• Course Code:  CCS

  • Term:  On Demand

  • Start Date:  Apr 1 2016

  • End Date:  Aug 31 2018

  • Enroll by:  Aug 12 2018

  • Duration:  126 weeks

  • Course Author(s)
    Jeffrey Sachs and Emmanuel Guerin
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  • 13 Climate Action
    Climate change is now affecting every country on every continent. It is disrupting national economies and affecting lives, costing people, communities and countries dearly today and even more tomorrow. People are experiencing the significant impacts of climate change, which include changing weather patterns, rising sea level, and more extreme weather events. The greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are driving climate change and continue to rise. They are now at their highest levels in history. Without action, the world’s average surface temperature is projected to rise over the 21st century and is likely to surpass 3 degrees Celsius this century—with some areas of the world expected to warm even more. The poorest and most vulnerable people are being affected the most. Affordable, scalable solutions are now available to enable countries to leapfrog to cleaner, more resilient economies. The pace of change is quickening as more people are turning to renewable energy and a range of other measures that will reduce emissions and increase adaptation efforts. But climate change is a global challenge that does not respect national borders. Emissions anywhere affect people everywhere. It is an issue that requires solutions that need to be coordinated at the international level and it requires international cooperation to help developing countries move toward a low-carbon economy. To address climate change, countries adopted the Paris Agreement at the COP21 in Paris on 12 December 2015. The Agreement entered into force shortly thereafter, on 4 November 2016. In the agreement, all countries agreed to work to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and given the grave risks, to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius. Implementation of the Paris Agreement is essential for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, and provides a roadmap for climate actions that will reduce emissions and build climate resilience.
Climate change

Climate Change Science and Negotiations

On Demand


This course is self-paced – you can enroll anytime before August 12, 2018 and complete the course materials any time before August 31, 2018. To enroll for this course (and others) after August 12, 2018, please visit our website or sign up for our newsletter!


Course Overview

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.


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.


During this course, 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.


Please note that this course was created before the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP21, in Paris. We are offering it again now because we think much of the course is still relevant. We will be updating it in light of the developments at COP21 soon.  


Climate Change Science and Negotiations is a single-semester course. Please ignore all references to a second semester. 


Course Format

Climate Change Science and Negotiations is an on-demand course. Rather than having a set number of weeks that a course is open, the course will be available in its entirety once you enroll. It will close on 31 August, 2018. 


The lecture materials provided will be:

Course videos: Each lecture has about 5 video “chapters,” each posted as a video lecture.

Assigned reading: Each lecture has accompanying suggested reading materials, all of which will be free links. Please check the Course Reading tab for more information. 


Course Engagement

While we encourage students to use the Discussion Forum, the discussion threads will not be managed by SDG Academy staff for this course. The Forum is still available on the right-hand side of the page, and we hope students will pose questions and thoughts to each other in this format! 


Please be sure to direct any technical questions to EdCast at support@edcast.com. Questions about course content or the SDG Academy in general should be directed to sdgacademy@unsdsn.org. 



All students who successfully complete the course will receive a digital certificate of proficiency, 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 proficiency 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 CCSN Course Team at ccsncourseteam@gmail.com or 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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