Global Climate Change

2019  Spring Semester

Instructor:  Janet McMahon

Course Description

Climate change is a complicated global issue that cuts across many disciplines.  In this course students will be introduced to the science of past and present climate change, how human societies could be affected by future changes, and how governments are responding to what is known.  In addition we will explore some of the ethical ramifications of this issue. There will be several hand-on components, including shadowing an energy auditor, tracking state energy legislation, and, in the final weeks of the course, working as a group on a climate change vulnerability assessment for the town of Camden.  The final project results will be summarized in a report and presented to town officials and community members.

Note that this is a content-based course, however the instructor will work with students to hone several foundational skills.

Foundational Skill Objectives  

  1. Students will be able to produce, interpret and explain graphs; be able to discern signal from noise, whether looking at graphs or the media’s representation of scientific information; be able to identify primary data sources (Skill 3D: Numeracy – interpret and create graphs; Skill 8: Information Gathering and Analysis B, D and E).
  2. Improve each student’s ability to write clearly, factually, and persuasively (Skill 2: Writing)
  3. Increase each student’s comfort and effectiveness when presenting to an audience (Skill 4: Discourse).

Content Objectives  Students will be able to...

  1. Understand and use basic climate science and building science vocabulary.
  2. Draw conclusions about past and current climate patterns and future climate conditions through analysis of instrumental, proxy, and anecdotal climate data.
  3. Understand the relationship between population growth, economic well-being and energy use.
  4. Apply future climate change scenarios projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other scientific groups to the midcoast.
  5. Have a basic understanding of type and scale of emissions reduction scenarios needed to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels.
  6. Apply a basic ethical framework to the issue of climate change.


Watershed’s climate change actions in the news:
Camden Students Demand Action on Climate Change
Maine Students Track Town’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Fight Against Climate Change
Students Inventory CO2 Emissions in Camden
Camden’s Talking About Sea Level Rise
Not Your Grandfather’s Camden
Watershed Students Find Success in Independent Study Programs
Midcoast Towns Push for a Carbon-Free Future


View reports from the Global Climate Change class:
Cleaner Camden, Cleaner World: Taking Inventory
Preparing for Sea Level Rise in Camden, Maine
A Carbon Neutral Camden: It’s Time to Act
A Carbon Neutral Maine by 2050: What Would It Take?