About ENSC 185 D

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Must register for a discussion section; Crosslisted with ENSC 095 A; Open to Degree and CDE students

Section Description

Human-induced climate change has become the most pressing environmental issue of our time. If you want to understand the science behind climate change and the impact of climate change on people —what is happening today, how climate has changed in the past, and how it may change in the future—this class is for you. In one semester, you will learn the science of climate change, climate prediction, and the global impacts of a changing climate. You will understand how Earth’s rocks, oceans, atmosphere and vegetation influence how climate changes naturally. You will appreciate the impact of people who for thousands of years were subtly altering Earth’s climate across the globe. Then came the Industrial Revolution and now human-induced climate changes are easily detectable and wreaking havoc with every society on Earth - the result of burning fossil fuels and wholesale land clearance. Using climate models, you’ll look into a warming world and predict the climate of Earth centuries and millennia into the future. We will spend significant time exploring how people take action to address, mitigate, and respond to climate change and how to communicate your feelings about a warmer, stormier future to make change. This is a 4 credit, non-lab natural science elective fulfilling that distribution requirement (N1). In this class, you will become familiar with scientific thought, observation, experimentation, and hypothesis testing. You will develop the skills necessary to make informed judgments about scientific information and arguments related to the natural world. You will gain the ability to assess the impacts of our expanding scientific knowledge and technology on the diversity of life on Earth, and the quality of life for our own species. This course provides experience with the methods of scientific inquiry used to develop new knowledge about the natural world. Overall Learning Objectives. We have five overall goals for this class. Using a combination of lectures (and for some discussion groups) we strive for you to: 1. Understand how, why, when and on what timescales Earth’s climate changed in both the distant and recent past 2. Describe and provide evidence for human impacts on the climate system 3. Predict how climate is likely to change in the future based on human impacts and what we as a global society can do to mitigate those impacts 4. Understand what climate scientists do and how they do it 5. Practice communicating about climate change and climate change denial Specific Learning Objectives. For each class of the semester, we have 3-5 specific learning objectives. We will organize classes around these objectives, and we will focus class assessments (quizzes) on mastery of these learning objectives. Specific learning objectives are included in the opening slide of each lecture and in the readings.

Section Expectation

This is a class about learning and finding out just how much fun and how interesting climate change science can be. We have several simple and straightforward expectations of you as a student in this class: 1. We expect you to respect your classmates and faculty at all times when they voice opinions that may differ from yours. This is a class that could raise emotions. Please respect your peers' feelings. If you cannot conduct yourself respectfully, you will be asked first to stop being disrespectful and then asked to leave class to cool down. 2. We expect you to participate in the class by asking questions in class, in review sessions, and during office hours. We expect you to participate out of class by reading all assignments before the class at which they are due. 3. We expect complete academic honesty. We expect that you will neither give nor receive information on the quizzes and tests and that assignments you hand in are your own work. You will sign an honor statement on each test. Violations of this trust and our community will be handled according to UVM protocols. 4. We expect you to read this class syllabus carefully and inform yourself about the class, the assignments, and their due dates. We will do our best to remind you but it is your responsibility to know what assignments are due and when. We also have high expectations of ourselves as faculty. We will come to class prepared every time with the most interesting and informative slides, videos, and demonstrations we can muster. We will have assignments graded within several days and turned back to you. We will grade as objectively and fairly as possible using rubrics that you can check. We will treat every student with respect, and we will do our best to maintain a fair and balanced learning environment in the classroom so that everyone’s opinion is valued. OURS IS AN INCLUSIVE CLASSROOM We are committed to the creation of a classroom where everyone will be treated with respect and dignity and where all individuals are provided equitable opportunity to participate, contribute, and succeed. All students are welcome in ENSC 185 regardless of race/ethnicity, gender identities, gender expressions, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, disabilities, religion, regional background, Veteran status, citizenship status, nationality and other diverse identities that we each bring to class. The success of our inclusive classroom relies on the participation, support, and understanding of you and your peers. We encourage you to speak up and share your views, but also understand that you are doing so in a learning environment in which we all are expected to engage respectfully and with regard to the dignity of all others. Any student who has difficulty affording groceries or who lacks a safe and stable place to live and believes this may affect their performance in the course is urged to contact any of us who are teaching for help. If you have any questions or concerns do not hesitate to raise them with us. We are here to help you learn!


We will use a variety of means to assign grades. Your grade will be based on quizzes (one for each week), tests at the end of each of three sections, discussion section participation at the 185 level, and a final essay. There is no final exam. Quizzes 40%. You will have 24 hours to take each quiz. You can take each quiz once and you will have 10 minutes to complete the quiz after you begin. Once closed, quizzes will not reopen. Quizzes will be in Blackboard. All quizzes will close at midnight on Friday. Each quiz will cover the reading and lectures for the week of quiz. You will be allowed to drop two quizzes, either your lowest or the zero that results if you miss a quiz. There will be no make up quizzes. Quizzes are open book and open note and open lecture. You must take them by yourself and they must be your work. Tests 40%. Three tests will be administered during the semester. Each test covers one of the three sections in the course (see schedule); There will be no make-up tests. Tests will be done online and will be open during class time. Tests are open book and open note and open lecture. You will sign an honor statement declaring you have not given or received aid on the tests – we trust you to do your own work. Final essay 20%. Will be due during finals week. You’ll get the assignment after the last test. This will be a SHORT paper at the end of the semester in which you will express yourself creatively while relying on logic and scientific knowledge and approaches you have learned in this class; it will incorporate revisions of several paragraph-length essays you will write in the tests at the end of the first three sections of the course – you will be expected to revise and meld these paragraphs into a coherent final essay. The paper will be graded both for content and for the clarity of writing. You will be reviewing your classmate’s work and offering constructive criticism.

Course Dates



Given E E131 (View Campus Map)


to on Tuesday and Thursday

Important Dates

Note: These dates may change before registration begins.

Note: These dates may not be accurate for select courses during the Summer Session.

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Last Day to Withdraw with 50% Refund
Last Day to Withdraw with 25% Refund
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