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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

David S Battisti
ATM S 111
Seattle Campus

Global Warming: Understanding the Issues

Includes a broad overview of the science of global warming. Discusses the causes, evidence, future projections, societal and environmental impacts, and potential solutions. Introduces the debate on global warming with a focus on scientific issues. Offered: AWSp.

Class description

Human-induced climate change - popularly known as "global warming" - is emerging as one of the great challenges facing society in the 21st century. If we ignore the problem, by the end of this century the climate changes due to increased greenhouse gases will be large enough to have significant consequences on the environment and on civilization. To avoid these changes will require either (i) a wholesale change in the sources of energy used by humans, (ii) yet to be developed (economical) methods to sequester carbon on an unprecedented scale, or intentional human modification of the earth’s energy budget to partially cancel the warming that will result from the increased greenhouse gases due to human activity (so-called geoengineering solutions to global warming). At stake are deeply felt values as well as entrenched economic interests. When these are combined with scientific uncertainty, it is not surprising that global warming has sparked a raging, often passionate debate.

The primary goal of this course is to understand the basic science of global warming and its consequences to date. We will then examine how the climate is projected to change over the present century due to further human activity, and some of impacts these changes will have on ecosystems and people, especially on the global water and food supplies. The lectures will provide a critical analysis of the scientific consensus on global warming, and highlight the major sources of uncertainty in the projections of future climate. We will also examine stronger claims made by advocates on both sides - "skeptics" and "alarmists," as they are sometimes called. The term paper will examine the portrayal of these issues by the media.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Lectures; discussion sections

Recommended preparation

Open to all undergraduates. We assume that you have mastered the required skills to attend the UW, including a working knowledge of high-school algebra and physical sciences will be useful. Nonetheless, the basic tools used by scientists will be reviewed and practiced as they arise during the course.

Class assignments and grading

Regular homeworks -- mostly done online; there will be approximately or seven homework assignments. A current events assignment, and one midterm and the Final (cumulative) exam.

Homework (total) 35% (late homework will not be graded) MidTerm Exam 30% Final Exam 30% Current Events 4% Survey 1%


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
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Last Update by David S Battisti
Date: 09/29/2009