Hurtling Toward Climate Change

What does a world-record space jump have in common with global climate change? Find out in this lecture!

I created this video while teaching a writing seminar on climate change during the spring 2018 semester at Carnegie Mellon University Qatar (see the course description below). The 30-minute video provides an overview of the global challenge we face and offers a path forward to address the challenge. I touch on some of the science and math that underlies the problem, and I share some personal insights on its impacts from my own experiences in the Alps, Himalayas, Cascades, and Rocky Mountains. If you plan to spend the rest of your life living on planet Earth, you need to know more about climate change—a “wicked problem” that demands insights from multiple disciplinary perspectives to solve.

Course Description

Widespread scientific consensus exists that the earth is warming due to human activities. According to reviews of the scientific literature by Cook and colleagues (2013, 2016), 97% of climate scientists “overwhelmingly agree that humans are causing recent global warming.” Yet, many in the public perceive more disagreement among scientists than there actually is (e.g., Leiserowitz et al. 2012; Pew 2012). Public debate has occurred over the last few decades and continues to occur across all stasis levels, including arguments of existence (Does it exist?), definition (Do we define it as anthropogenic?), value (How bad is it?), cause (What are its causes and effects?), and action (What should be done about it?). While leaders, citizens, and scientists have advocated for measures to mitigate global warming and deal with its impacts, many politicians and members of the public continue to reject the science or argue that the benefits of curbing fossil fuel emissions are not worth the economic costs. In this seminar, we will read, discuss, analyze, and write about different arguments put forth by physical scientists, social scientists, journalists, and policy leaders as we examine the science of climate change, its impacts (e.g., ecological, economic), and potential solutions (e.g., mitigation, adaptation, geoengineering). As you enter into the conversation about climate change, you will work to develop your own intellectually informed contribution in a convincing and effective manner.

Course Readings

Bourzac, Katherine. (2017). “Emissions: We Have the Technology.” Nature 550 (7675): S66–S69. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/550S66a.

Christidis, Nikolaos, Gareth S. Jones, and Peter A. Stott. (2014). “Dramatically Increasing Chance of Extremely Hot Summers since the 2003 European Heatwave.” Nature Climate Change 5 (1):46–50. https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2468.

Cook, John. (2010). “The Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism.” SkepticalScience.com. Retrieved from https://skepticalscience.com/docs/Guide_to_Skepticism.pdf.

Cook, John; Dana Nuccitelli; Sarah A Green; Mark Richardson; Bärbel Winkler; Rob Painting; Robert Way; Peter Jacobs; and Andrew Skuce. (2013). “Quantifying the Consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming in the Scientific Literature.” Environmental Research Letters 8 (2): 1-7. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/024024.

Cook, John; Naomi Oreskes; Peter T Doran; William R L Anderegg; Bart Verheggen; Ed W Maibach; J Stuart Carlton; Stephan Lewandowsky; Andrew G Skuce; Sarah A Green. (2016). “Consensus on Consensus: A Synthesis of Consensus Estimates on Human-Caused Global Warming.” Environmental Research Letters 11 (4): 048002. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/048002.

Crutzen, Paul J. (2002, January 3). “Geology of Mankind.” Nature 415: 23. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/415023a.

Generation Foundation. (2013, October 30). “Stranded Carbon Assets: Why and How Carbon Risks Should Be Incorporated in Investment Analysis.” London and New York: Generation Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.genfound.org/media/1374/pdf-generation-foundation-stranded-carbon-assets-v1.pdf.

Greenstone, Michael. (2015, April 8). “If We Dig Out All Our Fossil Fuels, Here’s How Hot We Can Expect It to Get.” The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/09/upshot/if-we-dig-out-all-our-fossil-fuels-heres-how-hot-we-can-expect-it-to-get.html.

Hodson, Richard. (2017, October 12). “The Real Climate Debate.” Nature 550: S62-S64. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/550S62a.

Hoffman, Andrew J. (2015). How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Incropera, Frank P. (2016). “Mitigation, adaptation, and geoengineering.” Climate Change: A Wicked Problem. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Keith, David W., Gernot Wagner, and Claire L. Zabel. (2017). “Solar Geoengineering Reduces Atmospheric Carbon Burden.” Nature Climate Change 7 (9):617–619. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/nclimate3376.

