Science of the Physical Universe 25. Energy and Climate: Vision for the Future

The climate of our planet is changing at a rate unprecedented in human history.  Primarily responsible is the build-up of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, most notably carbon dioxide emitted in conjunction with the combustion of coal, oil and natural gas.  Concentrations in the atmosphere of CO2 are higher now than at any time over at least the past 850,000 years, higher arguably than at any time since dinosaurs roamed the planet 50 million years ago. The course will provide a perspective on what we may expect in the way of future climate change if we fail to take action – more violent storms, extremes of precipitation, heat waves, pressures on food production, and an inexorable rise in sea level.  It will survey the energy choices available should we elect to take action to minimize future damage to the climate system.  Special attention will be directed to the challenges and opportunities confronting China and the US, the world’s two largest current emitters.  The overall goal will be to develop a vision for a more sustainable environmental future, one in which energy is supplied not by climate-altering fossils fuels but rather by zero carbon alternatives such as wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, tidal and nuclear.
Note: Students who have taken Science A-52 may not take this course for credit. 
Prerequisite: Students are expected to have a background in high school algebra and trigonometry.








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  • [Course titles in brackets] indicate that the course is not scheduled to be taught during the 2017-2018 academic year, but may be offered in an alternate year.
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