EM SC 100S

EMS First Year Seminar: Climate Change and Potential Societal Impacts

EMS First Year Seminar: Climate Change and Potential Societal Impacts (EM SC 100S, 3 Credits)

Course Syllabus for Fall 2020
Instructor: Michael E. Mann, Department of Meteorology,
514 Walker Building, mann@psu.edu 

Teaching Assistant: Katherine Seikel, kxs5784@psu.edu 

Meeting Time/Place: Tu/Th 10:35 – 11:50 AM (026 Hosler Building) 

Office Hours: You are welcome to visit my (virtual) office hours for questions during the scheduled period (Wed, 1-2:15 PM via “Zoom” tab on CANVAS), or by appointment. 

You may also email me with questions (please use "mann@psu.edu"). Responses may be delayed.


How certain are we that human activity is altering Earth's climate? How much more warming might we expect over the next century? What will the impacts be on severe weather events such as hurricanes, tornados, floods and drought? How might climate change impact water availability in arid and semi-arid regions already stressed for water resources? What is the threat to coastal regions? How might climate change impact natural ecosystems? Are there winners and losers? This course will explore the scientific evidence underlying each of these questions, reviewing the most recent international assessments of the science.

Course Objectives:

  • Promote critical reading and thinking, and help students develop effective written and oral arguments.
  • Encourage individual and group learning, and provide students the experience of being part of a cohort of scholars with similar interests and a common focus.
  • Expose students to EMS interests and activities through early involvement in the College.
  • Foster some of the practical skills necessary for academic life.
  • Challenge students to think about some of the major issues facing the world today, and the role that science and technology play in defining and addressing these issues.
  • Familiarize students with the current state of understanding of human-caused climate change including the science, impacts, and sociopolitical dimensions of the climate crisis.


Attendance of all lectures is expected. You are strongly encouraged to ask questions and participate constructively in class. Copies of slides from the lectures will usually be made available electronically through CANVAS the morning prior to the lecture. The assignments given for a particular class meeting are due before that class begins (i.e. at the beginning of that class meeting). 



Textbook and Resources:

The course textbook is: "Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change" (2nd edition) by Mann & Kump. It is available in the Penn State bookstore. 

In addition, you are expected to read various other selected materials provided via CANVAS. 

The readings should be completed in advance of our covering the material in class. Readings for each week will typically be posted on the course website by the end of the previous week. 

You are welcome (and indeed encouraged) to make use of supplementary sources of information that you may find. You should be sure, however, to assess the reliability of any supplementary sources used in assignments, with respect to the qualifications and expertise of the source, and any biases or conflicts of interest that may compromise its objectivity. Also please take note of the Academic Integrity guidelines below in the syllabus. 

Course Requirements and Grades

Students will be expected to complete frequent homework assignments based on the readings, in advance of our covering the material in class (assignments will be collected at the end of class). Students are expected to participate in class discussions over the course of the term. 

Students will also prepare and present in class at the end of the semester a multimedia presentation on a topic to be selected (projects will be determined in consultation with the instructor mid-way through the term and should deal with the topics of climate change not covered in lecture, i.e. parts 3-5 of Dire Predictions dealing with climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation, and mitigation (i.e. climate solutions). 


  • Homework Assignments (34%)
  • Class participation (33%)
  • Course Project (33%)

Letter Grade Cutoffs are as follows:

  • A   94-100%
  • A- 90-94%
  • B+ 87-90%
  • B   84-87%
  • B-  80-84%
  • C+ 77-80%
  • C   70-77%
  • D   60-70%
  • F   < 60%

Lecture Schedule (tentative and subject to change): 

  1. Tu Aug 25 Introduction
  2. Th Aug 27 Introduction (cont) Readings
    Module 1: Climate Change Basics
  3. Tu Sep 1 Greenhouse Gases on the rise Readings; Assignment
  4. Th Sep 3 Greenhouse Gases on the rise (cont)
  5. Tu Sep 8 The Greenhouse Effect Readings
  6. Th Sep 10 Modern Climate Observations Readings; Assignment
    Tu Sep 15 Writing workshop w/ Kim Del Bright
    Th Sep 17 Resume workshop w/ Kim Del Bright
  7. Tu Sep 22 Modern Climate Observations (cont) Readings;
  8. Th Sep 24 Modern Climate Observations (cont) Readings; Assignment
  9. Tu Sep 29 Tempest in a Greenhouse Readings; Assignment
    Th Oct 1 imovie/Rush media workshop (remote)
    Tu Oct 6 imovie/Rush media workshop (remote)
  10. Th Oct 8 Humans vs. Nature Readings
  11. Tu Oct 13 Paleoclimate Readings
  12. Th Oct 15 The Day After Tomorrow Readings; Project Topic
  13. Tu Oct 20 The Day After Tomorrow (cont)
  14. Th Oct 22 Climate modeling; Explaining trends Readings; Assignment
  15. Tu Oct 27 How sensitive is the climate? Readings; Project Blurb
    Module 2: Climate Projections
  16. Th Oct 29 Emissions scenarios Readings; Assignment
  17. Tu Nov 3 Projected climate change Readings
  18. Th Nov 5 Projected climate change (cont) Readings; Assignment
  19. Tu Nov 10 An Inconvenient Truth Readings
  20. Th Nov 12 An Inconvenient Truth
    Video Presentations
  21. Tu Nov 17 In class video-presentations Videos due!
  22. Th Nov 19 In class video-presentations

