SOS494/598 - Social Dimensions of Climate Change

The intersectionality between climate and society is significant and increasingly complex, as society is deeply embedded in all aspects of climate change. Solid understanding of social complexities surrounding climate change is crucial to devise and evaluate effective climate change adaptation and mitigation policies and programs.

This seminar explores a variety of topics that highlight the human and social side of climate change. The topics include, but not limited to, climate change science and why it has been so contested in some quarters; the existing and predicted physical, economic and societal impacts of climate change; how vulnerability to climate change is measured and whether societies will be able to adapt to forecasted changes; the ethical and social justice dimensions of acting or not acting on climate change; the international mitigation strategies that have been tried to date, as well as country and sub-national strategies; and the economic costs of adaptation and mitigation strategies.

Course Objectives and Learning Outcomes

The main objective of this course is to survey the intersections between climate and society by going through the fundamentals of climate change science and social sciences of climate change. The weekly modules of this course provide the foundational knowledge of the impacts of climate change in different ecosystems and societies, and how societal interpretations, perceptions, and responses to climate change (and climate change discourse) have evolved in the US as well as globally.

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • tell the fundamentals of climate change science and their intersections with society;

  • narrate the ongoing climate change debates, especially the impacts, vulnerability, adaptation, and mitigation options proposed and practiced in the US and globally;

  • synthesize the socio-economic, cultural, and political factors defining global climate change; and

  • analyze the international policies on climate change and their social and institutional barriers.

Required Textbooks

  • Burch, Sarah & Sara. E. Harris. (2014). Understanding Climate Change: Science, Policy & Practice. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press.

  • Carey, Mark. (2010). In the Shadow of Melting Glaciers: Climate Change and Andean Society. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN-10: 0195396073

  • Farber, Daniel A. & Cinnamon P. Carlarne. (2018). Climate Change Law. St. Paul, MN: Foundation Press. ISBN: 978-1-63459-294-9