M, W, F 2:30-3:20, Rackley 104
Jonathan Brockopp ( ) Mark Sentesy (
406 Weaver, 863-1338 247 Sparks
Office hours: Mondays and Wednesdays, Office Hours: Mondays and Wednesdays
1:00-2:00 and by appointment 3:30-4:30 and by appointment

Course Description
Climate change is not only a political, economic, and social crisis, it presents one of the great
moral problems of our time. This course is an introduction to the science, policy, and ethics of
climate change. Students will also meet some of the key individuals working on climate change
here at Penn State.

Course Objectives
This integrative studies (interdomain) course will give students the tools to understand the basic
science of climate change and its ethical implications. Students will come away with a better
sense of the moral dimensions of this phenomenon and the implications for human civilization
and for the biosphere.

As a general sciences (GN) course, students must be able to explain the methods of inquiry in
the various climate science fields; demonstrate informed understandings of scientific claims and
their applications; and evaluate the quality of the data, methods, and inferences used to
generate scientific knowledge about climate change. Students will demonstrate their mastery of
these concepts through participation in class discussion, acceptable achievement on quizzes
and homework (5%) and on the first unit exam (20%).

As a general humanities (GH) course, students must be able to explain the methods of inquiry in
ethics, demonstrate competence in critical thinking about topics such as human interaction with
nature and the value of human and ecological flourishing, and critically evaluate class texts,
especially their ethical dimensions. Students will demonstrate their ability to incorporate the
knowledge of climate science into an ethical analysis through homework assignments (5%), a
response paper (5%), and through conducting an ethics project (20%). Attendance is required
and along with participation in class discussion counts for 20% of your final grade.

A final research project (25%) will allow students to explore a specific aspect of climate change

Required Texts:
Richard Alley. Earth: The Operators’ Manual
Pope Francis. Laudato Si -- On Care for Our Common Home (available on-line , or in print)
Anthony Weston, A 21st Century Ethical Toolbox (4th edition)

Schedule Note: All required readings are to be completed before the class for which they
are assigned.

