EM SC 100S

EMS First Year Seminar: Climate Change and Potential Societal Impacts

Course Syllabus for Fall 2017


Michael E. Mann
Department of Meteorology
514 Walker Building, 

Teaching Assistant: Casey Luddy 

Meeting Time/Place: T R 10:35 – 11:50 AM (9 Walker Building)

Office Hours: You are welcome to visit my office for questions during scheduled office hours (Wed, 1-2:15 PM), or by appointment. You may also email for 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.


We will regularly draw upon the course homepage as a resource for the course:


Aside from links to the course syllabus, there will be links to the readings, slides from the lectures, and other course-related materials.


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 the course website (see above) 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).


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

In addition, you are expected to read various other selected materials provided through the course webpage. 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.

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). 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). Final grades are based on the following approximate formula: 33% homework, 33% in-class participation, 33% final projects.

Course Schedule (subject to change)

  1. T Aug 22 - Introduction
  2. R Aug 24 - Introduction (cont);
  3. T Aug 29 - Greenhouse Gases on the Rise
  4. R Aug 31 - The Greenhouse Effect
  5. T Sep 5 - Observations of Modern Climate Change
  6. R Sep 7 - Observations of Modern Climate Change (cont)
  7. T Sep 12 - A Tempest in a Greenhouse: Have Hurricanes Become More Frequent or Intense?
  8. R Sep 14 - Humans vs. Nature
  9. T Sep 19 - The Paleoclimate Perspective
  10. R Sep 21 - The Day After Tomorrow: A Possible Scenario?
  11. T Sep 26 - The Day After Tomorrow: A Possible Scenario? (cont)
  12. R Sep 28 - Climate Modeling; Can't We Explain Climate Trends by Natural Factors Alone?
  13. T Oct 3 - “The Power of the Story in Science” w/ EMS writer-in-residence Kimberly Del Bright
  14. R Oct 5 - “The Danger of the Single Story” w/ EMS writer-in-residence Kimberly Del Bright
  15. T Oct 10 - How Sensitive is the Climate?
  16. R Oct 12 - Projections of Future Climate Change: Emissions Scenarios
  17. T Oct 17 -Projections of Future Climate Change: Surface Warming; Rainfall and Drought
  18. R Oct 19 - Projections of Future Climate Change: Melting Ice, Rising Sea Level, Extreme Weather
  19. T Oct 24 - Academic Integrity and Code of Conduct Program w/ Suzanne Zeman, Office of Student Conduct
  20. R Oct 26 - Media (iMovie) Workshop w/ Markus Furer (note alternative meeting place: W140 Pattee)
  21. T Oct 31 - The science in An Inconvenient Truth
  22. R Nov 2 - The science in An Inconvenient Truth (cont)
  23. T Nov 7 - Media (iMovie) Workshop w/ Markus Furer (note alternative meeting place: W140 Pattee)
  24. R Nov 9 - The science in An Inconvenient Truth (cont)
  25. T Nov 14 - Guest Lecture, Professor Greg Jenkins “Examining the multiple dimensions of climate change in West Africa”
    R Nov 16 - Study/Work Smarter w/ EMS head librarian Linda Musser (note alternative meeting place: EMS Library)
    T Nov 21 - No Class [Thanksgiving break] 
    R Nov 23 - No Class [Thanksgiving break]
  26. T Nov 28 - Impacts/Adaptations /Vulnerability/Solutions [student presentations]
  27. R Nov 30 - Impacts/Adaptations /Vulnerability/Solutions [student presentations]
  28. T Dec 5 - Impacts/Adaptations /Vulnerability/Solutions [student presentations]
  29. R Dec 7 - Impacts/Adaptations /Vulnerability/Solutions [student presentations]