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Climate Change

This course develops an interdisciplinary understanding of the social, political, economic and scientific perspectives on climate change.

About the Course

What is Climate Change? How should we respond to Climate Change? These questions are complex, not least because the responses available to us depend upon who is providing the answers and the particular perspective they take. The economist sees the economic challenges and opportunities of Climate Change; the scientist sees the need to describe and explain Climate Change; the policy-maker and social scientist see Climate Change as a social problem. Therefore, the first step to understanding Climate Change and what we do about it is to see how experts from different disciplines engage with the issue. The second step is to appreciate how our response to Climate Change depends upon the interplay between these different approaches.

This course offers you an introduction to different disciplinary perspectives on Climate Change to help you think about how Climate Change affects you as an individual, as a member of your local community, as a citizen of your country and as a member of the global community. We have designed the presentations, discussions, activities and assessment tasks in this course to help you understand what Climate Change is and what you – and we – should do about it.

Course Syllabus

The overall aim of this subject is to provide an introduction to the socio-political, scientific, and economic aspects of the phenomenon known as Climate Change. In doing so it is hoped that the student will emerge with an enhanced ability to analyse claims both about the science itself and the responses that can be made by humanity at present and for the future, based on current scientific data and its predictions over the next decades. 

You will emerge with a broad understanding of the science underpinning the claim that human activity has played a role in causing the current rise in global temperature. You will also develop an awareness of the present and future impact on global communities, the political response to such impacts, and consider basic economic concepts and models that describe a framework in which changes to our use of resources can occur. 

Recommended Background

No background is necessary. This subject is designed to be accessible to students from any discipline.

Suggested Readings

A collection of readings pertinent to each topic will be made available online.

Course Format

This course will run for 12 weeks comprising of short video lectures, quiz questions, discussion groups and additional short assignments. 


What resources will I need for this class?

There are three kinds of resources you will find useful in this subject. 

Firstly, there are the collection of readings that have been chosen by each of the instructors in this subject to help support your discussions and assignment work. These will be made available to you electronically.

Secondly, there are the resources available to you in the many and varied texts on climate change in the public domain (social media, news sources, periodicals, literature, film, works of art, etc.). Although these should be examined critically before being incorporated into the arguments you make, they do give you access to information about current and rapidly changing events.

Finally, there are your own experiences and interests. Draw upon these in your discussions, debates and assignments. 

What is the coolest thing I'll learn if I take this class?

You will learn that the issue of Climate Change is incredibly complex, however it can also be very accessible if you can see it from different perspectives and approach it with an open mind and a willingness to engage in discussion and action along with others.

Will I get a certificate after completing this course?

A Statement of Accomplishment will be offered to those students who successfully pass the assessments as laid out in the syllabus. Verified Certificates are available through the Signature Track option. Eligible students may be able to apply for the Coursera Financial Aid program.

Do I earn University of Melbourne credits upon completion of this class?

No. The Verified Certificate is not part of a formal qualification from the University.

However, it may be useful to demonstrate prior learning and interest in this course to a higher education institution or potential employer. 

Do I have to log in to participate at specific times?

No, you are able to log in and participate when convenient to you. Course materials are released sequentially. You can complete activities each week when convenient. Quizzes and assignments have specific due dates and times so you will need to comply with these if you wish to pass the course. The course is scheduled for the seven week period as this means that a large number of students will be completing the course at one time which leads to richer interaction between students.

What computer equipment or browser do I need?

We recommend you have a look at the Coursera technical specifications and check your compatibility. If you have any technical issues, such as being unable to access the 'Join this course' link, then please see this site in the first instance.