Instructor Materials: Overview of the Regulating Carbon Emissions Module
Module Goals: The goals of this module are to communicate accurately about the challenge of addressing climate change; describe natural, social, and economic impacts of climate change; and argue for strong policy to regulate carbon emissions to curb climate change.
Summative Assessment: As a culminating assignment, students will demonstrate their integrated understanding of the science, economics, and law behind the regulation of carbon emissions with a Role, Audience, Format and Topic (RAFT) writing assignment (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 90kB Nov8 16). The RAFT method encourages students to critically interpret and analyze the interests of diverse audiences embedded in a social network and write to a target audience with the intention of persuading them to adopt a specific position. For this capstone assignment, students are assigned a role, such as scientist, economist, political advisor, industry lobbyist, coal-mining community leader, or international humanitarian aid worker, and an audience, such as campus community, political leaders, or the general public, and asked to develop a mock Op-Ed for a local or national newspaper (format) in support of policy action on the grand challenge of climate change (topic).
This module explores the grand challenge of climate change from a socio-environmental systems perspective. To understand and find viable solutions to complex problems like global climate change, we need to use systems thinking. In the context of climate change, this means we must consider how emissions and other human activities impact the atmosphere and climate system in order to predict the rate of warming and the associated impacts of climate change on human society. Such predictions are essential for forecasting the ecological and socioeconomic impacts of climate change. The resulting predictions drive the policy discourse from which policies to regulate carbon emissions to curb climate change emerge. The following system diagram (or concept map) depicts the material covered in this interdisciplinary and interactive module. In three or more weeks, you can guide your students through all the components of this complex socio-environmental system so that they can make informed personal and political decisions regarding the grand societal challenge of climate change.
Unit 1Evidence and Impacts of Climate Change
Unit 2Climate Forcings
This unit uses systems thinking to explore how carbon emissions effect the global climate system. It includes an introduction to the greenhouse effect and climate modeling. Students engage in a small group activity in class where they demonstrate their understanding of equilibrium, forcings, feedbacks, and climate sensitivity.
Unit 3Dynamic Integrated Climate Economy (DICE) Modeling
After an opening discussion of systems thinking and models, student use webDICE , an online Dynamic Integrated Climate Economy model developed by Center for Robust Decision Making on Climate and Energy Policy at the University of Chicago. Students will manipulate input parameters and interpret output in small groups in-class and individually out of class to complete the major mid-module assignment. The goal is to develop students' understanding of the sources of uncertainty around future predictions of climate change and its impacts. Students are also introduced to the concept of Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) which is central to subsequent units in this module.
Unit 4Towards Climate Change Policy in the U.S.
This unit examines the social cost of carbon (introduced in Unit 3) within the legal doctrine of "common but differentiated responsibility" (CBDR). CBDR acknowledges global climate change as a common threat while recognizing differences among nations in their historic contribution to the problem (i.e. carbon emissions) and their capacities to abate it. Students will use the doctrine of CBDR as a touchstone for examining the legal and political foundations of the regulation of carbon emissions in the United States based upon Supreme Court's 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA. This unit provides an opportunity for students to discover how scientific evidence and economic analysis inform and support the creation of policy to reduce emissions and highlights the interdependencies and feedbacks that exist among the judicial, legislative, and executive branches of government in the United States.
Unit 5Abating Carbon Emissions
Students evaluate and EPA's Clean Power Plan in the context of common but differentiated responsibility. This unit also introduces students to the idea that there are costs and benefits associated with the abatement of carbon pollution to curb climate change. Student explore how economists conduct cost benefit analysis to develop efficient emissions targets and set an emissions price that is designed to help achieve that target.
Unit 6Carbon Emissions Game
In this unit, students play a game, a variation on the "Pollution Game" (Corrigan 2011), to develop an appreciation of the pros and cons of the commonly discussed policy options for carbon abatement (e.g., carbon tax, emissions trading).
Unit 7Climate Change from the Socio-Environmental Systems Perspective
This unit summarizes and synthesizes the previous six units by inviting students to reflect on their experiences throughout the module, identify key learning moments and consider how these events influenced their knowledge and altered their assumptions about the challenge of addressing climate change. Students explore the value of the systems lens as a tool for analyzing grand socio-environmental challenges and are introduced to the final summative assignment, an Op-Ed arguing for the regulation of carbon emissions to curb the costly impacts of climate change using sound scientific and economic reasoning.