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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Nives Dolsak
SMA 521
Seattle Campus

Governmental Responses to Global Climate Change

Exploration of major scientific, policy and legal issues pertaining to problems of global climate change including regime design, use of climate models, impact on hydrology water resources, and forests.

Class description

open access resource in that no government, firm, or individual can be prevented from benefitting from somebody else’s action. Hence, it makes most sense to simply wait for others to do the work (incentives for free-riding are imminent). This argument holds even more power given the uncertainties our knowledge of global climate change, its causes, and impacts at regional and local levels entails. Furthermore mitigation efforts are likely to impose non-trivial costs on the domestic economy, with costs concentrated on specific sectors that have the incentives to organize and oppose its governmental actions to mitigate global climate change. At the same time, adaptation to global climate change is an easier sell for governments. A governmental entity only funds the adaptation needed for its communities, not for everybody else around the globe. Further, if mitigation and/or adaptation efforts result in development of a new technology that can be protected by intellectual property rights, acting fast can lead to a creation of a marketable product and future revenues. Governments therefore, balance the costs and benefits of mitigating and adapting to global climate change. However, governments are not merely guided by cost considerations. They respond to ethical principles and opportunities for policy leadership created by pressures from voters demanding cleaner and more sustainable communities. Hence, to study and impact governmental responses to global climate change, we need to draw on multiple academic disciplines that enable us to understand the problem of global climate change, its impacts at the appropriate governmental level, the framing of this problem for policy makers, the solutions available, and the policy instruments likely to lead to implementation of these technologies and change of behavior.

Student learning goals

Advance the understanding of the nature of global climate change problems and how they are framed in policy discourse;

Examine effectiveness, efficiency, and fairness of various policy instruments for global climate change mitigation and adaptation;

Critically evaluate global climate change policy processes and outcomes across levels of governance

General method of instruction

The course is organized in four units drawing on multiple academic disciplines. In the first unit, we will define global climate change as a policy problem. We will learn about the basics of carbon cycle, assessment tools available to model global climate change and its impacts at the global as well as regional levels. Lastly, we will examine alternative ways governments have used to frame global climate change. The second unit will examine several technologies available for global climate change mitigation and adaptation. In the third unit, we will study institutions (policy actors and policy instruments) that have been addressing global climate change. This unit will include policies developed at the international level, the U.S. A. national policies, as well as policies developed by city, county, and state governments. The fourth unit will conclude with recommendations for the future of global climate change policy.

A number of guest speakers will speak to the above topics. Students are expected to read the assigned readings in advance and come prepared to discuss them during the class time. To increase the quality of discussion, students will also write a brief memo on the assigned readings.

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Students’ work will be evaluated based on the following assignments: (1) Memos summarizing the assigned readings and blogs/news (5 memos, each max 10 points); (2) Oral presentation and a 1-2 page summary of selected mitigation technologies (max 10 points); (3) Analysis of global climate change bills introduced in the 111th or 112th Congress (max 10 points); (4) Oral presentation and a 1-2 page summary of selected global climate change mitigation/adaptation policies implemented across levels of governance (max 30 points).


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.
Last Update by Nives Dolsak
Date: 11/12/2011