First module: the science

  • Framing the issue
    Objectives: articulate your own feelings about climate change; explain and understand
    the power of framing the issue of climate change, especially by scientists like Alley and
    artists like Heffernan.
    • August 20 Introduction to class
    • 22 Reading: Alley, ix-11
    • 24 Field Trip: MEET AT PALMER ART MUSEUM
  • Energy and the natural environment previous to the 20th century
    Objectives: learn history of energy usage in Pennsylvania; differentiate fossil fuels from
    other fuels.
    • August 27 Field Trip: MEET AT CENTRE FURNACE MANSION
      Reading: articles on Canvas
    • 29 Reading: Alley, 12 - 40
      First homework assignment due before class
    • 31 Film: Chasing Ice
  • Assessing the scientific method and the science of climate change
    Objectives: Understand peer review. Explain the carbon cycle (short term and long term)
    and the “greenhouse” effect. Identify and explain basic feedback mechanisms.
    • September 3 Labor Day (no class)
    • 5 Reading: Alley, 43-72
      First in-class quiz
    • 7 Reading: Alley, 73-93; plus article on Canvas
  • Lessons from the paleoclimate
    Objectives: understand basic history of earth’s climate; explain how ice cores and other
    evidence are used to reconstruct that history.
    • September 10 Reading: Alley, 94-119
    • 12 Reading: Alley, 120-140
    • 14 Special meeting with Richard Alley and Don Voigt
      Watch: video (links on Canvas)
      Reading: article on Canvas
  • Carbon Dioxide, current warming, and ocean acidification
    Objectives: Correctly explain current measurements of CO2 and temperature.
    Understand the basic chemistry of ocean acidification, its cause and its results.
    • September 17 Reading: Alley, 141-169;
      Second in-class quiz
    • 19 Reading: Alley, 170-206.
    • 21 Special meeting with Ray Najjar
      Reading: articles on Canvas
      Second homework assignment due before class
  • Review
    • September 24 Review
    • 26 First Unit exam
    • 28 Introducing second module
      Second module: Ethical issues
  • Ethical Thinking
    Objectives: Understand what produces fruitful ethical thinking and discussion,
    understand opportunities ethical thinking offers us for improving ourselves and the world
    • October 1 Creative dialogue, ethics avoidance disorders
      Reading: Anthony Weston, A 21st Century Ethical Toolbox, Ch.1-2
      Homework assignment 1
    • 3 Good Dialogue; Overcoming conflicts; Compatibility of Values
      Reading: Weston, Chapter 11-12
      Homework assignment 2
    • 5 Special Session with Frans Padt
  • Varieties of Ethical Experience: Individuals and Collectives
    Objectives: Understand the diversity of ethical values. Understand how to group these
    into families. Practice identifying person- and happiness-based ethical values.
    • October 8 Ethics of Individual People: Dignity, Rights, and Freedom
      Reading: Weston, Ch.4, Ch.5
      Homework assignment 3
    • 10 Ethics of Happiness: Experience and Utility
      Reading: Weston, Ch.6
      Homework assignment 4
    • 12 Climate Policy - Special meeting with Don Brown
      Reading: Brown, "A Thirty-Five-Year Climate Change Policy Debate,"
  • Varieties of Ethical Experience: Self and Relationship
    Objectives: Understand the diversity of ethical values. Practice identifying character- and
    care-based ethical values. Understand ways of approaching environmental ethics.
    • October 15 Character Ethics: Improving Oneself
      Reading: Weston, Ch.7
      Homework assignment 5
      Unit 2 First Paper Due
    • 17 Ethics of Relationship: Care Ethics, Environmental Ethics
      Reading: Weston, Ch.8
      Homework assignment 6
    • 19 Workshop: Ethical Class Commitments
      Reading: Weston, Going Farther #13
  • Ethical Skills: Learning about the facts, seeking creative solutions
    Objectives: Understand methods for using ethics to solve concrete problems
    • October 22 Using Facts in Ethics
      Reading: Weston, Ch.9, Ch. 13
      Homework assignment 7
    • 24 Methods for Reframing Problems, Moral Vision
      Reading: Weston, Ch. 14. Optional: “Eight Maxims for Making a
      Homework assignment 8
    • 26 Workshop: Ethical Change Projects
      Reading: Weston, Going Farther #18
  • Human Community, Purpose, and Our Place in the World
    Objectives: Understand the interrelationship between practices of human justice and
    environmental justice. Understand fundamental human drivers of environmental
    damage. Understand how humans fit into nature and care for it, according to Catholic
    • October 29 Caring for Each Other Means Caring for the Earth
      Reading: Weston, Ch.3; Pope Francis, Chapter 1 (paragraphs 1-61).
      Homework assignment 9
    • 31 Catholic Cosmology and the Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis
      Reading: Pope Francis, Chapter 2 (paragraphs 62-8, 76-88, 93-95),
      Chapter 3
      Homework assignment 10
    • November 2 Integral Ecology - Special Guest: Daniel Scheid
      Reading: Pope Francis, Chapter 4
      Third module: mitigation and adaptation
  • Transition and mitigation
    Objectives: preparing for final projects; understanding mitigation and Penn State’s
    energy footprint and plans to reduce emissions.
    • November 5 Field trip to East Power Plant
      Read: web links on Canvas
      Unit 2 Project Due
    • 7 Special visit from Rob Cooper, Office of Physical Plant
      Read: web links on Canvas
    • 9 Reading: Alley, 207-223
  • Wind and solar
    Objectives: Understanding main energy alternatives to fossil fuels; considering solar
    from new perspectives; understanding meaning of, and need for, adaptation.
    • November 12 Reading: Alley, 224-251
    • 14 Field trip to coral reef lab
    • 16 Special guest: Jeffrey Brownson
      Reading on Canvas
      First homework assignment due before class
      Thanksgiving Break!
  • Conservation, sequestration and geo-engineering
    Objectives: Understanding possibilities of, and limitations to, engineering solutions to
    carbon emissions. Considering ethical implications of mitigation and adaptation.
    • November 26 Reading: Alley, 291-332
    • 28 Special visit from Chunshan Song
      Reading on Canvas
    • 30 Final class discussion
      Final homework assignment due before class
  • Discussion of final projects
    • December 3
    • 5
    • 7

Grading Policy
The submission of all assigned written work is required to complete the course.
The requirements for the course will be weighted as follows, out of 1000 points:

  • fourteen homework assignments (5 points each, 70 points total),
  • 2 quizzes (20 points each, 40 points total),
  • first unit exam (200 points),
  • second unit response paper (50 points),
  • second unit conversation project (200 points),
  • final research project (250 points),
  • participation (including attendance and discussion: 200 points).

Extra credit will be given for attending and reporting on relevant campus events (5 points each;
50 maximum); you also get up to 10 extra credit points for doing all of the homework.
All work is expected to be on time. If you foresee an issue, please contact the instructors at
least 48 hours in advance of the due date. Late assignments will have ⅓ letter grade deducted
per day late, beginning immediately after the due date. Late homework assignments cannot be
made up.