Climate Communication

 Climate Communication (METEO 497, 3 credits)

Course Syllabus for Spring 2021 

Instructor: Michael E. Mann, Department of Meteorology, 514 Walker Building, 

Meeting Time/Place: MW 8:40-9:55 AM (103 Walker Building) 

Office Hours: You are welcome to visit my office for questions during scheduled office hours (Wed 1:00-2:15 PM), or by appointment. You may also email me with questions (please use ""). Responses may be delayed. 


Human-caused climate change constitutes perhaps the greatest challenge we face today. Yet, communicating the science and its implications to the public and policymakers is fraught with challenges owing to both the technical aspects of the underling science and politically and ideologically-driven attacks on the science. Drawing substantially from real-world examples including those from your instructor’s own experiences “in the fray”, we will survey an array of modes of communication from social media, to public speaking, to writing of letters and commentaries, creation of videos, mock media interviews and congressional testimonies. The goal is to become better prepared to communicate the science, impacts and implications of climate change to diverse audiences via diverse media and platforms. 

Course Objectives:

  • Develop critical reading and thinking skills.
  • Acquire familiarity and facility with various approaches to written and oral science communication.
  • Learn about past and ongoing efforts by scientists and science communicators to communicate the science, impacts and sociopolitical dimensions of climate change to the public and policymakers. 


Must have taken 400 level coursework in Meteorology & Atmospheric Science/Geosciences/Geography OR approval of instructor. 


Attendance of all lectures is expected, with exceptions as noted below in the syllabus. You are strongly encouraged to participate in class. 



The syllabus and other course materials are subject to change. Be sure to check CANVAS announcements regularly for updates in  activities and assignments, modifications in schedule and other course-related notifications. 

There is no required textbook. Supplementary readings from various sources will be posted on the CANVAS page.

We will be borrowing heavily from four online media sources that range in their emphasis in coverage (i.e. national vs. international) and editorial political outlook: The Guardian; New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal. USA Today and The Guardian have no paywall. But you will need to obtain free subscriptions (via this Penn State link) to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. 


  • Activities (34%): There will be frequent assignments.
  • Class participation (33%): In-class discussion is a critical part of this course.
  • Course Video (33%): There will a final video project 

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. W Jan 20 / Introduction / Assigned Readings
    Module 1: The LTE
  2. M Jan 25 / What, why, and how? / Read & evaluate LTEs
  3. W Jan 27 / Types & examples of LTEs / Find LTE examples
  4. M Feb 1 / Types & examples of LTEs (cont) / Draft LTE/peer reviews
  5. W Feb 3 / In-class workshop: Drafting LTEs / Final draft LTE due
    Module 2: Op-Eds/Commentaries
  6. M Feb 8 / What, why, and how? / Read & evaluate op-eds
  7. W Feb 10 / Types & examples of op-eds / Find op-ed examples
    M Feb 15 / imovie/Rush media workshop (remote)
    W Feb 17 / imovie/Rush media workshop (remote)
  8. M Feb 22 / Types & examples of op-eds (cont) 
  9. W Feb 24 / In-class workshop: Drafting op-eds / Turn in draft op-ed
  10. M Mar 1 / In-class workshop: Drafting op-eds (cont) / Peer-reviews due
    Module 3: Social Media
  11. W Mar 3 / What, why, and how? / Final draft Op-ed Due
  12. M Mar 8 / Twitter / Find twitter examples
  13. W Mar 10 / Dos and don’ts / Draft tweets
  14. M Mar 15 / In-class workshop: tweeting Video project topics
    Module 4: Elevator Speeches
  15. W Mar 17 / What, why, and how? / Listen to elevator pitches
  16. M Mar 22 / In-class workshop: elevator speeches / Turn in draft speech
  17. W Mar 24 / In-class elevator speeches
    Module 5: Congressional Testimony
  18. M Mar 29 / What, why, and how? / Read testimonies
  19. W Mar 31 / Written vs. Oral Testimony / Written testimony due
  20. M Apr 5 / Mock congressional hearing / Peer-reviews due
  21. M Apr 12 / Mock congressional hearing / Final draft testimony due
    Module 6: The Interview
  22. W Apr 14 / What, why, and how? / Watch Interviews
  23. M Apr 19 / Mock interviews
    Video Presentations
  24. W Apr 21 / In class video-presentations / Videos due!
  25. M Apr 26 / In class video-presentations
  26. W Apr 28 / In class video-presentations

Academic Integrity Statement:

This course follows the 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: ( For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources website ( 

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: 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:, and Religious Observance Policy: 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:  Whenever possible, students participating in University-approved activities should submit to the instructor a Class Absence Form available from the Registrar's Office:, 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:

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 ( 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 (  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  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: