EM SC 100S First Year Seminar: Climate Change and Climate Justice in Frontline Communities

Instructor: Gregory S. Jenkins, Meeting Time/Place: T R 12:05 – 1:20 PM (10 DEIKE)

EMS First Year Seminar: Climate Change and Climate Justice in Frontline Communities
(EM SC 100S, 3 Credits)
Course Syllabus for Fall 2016
Section 10 

Instructor: Gregory S. Jenkins, Department of Meteorology, 510 Walker Building, gsj1@psu.edu

Meeting Time/Place: T R 12:05 – 1:20 PM (10 DEIKE)

Office Hours: You are welcome to visit my office for questions during scheduled office hours (Tues, 1:30-3:00 PM, Wednesday 2:00-4:00), or by appointment. You may also email for questions (please use "gsj1@psu.edu").

Motivation: An analysis of observations and assessment of climate models all point to a warmer world beginning in the late 19th century.  In addition, tools such as climate models suggest that impacts are expected to increase depending on how much mitigation of carbon emission occur during this century.  The term dangerous climate change has been used to denote warming beyond 2 Celsius from preindustrial values.  This term however does not necessarily consider frontline communities where vulnerable people and habitats exist.  This includes the nearly 2.5 billion people who on less than two dollars per day and live in spaces such as flood plains, urban environments, coastlines, small island states, semi-arid land locked regions and polar regions.  This course will explore what is happening on the frontlines in numerous locations around the globe. 

Course Objectives

  • Develop an understanding of factors associated with anthropogenic climate change.
  • Identify recent extreme events and how communities have adapted or not adapted to these circumstances.
  • Consider how water security, food security and living space may be impacted by anthropogenic climate change.
  • Examine frontline communities and how they may be impacted by climate change.
  • Examine the actions of community groups, non-profits and youth groups at the local, state and national levels. 

Course Questions

  • Can communities organize to address climate change or should it be left to government?
  • What are the roles of these communities in helping to shape policy including the recent Paris agreement?
  • What are the key issues tied to climate justice?
  • What is the role of youth in addressing climate change?
  • Should communities have a say in geoengineering?

Core Outcomes

  • Understand through concrete examples how communities are impacted by factors which may be enhanced from climate change
  • Understand the foundation behind anthropogenic climate change
  • Understand the tools for climate change attribution and projections
  • Understand other factors that increase 21st century anthropogenic climate change (the built environment, population)
  • Understand the role community and other groups are playing in protecting themselves from negative consequences of climate change.
  • Identify how communities may be impacted from the extraction and emission of fossil fuels. 

Lectures: Attendance of all lectures is expected. The structure of the class is 30-40 minutes of lecture and the remainder of the time addressing discussion and team activities. You are strongly encouraged to ask questions and participate constructively in class. Copies of slides from the lectures will usually be made available on Canvass. Assignments will be posted on Canvass.

Class Visits: During the semester, representatives from the various EMS departments will come and visit the class and give an overview.  You will be able to ask questions as it relates to the various majors.  We will also have other visitors to the class during the semester to address climate change.

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

Chapters 1, 2 3 and 4 will be the focus of the book 


  • Fundamentals of Anthropogenic Climate change
  • Overview of Impacts, Vulnerability and adaptation to climate change
  • Climate Justice and frontline communities
  • Nonprofits and community organizations addressing aspects of climate change
  • Youth organizations and climate change
  • EMS, resources, departmental overview and your first year at Penn State 

Course Requirements and Grades: Students will be expected to complete homework assignments based on the readings, in advance of our covering the material in class (assignments will be collected at the end of class). A final project based on frontline communities is expected students will take turns leading discussions over the course of the term, and will prepare and present to the class at the end of the semester a multimedia presentation on a topic to be determined (projects will be selected in consultation with the instructor mid-way through the term). Students are also expected to participate in the World In Conversation exercise, which will take place outside of class sometime during October (this will count as on homework assignment).

WORLD in CONVERSATION: World in Conversation (WinC) is a Center for Public Diplomacy that facilitates dialogues for Penn State students by Penn State students. These dialogues are meant to expand perspectives and invite greater understanding on topics that are relevant, complex and often contentious. No one will tell you what you should think; instead they will ask you to express what you actually think.

You will have the opportunity to participate in a race relations dialogue as a part of this class.

Each session is 95 minutes in duration and will occur outside of your regular class meeting times. One week before the sessions for this class begin, you will receive an email explaining how to register.  This email will be sent to your PSU account.  In order to receive credit, your attendance will be recorded.  But keep in mind:  You will not be able to attend the program (or receive credit) if you are more than 5 minutes late.   This is considered an out of class activity and you will receive extra credit of 10 points for participating. 

Assessment: The weighting of the components of your course grade is as follows:

  • In class participation 20% (100 pts)
  • Homework 30% (125 pts)
  • Final project 35% (175 pts)
  • Out of class activities 15% (75 pts)

Assignments are to be turned in on time, with a penalty for late homework.  Out of class activities may include seminars related to climate change, interviews with faculty members whose research covers climate change or other activities that I will tell you about.

Academic integrity: Academic honesty is required and expected in this class. This course adopts the EMS Academic Integrity Policy[1]. Students in this class are expected to write up their homework assignments individually, to work on the exams own, and to write their papers in their own words using proper citations. Class members may work on the homework assignment in groups, but then each student must write up the answers separately. Students are not to copy quiz or exam answers from another person's paper and present them as their own; students may not plagiarize text from papers written by others. Students who present other people's work as their own will receive at least a 0 on the assignment and may well receive an F in the course. If in doubt about how the academic integrity policy applies to a specific situation, students are encouraged to consult with the instructor. To learn more, see Penn State’s “Plagiarism Tutorial for Students.”[2] 

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 Office for Disability Services (ODS) website provides contact information for every Penn State campus: (http://equity.psu.edu/student-disability-resources/disability-coordinator). For further information, please visit the Office for Disability Services 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 based on the documentation guidelines (http://equity.psu.edu/student-disability-resources/guidelines). 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. 

Attendance: This course abides by the Penn State Attendance Policy E-11[3] and Conflict Exam Policy 44-35[4]. Please also see Illness Verification Policy[5] and Religious Observance Policy[6]. 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 Student and Family Services for help: http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/familyservices/.  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. 

Cancellations and delays: Campus emergencies, including weather delays, are announced on Penn State Live (http://live.psu.edu/) and communicated to cellphones, email, the Penn State Facebook page, and Twitter via PSUTXT (to sign up, please see http://live.psu.edu/psutxt).

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.

  1. See http://www.ems.psu.edu/current_undergrad_students/academics/integrity_policy
  2. See http://tlt.psu.edu/plagiarism/student-tutorial/
  3. See http://undergrad.psu.edu/aappm/E-11-class-attendance-effective-fall-2016.html
  4. See http://senate.psu.edu/policies-and-rules-for-undergraduate-students/44-00-examinations/#44-35
  5. See http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/health/welcome/illnessVerification/
  6. See http://undergrad.psu.edu/aappm/R-4-religious-observances.html