HSEM 2709H: Climate Change: Indisputable Science, Unprecedented Consequences, and Transformative Responses

3 CreditsHonors

Climate change presents an almost unimaginable crisis to our existence. Its profoundness is coupled with an urgency to find solutions that contribute to collective and transformative actions. There is scientific consensus that the existence of human beings (and many other species) on the planet is in danger because of fossil fuel emissions. Human activity has led to increasing greenhouse gases (especially carbon dioxide) and a warming planet. A warming planet has negative consequences in terms of environmental degradation, extreme weather events, and social disruption—all of which have health and economic consequences. While the basic problem is acknowledged by scientists in diverse fields, many of the proposed responses to the current and projected climate-related changes are contrary to powerful political, cultural, industrial, and economic interests. The challenges posed by these interests, as well as the complexity (and sometimes imprecision and uncertainty) of the science, make it difficult for individuals to clearly understand the threats and the opportunities that must be addressed in the next several decades if the earth is to remain habitable for almost 9 million species. Hearts and minds must change quickly. Public and professional educational efforts must be massive, with clear messages of hope, urgency, and direction. Local, national, and global adaptation and mitigation responses must thus be palatable and accessible to diverse communities as well as to powerful economic and political entities. Policies, programs, services, and educational efforts must necessarily be created by multidisciplinary teams using community-focused approaches. These efforts must reach all affected individuals and entities, especially those who are most vulnerable to the negative sequalae of climate change. They must also effectively address the many political, social, and cultural barriers to the kind of transformative actions that are necessary to maintain the habitability of the planet. The course will take a multidisciplinary perspective to encourage students to learn and critically evaluate information about three major content areas: (1) the science of climate change and its public health contextualization; (2) the existing, and projected, consequences of climate change to the environment, to human health, and to institutions and infrastructures that affect public health; and (3) public health mitigation and adaptation responses for industries, governments, communities, and individuals.

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