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Online Course

Climate Science and Policy

University of Queensland via edX


Climate change has been identified as one of the world's most wicked problems. However, most governments have been slow to respond to the challenge of climate change. This course will help you to understand the size of the problem and policy options that could start to make a difference.

You will develop skills in scenario planning made famous by Shell in the 1960's and now being applied to the climate change challenge in the IPCC reports. Being able to think strategically about future world scenarios and impacts is a skill that directors, managers and others looking to advance their careers across the climate/energy nexus will find invaluable.

This course is part of the Sustainable Energy MicroMasters series. You may take the course as a single course or complete all four courses in the series.

There are two enrolment options: verified enrolment and audit enrolment.We recommend that you enrol in the Audit enrolment track first. If you wish to complete the assessment tasks with the aim to achieve at least 70% in the final grade and a course certificate, you must upgrade to the Verified enrolment track and pay the Verified enrolment fee within the first five weeks from when the course opened. If you miss the Verified enrolment upgraded deadline you can continue with the course as an Audit learner and enrol as a Verified learner in the next run of the course (and complete the assessment tasks then). If you enrol as a verified learner and successfully complete all five courses you will qualify for the Sustainable Energy MicroMasters credential.

A Sustainable Energy MicroMasters credential is worthwhile in itself, but, if you wish to continue your studies, the Sustainable Energy MicroMasters credential could be used towards studying the Master of Sustainable Energy at The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

Learners who choose to enrol as verified and pay the enrolment fee, will be required to submit an assignment and achieve an overall passing grade of 70% or above in order to receive the downloadable verified certificate.

The final examination is timed and has a weight of 40%. The written paper has a weight of 50%, is submitted to Turnitin, a text-matching software, and is instructor-marked.

If you enrol in the audit track, you will have access to all the videos and other resources while the course is open, but you will not have access to the graded assessment tasks. In addition, audit participants will not be eligible to receive a course certificate upon completion of the course.

Both enrolment tracks are valuable. However, if you decide to enrol in the Verified enrolment track, please ensure you will be able to write a Masters level paper.

Plagiarism and cheating, including (i) copying and pasting text from other sources and (ii) using information from other sources without full and compliant referencing, will result in a grade of zero.

This course runs multiple times throughout the year.


Topic 1: The history of climate science and basics of the climate system
This topic presents information on the history of climate science, the earth's energy balance and how the climate system is investigated.
Topic 2: Human driven climate change
This topic presents the indicators of climate change and describes the influence of people on the climate system.
Topic 3: The carbon cycle - Linking climate to policy
This topic summarises the key themes presented on the carbon cycle and links them to human activity and overarching policy requirements.
Topic 4: Future scenarios of climate change
This topic explores the methodology used to create global climate models and then examines changes in key climate indicators under a number of different representative concentration pathways.
Topic 5: Carbon budgets
In this topic, carbon budgets and how they are affected by the COP 21 agreement and negative emissions technologies are explored. The implications for carbon budgets of the recent IPCC report on the Paris 1.5°C target are examined.
Topic 6: The Anthropocene climate: A Earth System perspective on climate change
In this topic, the role of people as the dominant influence on the earth's complex system, including implications for the future and potential tipping points, are explored.
Topic 7: Risks and impacts of climate change
In this topic both the broader impacts of climate change such as disturbances of the global water cycle, and the influence of climate change on extreme weather events, are investigated.
Topic 8: Approaches and limits to climate adaptation
In this topic, general approaches to adaptation to climate change and the associated challenges are explored.
Topic 9: Climate policy
This topic investigates the role of science in making good policy, different policy types and international policy mechanisms.
Topic 10: Scenario planning: Examination, development and use
This topic looks at the examination, building and use of scenarios as a tool for understanding energy and climate implications.

Taught by

Professor Andrew Garnett and Professor Will Steffen

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