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University Bulletin
Undergraduate Degree Programs

These course descriptions are not being updated as of August 1, 2016. Current course descriptions are maintained in LionPATH.

Earth Sciences (EARTH)

EARTH 104 (GN) Climate, Energy and Our Future (3) This course presents the past, present, and possible future response of Earth's climate to human energy use.

EARTH 104 Climate, Energy and Our Future (3)

This class explores how we can shift our society to a sustainable energy system that improves our quality of life, our economy, and our natural environment. Energy provides well-being, jobs and about 10% of our economy, while powering the rest. But, energy is also the least sustainable part of our economy—we rely on fossil fuels that we are burning about a million times faster than nature saved them for us. These fossil fuels, mostly coal, oil and gas, help us grow food and avoid some environmental disasters, but the limited fossil-fuel supplies mean we must move toward a more sustainable system. And, we will be better off by avoiding damaging climate changes from fossil-fuel CO2 if we move before all of the fossil fuels are gone. The warming influence of fossil-fuel CO2 is shown by physics known for more than a century and really refined by the US Air Force after WWII. History, data, and models confirm the physics, giving us high confidence that burning much of the remaining fossil-fuel resource and releasing the CO2 will cause much larger climate changes than we have experienced so far. This class will explore the big issues in energy, including the value of burning oil rather than whales, and other historical insights. Then, after looking at the basic science and engineering of our energy system and how it affects climate, we will examine the multitude of options for the future, including alternative energy sources, conservation, and intentionally manipulating the climate. The economics, policies and ethics of these options will help us consider how to build a sustainable energy system that will encourage economic growth and improved quality of life, while at the same time defending against potentially catastrophic future climate change.

General Education: GN
Diversity: None
Bachelor of Arts: None
Effective: Summer 2015

Note : Class size, frequency of offering, and evaluation methods will vary by location and instructor. For these details check the specific course syllabus.


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Course descriptions are stored in LionPATH, the University-wide student information system. Please visit the LionPATH Course Catalog to access current course descriptions. At that point, you will be leaving the University Bulletin website.

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