last updated February 8, 2012
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