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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Cecilia Bitz
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 methods to sequester carbon on an unprecedented scale, or (iii) 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.

Student learning goals

The primary goal of this course is to understand the basic science of global warming and its consequences to date. The main tools used by climate scientists will be described in this course. Students will learn how the climate is projected to change over the present century due to further human activity, and some of the 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. The class will examine current proposals to mitigate and plans to adapt to global warming impacts.

General method of instruction

Lectures, in-class activities, and discussion

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.

Class assignments and grading

Regular assignments, quizzes, and a final exam.

The tentative grading scheme is Homework problems 15% Quizzes 45% In class activities 15% Final 25%


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.
Class website (available in late Dec)
Last Update by Cecilia Bitz
Date: 01/02/2012