Academic Integrity Statement:

This course follows the http://www.ems.psu.edu/undergraduate/academic-advising/forms-and-procedures/academic-integrity. Penn State defines academic integrity as "the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner." Academic integrity includes "a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception." In particular, the University defines plagiarism as "the fabrication of information and citations; submitting other's work from professional journals, books, articles, and papers; submission of other student's papers, lab results or project reports and representing the work as one's own." Penalties for violations of academic integrity may include course failure. To learn more, see Penn State's "Plagiarism Tutorial for Students." 

Course Copyright:

All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor’s express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD 40, the University Policy Recording of Classroom Activities and Note Taking Services addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws. 

For example, uploading completed labs, homework, or other assignments to any study site constitutes a violation of this policy. 

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities:

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Student Disability Resources (SDR) website provides contact information for every Penn State campus: (http://equity.psu.edu/student-disability-resources/disability-coordinator). For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources website (http://equity.psu.edu/student-disability-resources). 

In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation: http://equity.psu.edu/student-disability-resources/applying-for-services. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations. 


This course abides by the Penn State Attendance Policy E-11: 

and Conflict Exam Policy 44-35: 

Please also see Illness Verification Policy:  http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/health/welcome/illnessVerification/, and Religious Observance Policy: http://undergrad.psu.edu/aappm/R-4-religious-observances.html. Students who miss class for legitimate reasons will be given a reasonable opportunity to make up missed work, including exams and quizzes.  Students are not required to secure the signature of medical personnel in the case of illness or injury and should use their best judgment on whether they are well enough to attend class or not; the University Health Center will not provide medical verification for minor illnesses or injuries. Other legitimate reasons for missing class include religious observance, military service, family emergencies, regularly scheduled university-approved curricular or extracurricular activities, and post-graduate, career-related interviews when there is no opportunity for students to re-schedule these opportunities (such as employment and graduate school final interviews).  Students who encounter serious family, health, or personal situations that result in extended absences should contact the Office of the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs (AVPSA) and Student Care and Advocacy for help: http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/studentcare.  Whenever possible, students participating in University-approved activities should submit to the instructor a Class Absence Form available from the Registrar's Office: http://www.registrar.psu.edu/student_forms/, at least one week prior to the activity. 

Weather Delays: Campus emergencies, including weather delays, are announced on Penn State News and communicated to cell phones, email, the Penn State Facebook page, and Twitter via PSUAlert (Sign up at: https://psualert.psu.edu/psualert/)

Reporting Bias-Motivated Incidents

Penn State takes great pride to foster a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff.  Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated (https://policy.psu.edu/policies/ad29) and can be reported through Educational Equity via the Report Bias webpage

Counseling and Psychological Services:

Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional wellbeing.  The university offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings.  These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients’ cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity and sexual orientation.  Services include the following:

Counseling and Psychological Services at University Park  (CAPS):

Counseling and Psychological Services at Commonwealth Campuses
Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400
Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741

Deferred Grades

If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor. To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to your instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. It is up to your instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If, for any reason, the course work for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript. 

Military Personnel:

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made. 

Disruptive Behavior:

Behavior that disrupts normal classroom activities will not be tolerated, in accordance with Items 9 and 14 in the Student Code of Conduct


In the case of an emergency, we will follow the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Critical Incident Plan (https://www.ems.psu.edu/sites/default/files/documents/cip_update9-17.pdf).  In the event of an evacuation, we will follow posted evacuation routes and gather at the Designated Meeting Site.  Evacuation routes for all EMS buildings are available at http://www.ems.psu.edu/resources-faculty-and-staff/safety-and-emergency-information.  For more information regarding actions to take during particular emergencies, please see the Penn State Emergency Action Guides

Mandated Reporting Statement

Penn State’s policies require me, as a faculty member, to share information about incidents of sex-based discrimination and harassment (discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and retaliation) with Penn State’s Title IX coordinator or deputy coordinators, regardless of whether the incidents are stated to me in person or shared by students as part of their coursework.  For more information regarding the University's policies and procedures for responding to reports of sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct, please visit Penn State's Office of Sexual Misconduct and Prevention & Response website. 

Additionally, I am required to make a report on any reasonable suspicion of child abuse in accordance with the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law

Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect

Penn State is “committed to creating an educational environment which is free from intolerance directed toward individuals or groups and strives to create and maintain an environment that fosters respect for others” as stated in Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance. All members of this class are expected to contribute to a respectful, welcoming and inclusive environment and to interact with civility.

For additional information, see: