Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Climate Solutions Lab

Climate Change: Science and Politics of a Global Crisis

University of Oregon

Political Science


Prof. Ronald Mitchell

Undergraduate lecture

Simulations,Readings from Underrepresented groups

Climate change is the largest environmental threat facing humans and the other species that inhabit planet Earth. We are aware of climate change’s causes, impacts, and likelihood. Yet, recent international meetings on climate change suggest that the nations (and people) of the world are unwilling to take actions of the magnitude and on the timeline that most scientists say will be needed to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change. The demand for action on climate change implied by most scientific evidence has not been matched by the supply of action from political leaders, policy-makers, and the public. This course will help you understand both the science of climate change, the factors that influence whether we make progress on this global crisis, and the international, national, and local policies that can help. We will look at:

Understanding the science: What do we know and what don’t we know about climate change? To what extent is it human-caused and how do we know? How does one assess the arguments of those who contend that human-caused climate change is occurring compared to those who contend the opposite?

Setting the agenda: What has gotten climate change on the international policy agenda? What role has scientific evidence played? What role have nongovernmental organizations and activists played? What role have celebrities like Al Gore played? What factors have kept climate change off the policy agenda?

International responses to climate change -- negotiating an agreement: Why have countries taken action on climate change at some times and not others? Why are some states “leaders” on climate change and others “laggards”? What “factors and actors” help negotiations succeed or fail?

Non-international responses to climate change: What actions are countries taking without international cooperation? What are corporations, communities, and individuals doing to address the problem?