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Online Course - Climate Change: Causes, Consequences, and Solutions

Climate Change: Causes, Consequences, and Solutions has been devloped by UC Davis Professor Arnold Bloom. This free online course examines:

  1. the factors responsible for climate change
  2. the biological and sociological consequences of such changes, and
  3. the possible engineering, economic, and legal solutions to avoid more extreme perturbations.


It includes weekly themes, daily mini-lectures, data visualizations, quizzes, exams, weekly assignments, a textbook, and readings. 

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What causes climate change?

Greenhouse gases (GHG) such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) in Earth’s atmosphere trap heat that would otherwise escape into space, causing global warming or climate change. They act a bit like wearing a sweater on a warm day, letting heat from the sun in, but not letting much of your heat out. Although these gases can be found in nature, we have been releasing them into the atmosphere at unprecedented rates through  combustion of coal, oil, and natural gas for energy; deforestation; and maintaining large populations of ruminant livestock. Once in the atmosphere, heat-trapping gases remain there for many years—for example CO2 lasts about 100 years.

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What is climate change?

Climate is defined as the average statistics of weather, which includes temperature, precipitation, and seasonal patterns, in a particular region. Climate change refers to the long term and irrevocable shift in these weather related patterns, either regionally or more globally. The Earth and its natural ecosystem are very closely tied to the climate and any permanent climate change will lead to an imbalance in the existing ecosystem, impacting the way people live, the food they grow, their health, the wildlife, the availability of water and many more.

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The Golden State at Risk

Climate change is already affecting California. Sea levels have risen by as much as seven inches along the California coast over the last century, increasing erosion and pressure on the state’s infrastructure, water supplies, and natural resources. The state has also seen increased average temperatures, more extreme hot days, fewer cold nights, a lengthening of the growing season, shifts in the water cycle with less winter precipitation falling as snow, and both snowmelt and rainwater running off sooner in the year.

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What are the different emission scenarios?

The extent and severity of global warming depends on the rate at which human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels,continue. Rate of population growth, economic development will be crucial. How much and how quickly heat-trapping emissions accumulate in the atmosphere and how the climate responds to these emissions will determine the projected climate change. There are two different heat-trapping emissions scenarios on the basis of which these projections have been made.

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What are the different global climate models?

Projecting future climate requires sophisticated computer models. The 2009 Climate Scenarios Project used projections from six global climate models, all of which had been run with two selected emissions scenarios (A2—mid-high; B1—lower). On one hand we have different emission scenarios, on the other we have different models to predict how the environment will react to these scenarios. This is called “climate sensitivity” which depends on Earth’s response to certain physical processes, including a number of “feedbacks” that might amplify or lessen warming.

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What is California doing about climate change?

California has been a leader in both the science of climate change and in identifying solutions. Strong, in-depth research is critical for developing effective strategies for addressing global warming in California. The state has also been at the forefront of efforts to reduce heat-trapping emissions, passing precedent-setting policies such as aggressive standards for tailpipe emissions, renewable energy, and energy efficiency.

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Resources

Climate Tools

Data Access

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State of California, Edmund G. Brown Jr., Governor