Beyond the Headlines

Take a closer look at how human activity continues to shape our global climate.
Upcoming Course Offerings
September 22, 2014 - November 2, 2014
Climate Change, Earth: Inside and Out, Evolution, Water, Genetics, Genomics, Genethics, Space, Time and Motion
October 27, 2014 - December 7, 2014
The Brain:, Climate Change, The Link Between Dinosaurs and Birds, The Solar System, Earth: Inside and Out, The Ocean System
See the full calendar.

Authoring Scientists

Ed Mathez
Geologist
Dr. Mathez is a curator in the Museum's Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.
Gavin Schmidt
Climatologist
Drew Shindell
Climatologist

About the Course

This course explores the science of climate change. Students will learn how the climate system works; what factors cause climate to change across different time scales and how those factors interact; how climate has changed in the past; how scientists use models, observations and theory to make predictions about future climate; and the possible consequences of climate change for our planet. The course explores evidence for changes in ocean temperature, sea level and acidity due to global warming. Students will learn how climate change today is different from past climate cycles and how satellites and other technologies are revealing the global signals of a changing climate. Finally, the course looks at the connection between human activity and the current warming trend and considers some of the potential social, economic and environmental consequences of climate change. Read more.

Key Science Concepts

The Sun is the primary source of energy for Earth's climate system. The Earth's energy is in balance, or equilibrium, when Earth emits the same amount of energy as it absorbs.

The climate system is dynamic and has many interrelated components. A change in any one component can influence the equilibrium of the system and result in climate changes.

Climate varies over space and time through both natural and human sources. These forces operate over time periods ranging from years to hundreds of millions or even billions of years and vary widely with location on Earth.

Human activities – particularly the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide since the Industrial Revolution – are affecting the climate system today, leading to warming temperatures globally.

Evidence for variations in past climates is held in ocean and lake sediments, ice cores, corals, tree rings, and other geologic records. Understanding past climate informs us about how the present climate system works and how it might change in the future.

Climate change will have consequences for the Earth system including human society. Climate change research involves extensive observations, theory and modeling. Future climate change scenarios are essential to informing efforts to mitigate and to adapt to the consequences of climate change.


Course Textbooks

Climate Change: The Science of Global Warming and Our Energy Future
Author: Edmond Mathez
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Edition: April 2009
Paperback: 344 pages
ISBN: 0231146426
Buy online: Amazon


Climate Change: Picturing the Science (recommended)
Author: Gavin Schmidt, Joshua Wolfe, and Jeffrey D. Sachs
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Edition: April 2009
Hardcover: 320 pages
ISBN: 0393331253
Buy online: Amazon

Graduate Credit

This course is approved for graduate credit and continuing education units from leading institutions at an additional cost. Read more.

Adams State UniversityCity University of New YorkFramingham State University

Related Courses

Interested in more from Seminars on Science? Consider these related offerings:

The Ocean System
Integrated Science
Earth: Inside and Out
Dynamic Earth Systems
Water
Environmental Science