Global Climate Change --
Past, Present, and Future

FALL 2009  



Class meets: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 to 11:50 a.m., Stevenson 3036
Instructor: Dr. Dorothy Freidel, Professor, Geography
Office: 3056 Stevenson, 664-2314, email
Office hours: Mondays through Wednesdays 1 to 2 p.m. or by appointment

Course Description: Global climate change in the past, present, and future. The course focuses on evidence of climate change in the past, modern climate variability, and the range of theories and arguments regarding potential climate change in the future. We look at the major controls on climate variability at a range of temporal scales. We study modern research methods that are used to investigate past climate and to model possible climatic trends, such as global warming. Topics include the carbon cycle, solar orbital variations, monsoon variations, greenhouse warming, ozone depletion, El Niño-La Niña and ocean-atmosphere feedbacks. We explore the human role in global change, and the response of the environment to such changes, including effects such as sea level rise, vegetation changes, and changes in ocean circulation. Geog 372 is a four unit course. Prerequisite: Geog 204 or equivalent, or consent of instructor.

Internet Access Is Assumed . A great many resources on global change exist on the internet, and this class will take advantage of some of these. Many of the readings will be obtained on line. The course web page includes this course schedule, exercises, links to resources, and study guides for the exams. There is also a class email list for students and instructor to communicate easily with each other. Therefore, all students in the class must must also check their SSU email on a regular (daily) basis.

Suggested Textbooks:

This semester we will experiment with readings. You may choose to read the excellent and readable science text on this topic: Ruddiman, Wm. F., (2008). Earth's Climate, Past and Future, 2nd Edition, New York: Freeman. At the SSU Bookstore (18 copies available used) or North Light Books (4 copies used) on E. Cotati Ave in the Oliver's Shopping Center. New and used copies are also available on line. Plan to order well ahead of the beginning of the semester if you purchase on line.

Alternately, you may choose to read several of the following narrative books on this topic, which will give you the same basic concepts and background on the topic, but in a more journalistic style. It will be up to you to read these books carefully, taking notes on the scientific material. These will also give you much anecdotal material on the history of climate change, the currently observed changes in environments, the scientific methods used, and the history of the scientific inquiry into climate change. Also included are the direct voices of the scientists and others who talk informally about the issues. These are the recommended texts offered in this style: (YOU DO NOT HAVE TO READ ALL OF THESE, JUST A SELECTION, to be discussed in class.)

David Archer (2009). The Long Thaw: How Humans are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth's Climate, Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Wallace S. Broecker and Robert Kunzig (2008).  Fixing Climate: What Past Climate Changes Reveal About the Current Threat -- And How to Counter It. New York: Hill and Wang.

Elizabeth Kolbert (2006). Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change. Bloomsbury.

Eugene Linden (2006). The Winds of Change: Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Michael Mann and Lee Kump (2008). Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming, The Illustrated Guide to the Findings of the IPCC. New York: Pearson Education.

Gavin Schmidt and Josua Wolfe (2008).  Climate Change: Picturing the Science.  New York: Norton.

Chris Turney (2008).  Ice, Mud and Blood:  Lessons from Climates Past. New York: MacMillan.

There will also be readings from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports and other sources on line.

Readings should be done before the lecture for which they are listed. Reading assignments are tentative. Any changes will be announced ahead of time in class and on the listserv. Some of these readings will be studied in detail and some will be skimmed for background. Readings in the texts may not always mirror lecture topics precisely but will provide essential background.

Grading: Your final course grade will be based on following:

  Two Midterms   15% each, total 30%
  Homework Assignments (2-3)   20%
  Class Participation, Discussions   20%
  Final Exam   30%

Each exam will consist of multiple choice, short answer and map questions and a choice of several short essay questions. Class participation will emphasize discussions of the reading materials and will include occasional group presentations.

Important Note: There is a heavy emphasis on class discussion of the readings. The material for each week builds on the previous week's studies. Therefore, the only way to be successful in this class is to keep up with the readings and come to class prepared to discuss the material (including questions regarding material you don't understand). Missing even one class may cause you to have difficulties with the exams, and missing several classes or getting seriously behind on the readings will likely result in a very low grade or even failure.

If you are a student with a disability and think you may need accommodations in this course, you must contact the Disabled Students Services located in Stevenson 1038 (664-2677).

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 Page last updated 8/27/09