Core Courses

Every student in the Climate and Society program follows a sequence of study that includes six core courses and an internship of the student’s choice. These core courses are designed to give our students a common set of skills and a shared professional working knowledge of climate dynamics on regional and global scales, statistical evaluation, risk management, communication, justice and applied research.

Core Course Details

This course provides a physical understanding of Earth’s climate system, building on basic physics and connecting to notable climate events that impact society.

Credit Hours: 3

Semester: Fall

Instructors: Lisa Goddard and Kate Marvel

Course Objective:

This course provides an understanding of the physical workings of the climate system, and it underpins the goals of the rest of the program. Building on that, students learn through lectures, readings, discussions and exercises, how to interpret climate information like forecasts and observational maps. We will cover the physical and methodological basis of forecasts – from weather to climate change – as well as their uncertainties. Students are encouraged to critically assess the suitability of different types of climate information to answer questions of societal interest in discussion and within a group project. Given that climate variability acts on a number of time and space scales, which may be further influenced by man-made climate change, we will also address how these aspects of the climate are realized, forecast, interpreted. Solid understanding of the physical system and appropriate usage of climate-related terminology will be emphasized throughout the course.

Skills Developed:

  • Physical understanding of the climate system
  • Forecast interpretation
  • Climate literacy
  • Initial basis to determine suitability of information to society
  • Communication of scientific material

This course provides the fundamentals needed for analyzing climate datasets and the basics of decision making under uncertain climate conditions.

Credit Hours: 4

Semester: Fall

Instructors: Simon Mason and Mingfang Ting

Course Objective:

This course provides students with quantitative skills in climate data analysis, understanding statistical methods of making climate forecasts, as well as using climate information for quantitative decision making under uncertainty. Throughout the course, students will have the opportunity to develop hands-on experience of working with climate datasets and interpreting their findings, as well as applying methods to deal with climate uncertainty through weekly lab sessions. Students further develop their real world problem solving skills by designing a group project on decision making for a chosen climate-sensitive system, such as agricultural planning, public health, energy and water management, to explore how to integrate climate science and its societal impacts for real world applications.

Skills Developed:

  • Statistical methods
  • Climate data analysis
  • Decision making under uncertainty
  • R/Excel
  • Group project and presentations

This course offers an exploration of the concepts, methods and tools required to analyze climate-related problems and craft solutions for reducing vulnerability and building resilience to climate variability and change.

Credit Hours: 3

Semester: Fall

Instructors: Ben Orlove and Cathy Vaughan

Course Objective:

Drawing on the framework of risk analysis, the course examines and integrates risk assessment, risk perception, risk communication, and risk management. It provides an opportunity for students to learn about several forms of climate governance as well as the kinds of cultural and behavioral change that can be promoted by communication and education. Rather than focusing in a single discipline, the course spans both social and natural sciences. It also bridges a number of divides, including those between research and applications, between developed and developing countries, and between the temporal scales of climate variability and change.

Skills Developed:

  • Understanding how to use climate information for risk assessment
  • Risk management
  • Understanding how issues of perception and communication can influence how risk is understood and acted upon
  • Understanding information needs
  • Conveying information to decision makers

This course focused on developing an understanding of climate variability and change and their impacts at regional and local scales, together with the available sources of modern climate information for applications use.

Credit Hours: 3

Semester: Spring

Instructors: Michela Biasutti and Andrew W. Robertson

Course Objective:

Many decisions in society are at local scales, and regional climate information considered at appropriate scales and in appropriate forms (e.g., transformed into water stress on crops) is key. Students will build an understanding of the dynamics of climate variability and change at regional and local scales, along with the sources of modern climate information used to help manage climate-related risks and adapt to climate change. These include historical climate data, real-time monitoring, climate forecasts and climate change projections. By providing examples of how the information can and is being used, this course seeks to contribute towards the wise use of climate information.

Skills Developed:

  • Understanding of the physical mechanisms of regional climate variability and  change.
  • Working familiarity with climate data, models and forecasts.
  • Insight into the causes of uncertainty and how it is dealt with
  • Linking research with policy and risk management

This course is an interactive seminar focused on providing opportunities to explore ways in which the Climate and Society degree can be applied.

Credit Hours: 3

Semester: Spring

Instructors: Brian Kahn and Andrew Kruczkiewicz

Course Objective:

The objective of this seminar is to explore how to integrate climate science, social science, policy studies and communication to improve the development of practical solutions for real-world challenges. Throughout the course, students will have the opportunity to interact with professionals representing a diverse mix of organizations working on integrating climate within their operations. The exposure to a variety of career paths will be coupled with activities to build and improve students’ career advancement skill set. The course will build towards the development of a strategy for the next steps of the C+S degree and prepare students for the summer internship period.

Skills Developed:

  • Climate communication
  • Writing for diverse audiences
  • Collaborating with professional partners
  • Linking research with policy

This course aims to inform students thinking on this topic, and to contribute to their varied preparation for internships and ultimately careers at the boundary between science and society.

Credit Hours: 6

Semester: Summer

Course Objective:

The course is to present questions and concepts that can help contribute to students' varied preparation for internships and ultimately careers at the boundary between science and society. It explores some of the challenges of working in this space. It also considers how different ways of structuring the relationship between science and society shape the science that is produced and how it is ultimately used. To help students reflect on their own experience, it asks students to consider the roles we, as researchers professionals, play in these different structures, and the skills or knowledge might help us to play these roles more effectively. The course also considers how we can draw and build on the skills and concepts we have learned over the past year to address these challenges and to make progress toward our personal and professional goals. 

Skills Developed:

  • Experience in the operations and development of climate-facing organizations
  • Effective interdisciplinary communication and collaboration 
  • Identifying personal strengths and weaknesses
  • Goal setting