Online Courses Make Climate Change Knowledge More Accessible


Interested in learning about climate change? This guest post by environmental scientist James Tolbert refers to three free, collegiate-level online courses designed to teach the novice and expert alike.

What do you say when someone brings up climate change in a conversation? Do you engage people with views different than your own on the subject? If you want to feel better prepared when you have an opportunity to discuss climate change with a friend, family member, or colleague, or if you are truly curious about the science and policy decisions related to climate change, a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) may be a good option for you. The following three MOOCs are all free, informative, and self-paced to allow you to access the online videos and assignments when your schedule allows it. These three are offered by solid MOOC providers: Open2Study, Coursera, and edX. Each one has a bit of a different focus and presents the material at different technical levels. You can choose your level of interest and background, find a good fit to help you understand climate change, and help you engage others on the subject.

Climate Change, Beginning November 18, 2013, with regular repetition

This course is taught by Lesley Hughes from Macquarie University in Australia. It provides a general overview of how climate change will affect us, why we should care, and what solutions we can employ. No specific math or science background is required, and the material is sound and not overtaxing.

Climate Change in Four Dimensions, Beginning January 7, 2014

This course is taught by Charles Kennel, Naomi Oreskes, Veerabhadran Ramanathan, Richard Somerville, and David Victor from Scripts Institute of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). It discusses climate change from four dimensions: natural sciences, technology, social sciences, and humanities. There are no prerequisites, just an ability to understand graphical presentations of data and a familiarity with basic principles of natural and physical sciences. It features well known speakers with reviews of current issues.

Global Warming Science, Beginning February 19, 2014

This course is taught by Kerry Emanuel from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with Dan Cziczo and David McGee. It is about the science and provides an introduction to the physics of the climate system and the basic science underpinning discussions of anthropogenic climate change. The course requires some college-level mathematics (calculus including ordinary differential equations), physics and high school chemistry.

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  1. Jennifer M. Hill (@jmhill926)
    Jennifer M. Hill (@jmhill926) says:

    Thank you for this excellent writeup. I just shared your post with the Climate Reality Project climate leaders group in Facebook – with hat tip to you. I took a MOOC on climate change this summer through Coursera and really enjoyed it. It was through the University of Melbourne in Australia and not only did I learn a lot about climate change, I had my understanding of the world grow of by learning about the south Pacific.


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