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New Climate Change Minor Prepares Students for Solving One of the World’s Most Pressing Problems

By Gina Myers

a grid of photos showing environmental justice protesters, a forest fire, industrial pollution, and solar panels and wind turbines


March 29, 2021

On top of a global pandemic, the past year has seen devastating wildfires sweep through Australia and the West Coast of the United States. A winter storm shut down large parts of Texas as freezing temperatures left residents without heat and water for weeks. Across the globe, average temperatures and sea levels continue to rise, resulting in more frequent and more powerful storms.

Climate change is one of the most serious challenges facing humankind today, and in the coming decades it will impact every aspect of people’s lives and careers. Even though actions are being taken to reduce global emissions, today’s students will live through a period of rapid climate change that is without precedent in human history.

To help prepare students to face these problems, the Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science (BEES) will offer a new minor in Climate Change beginning this fall. David Velinsky, PhD, department head for BEES and senior scientist for the Academy of Natural Sciences, explains, “The new Climate Change minor will provide fundamental information on important global and regional issues that will challenge students to develop real-world solutions.”

The interdisciplinary program will provide an overview of the Earth’s climate system and the science of climate change, as well as insight on how to understand, mitigate and adapt to its potential impacts from a variety of perspectives. Students are required to take at least one core course on the physical science basis of the earth’s climate system and climate change; three courses from the social sciences, humanities and entrepreneurial track; and three courses from the natural sciences and engineering track. This flexibility allows students to shape their course of study with their minor adviser.

Students can choose from a wide range of courses offered across the University, including Sociology of Disasters, Environmental Politics, Disaster in Global History, Cities and Sustainability, Solar Energy Engineering, Social Entrepreneurship and Adapting to a Hotter World: Protecting Health of Vulnerable Communities, among other classes that address the ethics, philosophy, politics and science of climate change and environmental justice.

While providing students with foundational knowledge, the program also ensures that they see real-world application of their studies by putting into practice what they have learned. This can be done through an independent research, design or engagement project; participation as an observer at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties meeting; or taking a community-based learning course related to the impacts of climate change.

“Climate change is an urgent global crisis,” says Velinsky. “We must come together to work collectively to address it, and this new program will help give students the tools they need to be able to do so.”

Learn more about the Climate Change Minor.