Climate Education in an Age of Media > Learn About the Project > Case Studies of CAM in Action > Case Study: University Course on Climate Change

Case Study: University Course on Climate Change: Science, Communication, and Solutions course

In the first half of the course, students examine scientific concepts drawn from diverse fields, including atmospheric science, physical climatology, biogeochemistry, and ecology. Students learn about current and projected climate change and its impacts though inquiry-based analysis of climate data and visualization resources. The course then focuses on communication and policy solutions as they relate to climate change. Students work together in teams to produce a short video conveying their own perspective on a climate change science topic and its implications for society. Through this project, students both engage with science content and also improve their literacy in a medium that is emerging as a major means of communication. This literacy provides a means to:

  • Become more sophisticated consumers of media related to climate change
  • Provide a vehicle for active exploration and learning about climate change science
  • Empower students to join the larger societal conversation about climate change

The CAM project approach of combining systems thinking, climate change science, simulation role-playing games, and media production was an effective means to teach upper level undergraduate and graduate level courses on climate change. The course pushed new boundaries by combining many scientific fields (physics, climatology, biology), social sciences (political science, sociology, psychology), and communication (video making, opinion article writing, public speaking) in one coherent course about climate change.

An overview of reading assignments and resources used in this course are provided below.

Integrating video production into university-level climate change education

With help from scientist-turned-filmmaker, Randy Olson, curriculum was developed to bring student media production into this cross-disciplinary course on climate change science and policy.

Working paper about this approach (coming soon): Student media production to meet challenges in climate change science education

Video script assignment, with student exemplars: Video Script Assignment (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 138kB May29 13)

Quick users guide for editing with FinalCut Express and FinalCut Pro: FinalCut Editing Guide (Acrobat (PDF) 25.1MB May29 13)

Sample Media Release Form: Media Release Form (Microsoft Word 24kB May29 13)

See examples of student work from this course, and others, on our CAM TV page.

Earth's Greenhouse Effect

Content: Quantum Mechanics; Blackbody Radiation; Light Spectra; Absorption and Emission of Radiation; Atmospheres; Anthropogenic Forcing; Feedback Effects

Example Reading Assignments and Resources:

NASA - A blanket around the Earth

EPA - Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Carbon Cycle

Content: Photosynthesis; Respiration; Terrestrial, Oceanic, and Atmospheric Sinks; Increases/Decreases in Net Primary Production; Biochar

Example Reading Assignments and Resources:

Modeling Climate Change

Content: Challenges; Time Scales; Basic Components of Model (Atmosphere, Ocean, Vegetation, Ice); Fluid Dynamics; EdGCM; IPCC Emissions Scenarios

Example Reading Assignments and Resources:

Paleoclimate and Abrupt Climate Change

Content: Geologic Time Scale (Epochs); Ice Core/Tree Ring Data

Example Reading Assignments and Resources:

Health Impacts of Climate Change

Content: Determinants of Health; Impact on Poor Countries; Extreme Weather Events; Spread of Infectious Disease; Heat Waves; Food Production

Example Reading Assignments and Resources:

Ocean Impacts

Content: Thermal Expansion; Glacier and Ice Sheet Melting; Ocean Acidification; Ecosystem Impacts (Coral Reef Calcification)

Example Reading Assignments and Resources:

Biodiversity Impacts

Content: Climate Envelope Changes; Projected Extinctions Under Different Climate Models

Example Reading Assignments and Resources:

  • Thomas, Chris D., Alison Cameron, Rhys E. Green, Michel Bakkenes, Linda J. Beaumont, Yvonne C. Collingham, Barend F. N. Erasmus, Marinez Ferreira De Siqueira, Alan Grainger, Lee Hannah, Lesley Hughes, Brian Huntley, Albert S. Van Jaarsveld, Guy F. Midgley, Lera Miles, Miguel A. Ortega-Huerta, A. Townsend Peterson, Oliver L. Phillips, and Stephen E. Williams. "Extinction Risk from Climate Change." Nature 427.6970 (2004): 145-48.
  • National Science Foundation - Earth's Sixth Mass Extinction: Is It Almost Here?


Content: Renewables (Solar, Wind, Biofuel, Hydro, Tidal); Peak Oil; Power Per Unit Land Area; Efficiency

Example Reading Assignments and Resources:

Economics of Climate Change/Green Economy

Content: Potential for Economic Growth; Estimating Cost of Climate Change (Market Value vs. Non-Market Value); Discount Rate; Mitigation, Adaption; Cap and Trade vs. Carbon Tax; Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Land Degradation

Example Reading Assignments and Resources:

Politics of Climate Change Adaptation

Content: Negotiations (Kyoto, Cancun); Protocols, Accords, Treaties; Compliance; Negotiating Groups

Example Reading Assignments and Resources:


Content: Unique Challenges; Different Forms of Media

Example Reading Assignments and Resources:

Systems Thinking

Content: Mental Models; System Dynamics; Casual Loop Diagrams

Example Reading Assignments and Resources: