• Course Code:  CCS

  • Term:  October 2014

  • Start Date:  Oct 16 2014

  • End Date:  Jan 19 2015

  • Duration:  14 weeks

  • Course Author(s)
    Jeffrey Sachs Emmanuel Guerin

This course has ended

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Climate Change Science and Negotiations

October 2014

  • Jeffrey sachs
    Jeffrey Sachs




Humanity has just about run out of time to address climate change. Scientists have pointed out that a rise in mean surface temperature of 2º Celsius above pre-industrial levels will put the Earth in dangerous, uncharted territory. Yet we currently are on a path toward an increase of 4º or more this century. The last chance for action has arrived. That chance lies in Paris in December 2015. Either governments will agree to decisive action, as they have promised, or we will look back at 2015 as the year when climate sanity slipped through our fingers.


Fortunately, solutions exist to deeply decarbonize the global energy systems, and put the world on a 2°C pathway: improvements in energy efficiency in the building, transport and industry sectors; the generation of low-carbon electricity, through a mix of renewable energies (wind, solar), nuclear, and fossil fuels with Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS); and the shift to low-carbon energy carriers in energy end-use sectors, such as electric vehicles.


"Climate Change Science and Negotiations" is a two-semester course, with the first semester launching in fall 2014. During the first semester, you will learn about these solutions, and how they can be applied in different national contexts, based on the results from the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP), a global initiative to show how countries can transition to a low carbon economy by 2050, and how the world can stay within the 2°C limit.


The second semester of the course, which will open for registration in late fall 2014, will be a dynamic online climate change negotiation. The negotiation will be  modeled on the real negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which are scheduled to reach an agreement in Paris in December 2015, at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21). The outcomes of the second semester simulated negotiations will be presented to global leaders in advance of COP21.


We need you to show the world how an ambitious, fair and effective global agreement on climate change can be achieved.


Course Structure & Requirements

The course is structured around a series of pre-recorded lectures, readings, quizzes, discussion forums, and other activities. Each of these course components can be completed at a time that is convenient for the student, and most quizzes and timed activities are given a two-week window for completion. The material for each week is made available each Thursday, and once the material has been opened, it remains open for the duration of the course. There are no written assignments for this course.


In addition to the asynchronous components of the course, the instructors will hold 8-10 real-time Google Hangouts to encourage students to ask questions and engage directly with the instructors. These Hangouts will be announced 1-2 weeks in advance. The estimated time commitment to complete all course components is 4-6 hours per week, though this depends heavily on the student and his/her objectives in taking the course.


All students who successfully complete the course will receive a digital certificate of completion, signed by the instructors. In order to successfully complete the course, students must score an average of 70% or higher on the quizzes and final, all of which are multiple choice. Students that score 85% or higher will receive certificates of completion with distinction. While this course is not credit granting, we encourage students to work with their own institutions to explore the option of granting credit for online coursework. 


If you have any additional questions on the course structure or requirements, please email the SDSN Education Initiatives Team at edu@unsdsn.org. For technical questions about the platform, please email support@edcast.com.


Course Syllabus

Lecture 1: Towards a New Climate Change Agreement

  • Chapter 1: The Challenge of Human Induced Climate Change
  • Chapter 2: The History of Climate Change Science
  • Chapter 3: The UNFCCC
  • Chapter 4: From Kyoto to Copenhagen
  • Chapter 5: Towards COP21

Lecture 2: The Basics of Climate Change Science

  • Chapter 1: The Earth’s Energy Balance
  • Chapter 2: The Greenhouse Gases and Feedbacks
  • Chapter 3: The Relentless Ride of CO2
  • Chapter 4: Other Drivers of Climate Change
  • Chapter 5: Recent History of Climate Change

Lecture 3: The 2-Degree Limit

  • Chapter 1: The Business As Usual Trajectory
  • Chapter 2: The Consequences of the BAU Trajectory
  • Chapter 3: Limiting the Mean Surface Temperature Increase Below 2-Degrees Celsius vs. Pre-Industrial Levels
  • Chapter 4: Debates Over the 2-Degree Celsius Limit

Lecture 4: The 2-Degree Carbon Budget

  • Chapter 1: What is a Carbon Budget?
  • Chapter 2: What is the Global Carbon Budget for the 2-Degree Limit?
  • Chapter 3: What is the Global Emissions Reduction Pathway for the 2-Degree Limit?
  • Chapter 4: How Does It Compare with the Potential Emissions from Fossil Fuel Reserves & Resources?

Lecture 5: The Deep Decarbonization of Energy Systems

  • Chapter 1: What is an Energy System?
  • Chapter 2: Energy-Related CO2 Emissions Trends
  • Chapter 3: The 3 Pillars of the Deep Decarbonization of Energy Systems
  • Chapter 4: A Global Mitigation Scenario

Lecture 6: The Key Technological Challenges of Deep Decarbonization

  • Chapter 1: The Need for Accelerated Development of Low-Carbon Technologies
  • Chapter 2: Key Technology Areas for RDD&D
  • Chapter 3: Grid Management of Power Systems with High Penetration of Renewable Energies
  • Chapter 4: Carbon Capture & Sequestration
  • Chapter 5: Advanced Nuclear Power
  • Chapter 6: Electric Vehicles and Advanced Biofuels
  • Chapter 7: The Role of Technology Roadmaps and Roundtables

Lecture 7: Deep Decarbonization Pathways: Country Case Studies

  • Chapter 1: Why Countries Need Deep Decarbonization Pathways to 2050
  • Chapter 2: The Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project
  • Chapter 3: What We Learn From Countries’ Deep Decarbonization Pathways
  • Chapter 4: Lessons for the Global Agreement on Climate Change at COP21 in Paris in 2015

Lecture 8:  Energy & Development

  • Chapter 1: Energy & Poverty
  • Chapter 2: A World Without Modern Energy
  • Chapter 3: Energy for All in Africa
  • Chapter 4: How Climate Change Threatens the Poorest of the Poor
  • Chapter 5: Sustainable Energy for All

Lecture 9: Main Challenges of Climate Change Negotiations

  • Chapter 1: Efficiency & Fairness
  • Chapter 2: Basic Principles of a Global Agreement
  • Chapter 3: What is Fair?
  • Chapter 4: Making an Agreement Stick
  • Chapter 5: Problem-Solving Versus Negotiating

Lecture 10: Towards a New Climate Agreement Based on 2-Degrees Celsius

  • Chapter 1: The Three-Tiered Structure of Mitigation Commitments
  • Chapter 2: Technology RDD&D
  • Chapter 3: Climate Financing
  • Chapter 4: Can Everybody Win? Should Everybody Win?
  • Chapter 5: Achieving Large Global Goals


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