Understanding Earth’s complex climate system, to the level that we do, stands as one of humankind’s great scientific achievements. What we now do with this understanding stands as one of humanity’s great societal challenges.
To a very high level of confidence, science understands that Earth’s climate is changing; triggered by global warming, driven by fossil fuels; with extreme risk for humans in the coming decades. These things we know. We also know that we have the ability to mitigate these extreme risks, and we know that the window for doing so is very short. But before meaningful response can take place ― before serious vulnerability assessments can be accomplished for food and water systems, for public health, for economic well-being; before strategies for minimizing further climate disruption can be implemented ― we as a society must be on the same page as to the basic facts of the problem.
In this course we’ll examine the scientific underpinnings from which all of this critical knowledge has emerged. We’ll overview the evidence that tells us the planet is warming, the evidence that attributes this warming to human activities, the mechanisms by which this warming disrupts the climate system, the impacts this climate disruption is already having on both natural and human systems, the modeling that projections for us the additional changes and impacts in the landscape to come, and what the science has to say about how we can minimize the changes and risks we face in the decades ahead. This course is intended to provide a common base of knowledge, from which we as a society can begin to move forward.