Introduction to Climate Change (SUS 103)

SUS 103 HYB – Introduction to Climate Change                                                          This course provides an introduction to the principles of climate change science with an emphasis on the empirical evidence for human-caused climate change.  Students will learn critical thinking skills to assess such questions as:

  • How do we apply physical science principles to understand the drivers of global warming?
  • How do we predict trends in climate change?
  • How do we calculate and understand uncertainty in these predictions?
  • What is valid science in the global warming debate?

This course satisfies the Physical Science requirement of the Baccalaureate Core.  There are no prerequisites; this class is open to all OSU students.  In order to be successful in this course you will need to be able to read at the college level and interpret graphs.  You will also need to have a working knowledge of: OSU’s Canvas software where the course resides, your internet browser so you can access required Web links, and a word processing program so you can create files to be uploaded to Canvas.

For the HYB version of this course, students will have the same learning outcomes as the on-campus and ecampus versions of the class, but lectures will be online with classtime reserved to review difficult concepts,  help with assignments, and interact in person with the instructor and others in the class via group activities that reinforce key concepts. Four of the labs for this version will be hands-on labs where you perform experiments or create climate change posters on campus (4 weeks, 24 students per lab) with the remainding labs preformed on-line (5 weeks).  There will be up to 72 students per section (2 sections) with students interacting in groups of 8 at nine work stations in the LINC active learning rooms.

Each week, you will have five types of material to work through, the last two of which will be graded.

  1. A series of Mini-Lectures that run 5 – 15 minutes each for a total of 15-50 minutes for the week.  These are professionally designed mini lectures designed for eCampus learning, and often have embedded videos to help you understand the concepts.  They are mainly produced by COMET from UCAR and Denier101x from the University of Queensland in Australia, so large teams of scientists have developed them and specifically made them accessible for learning onLine.  They will be a useful learning resource before you begin your course reading.
  1. Reading assignment in “Our Changing Climate: Introduction to Climate Science” 1st Edition, by Chad M. Kaufman (one chapter per week).  The great thing about this textbook is that it has weblinks on nearly every page.  So you will read a bit, but then go to a link and see a satellite image in action, or see the actual Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) documents – right as you are reading about them in your text.  I think you will enjoy this new type of reading experience.
  1. Chapter Review Questions and Critical Thinking Questions.  I will post the Chapter Review Questions and the Critical Thinking Questions (together with the Answers!) so you can test yourself and see if you got the main points for each chapter.  This can be useful either for the weekly quizzes, or in studying for the midterm and final exams.  You will find these files on Canvas at the end of the “Required Content” page (2nd in each of the weekly modules).
  1. Chapter Quizzes (10 @ 15 pts each).  The weekly chapter quizzes are posted on Canvas. The quizzes will help you focus on which material is most important in each Chapter, so when the reading gets dense (and it does sometimes!) – I likely will not expect you to know the material in that much depth.  You can open the quiz and go back and forth to the book to make sure you get the answers correct for each question.  Then think through the questions in #3 above, and you should be good to go.  You are welcome to read all the details, but I am gearing the class toward the big picture, the lab activities, the discussion boards, and extra credit activities.
  2. Lab Assignments are nearly half of your grade (9 @ 50 points each).  Half of your labs will be performed on campus (weeks 2, 4, 6, and 8, 24 students per lab) with hands-on experiments:
    • watching CO2 warm air,
    • manipulating the energy budgets of miniature sand ecosystems,
    • watching the CO2 from your breath acidify water, and
    • visiting the OSU ocean sediment and ice core labs.  These lab visits are rare opportunities as there are only a handful of these labs in the world!                                                                                                                                                                                   The remaining labs (weeks 1, 3, 5, 7, 9) will be performed on your own time on canvas.  For these labs you will:
    • be guided to websites where you will access historical climate data and see for yourself if the globe appears to be warming and if this pattern holds for various countries and locations throughout the globe,
    • visit websites that animate satellite images to see how data are collected from space and why this is important to help fully understand the mechanisms of Earth’s changing climate system, and
    • access links to specific passages of publications that have documented the current impacts of climate change on various sectors, regions and resources where you will work through exercises related to these impacts.

There will also be two required Discussion Boards where you will watch the movies “An Inconvenient Truth” (week 5) and “Merchants of Doubt” (week 8) and write a short essay/blog that you will post to your discussion group and be able to see and comment on how others responded to these movies.  The rubric for how to get full credit on each Discussion Board will be posted in the Canvas module.

Linkage of the on-line and in-person aspects of this course will enable you not only to be familiar with the content and have access to the extensive online resources so you can keep up with (or know where and how to access new findings) on the science of human caused climate change that develops in the future.  But it will also allow you to have informed discussions and interactions with others that will form the basis for how you will interact and vote on this issue as it prevails throughout your business, economic, and personal decisions for the rest of your life.  Ultimately, transfer of this information beyond the classroom to friends, family and work associates will enable you to provide an active voice on decisions that will affect the environment for the rest of your life and the lives of future generations.

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