Kolbert, Elizabeth. (2006, November 20). “The Darkening Sea: What Carbon Emissions Are Doing to the Ocean.” The New Yorker. Retrieved from https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2006/11/20/the-darkening-sea.

Kraaijenbrink, P.D.A., M.F.P. Bierkens, A.F. Lutz, and W.W. Immerzeel. (2017). “Impact of a Global Temperature Rise of 1.5 Degrees Celsius on Asia’s Glaciers.” Nature 549 (7671):257–60. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature23878.

Lee, Jasmine R., Ben Raymond, Thomas J. Bracegirdle, Iadine Chadès, Richard A. Fuller, Justine D. Shaw, and Aleks Terauds. (2017). “Climate Change Drives Expansion of Antarctic Ice-Free Habitat.” Nature 547 (7661):49–54. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature22996.

Lim, XiaoZhi. (2017). “How Heat from the Sun Can Keep Us All Cool.” Nature News 542 (7639):23. https://doi.org/10.1038/542023a.

Lloyd’s of London. (2014). Catastrophe Modelling and Climate Change. London: Society of Lloyd’s. Retrieved from https://www.lloyds.com/news-and-insight/risk-insight/library/natural-environment/catastrophe-modelling-and-climate-change.

Lovins, Amory B. (2012). “A Farewell to Fossil Fuels: Answering the Energy Challenge.” Foreign Affairs, 134–146. Retrieved from: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2012-03-01/farewell-fossil-fuels.

Mann, Michael. (2017, July 10). Response to New York Magazine article by Wallace-Wells [Facebook post]. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/MichaelMannScientist/posts/1470539096335621.

Mann, Michael E. (2017, August 28). “It’s a Fact: Climate Change Made Hurricane Harvey More Deadly.” The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/28/climate-change-hurricane-harvey-more-deadly.

McKibben, Bill. (2012). “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.” Rolling Stone, July 19, 2012. Retrieved from http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719.

McKibben, Bill. (2016). “Recalculating the Climate Math.” The New Republic, September 22, 2016. Retrieved from https://newrepublic.com/article/136987/recalculating-climate-math.

Meyer, Robinson. (2017, July 10). “Are we as doomed as that New York Magazine article says?” The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/07/is-the-earth-really-that-doomed/533112/.

Mooallem, Jon. (2017, April 19). “Our Climate Future is Actually Our Climate Present.” The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/19/magazine/our-climate-future-is-actually-our-climate-present.html.

Oreskes, Naomi. (2004). “Beyond the Ivory Tower: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change.” Science 306 (5702): 1686–1686. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1103618.

Patz, Jonathan A., Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, Tracey Holloway, and Jonathan A. Foley. (2005). “Impact of Regional Climate Change on Human Health.” Nature 438 (7066):310–17. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature04188.

Paul, Frank, Andreas Kääb, Max Maisch, Tobias Kellenberger, and Wilfried Haeberli. (2004). “Rapid Disintegration of Alpine Glaciers Observed with Satellite Data.” Geophysical Research Letters 31 (21): L21402. https://doi.org/10.1029/2004GL020816.

Ripple, William J., Christopher Wolf, Thomas M. Newsome, Mauro Galetti, Mohammed Alamgir, Eileen Crist, Mahmoud I. Mahmoud, and William F. Laurance. (2017). “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice.” BioScience. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/bix125.

Robillard, Cassandra M., Laura E. Coristine, Rosana N. Soares, and Jeremy T. Kerr. (2015). “Facilitating Climate-Change-Induced Range Shifts across Continental Land-Use Barriers: Conserving Habitat for Range Shifts.” Conservation Biology 29 (6):1586–95. https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.12556.

Wagner, Gernot, and Martin L. Weitzman. (2016). “Bailing Out the Planet.” In Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet, 92-115. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Wallace-Wells, David. (2017, July 10). “The Uninhabitable Earth.” New York Magazine. Retrieved from http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/07/climate-change-earth-too-hot-for-humans.html.

Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, B. DeAngelo, S. Doherty, K. Hayhoe, R. Horton, J.P. Kossin, P.C. Taylor, A.M. Waple, and C.P. Weaver. (2017). “Executive Summary.” In Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume I, D.J. Wuebbles, D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, D.J. Dokken, B.C. Stewart, and T.K. Maycock (eds.). U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA, pp. 12-34, doi: 10.7930/J0DJ5CTG.

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