Climate Change Politics & Policy
ENVS 4100/3521

Course Requirements


This is an upper division course so the reading schedule is demanding. It is important that everyone stay up to date with the readings and other expectations. All readings must be completed before the class for which they are assigned.

Attendance & participation 10 pts
Collaborative activities (two @ 10 pts each)* 20 pts
Written assignments (three @ 10 pts each)* 30 pts
Midterm exam 20 pts
Final exam 20 pts
TOTAL: 100 pts

* for anything late, 25% will be deducted per calendar day (starting from the session they’re due)

Because this is a larger course with short sessions (75 minutes each), the class structure will consist mainly of lectures. Unfortunately, we will not be able to discuss all dimensions and facets of the themes and readings. So it will be up to you to engage both critically and mindfully with these outside of our meetings as well. I encourage you to self-organize into discussion and/or study groups to get the most out of the materials, themes, and issues that are raised in the class meetings.

Attendance & Class Participation

You are expected to attend all sessions and to engage critically with the readings and issues that are discussed. Our discussions inevitably will build upon previous sessions. Come to each class session ready to contribute with comments you have assembled based on the readings and the topics/issues they raise. Your participation is valued, and enhances class sessions. I must note here that if you accumulate more than three unexcused absences during the semester, you will not be able to pass the course.

Written Assignments

Three times during the semester you will need to complete short written assignments. All assignments must be typewritten using 12 pt Times New Roman, 1” margins, with a limit of 800 words. This means that the assignments must be clearly written and concise. Note your word count at the top of page 1. They must be turned in as hard copies in class on the due date. Emailed assignments are not accepted.

Assignment #1 – public talk review (10 points)

Sometime in the first four weeks of the term, attend a public lecture on a subject related to climate change politics and policy. Many talks take place on campus and around the Boulder community nearly every day. I will announce some of these at the beginning of each class session – please also feel free to email me information for upcoming talks and/or announce them at the beginning of class as well.

For example, on Wednesday January 25 from 3:30-5:30pm the Environmental Studies Program will be hosting a talk by Dr. Bruce Goldstein (CU-Denver) entitled ‘Collaborative resilience: moving through crisis to opportunity’. Professor Jonathan Hughes (CU-Boulder, Economics) and graduate student Ashwin Ravikumar (CU-Boulder, Environmental Studies) will be commentators. This will take place in the CIRES auditorium on campus.

To help you engage critically with your chosen public talk, consider the following questions:

  • What happened? Was it well attended? Was/were the speaker(s) engaging?
  • What are the main points or themes raised by the speaker(s)?
  • How do their observations, comments, arguments compare/contrast with course material, your own ideas, or other information you have come across in the past?
  • Where are possible weaknesses in the author’s arguments?
  • Do you agree with the author’s central assertions, theories, ideas? If so, why? If not, why not?

Take an analytical approach: do not simply describe what happened. This is due in class, Thurs, Feb 9.

Assignment #2 – film review (10 points)

Choose from these five films:

  1. The 11th Hour (2007)
  2. The Age of Stupid (2009)
  3. Everything’s Cool – A Toxic Comedy about Global Warming (2007)
  4. Sizzle – A Global Warming Comedy (2008)
  5. Carbon Nation (2010)

Take an analytical approach to this review. Do not simply describe what happened. This review will be due in class on Thursday, March 22. The films are scheduled to be available via streaming video through the Norlin Library. More information on how to access them will be provided in class.

For this review, please adhere to the Science Magazine ‘information for contributors’, described here: From their webpage, I extract the following excerpts to consider as guidance when writing this up:

Science is a weekly, peer-reviewed journal that publishes significant original scientific research, plus reviews and analyses of current research and science policy. We welcome submissions from all fields of science and from any source…Priority is given to papers that reveal novel concepts of broad interest. We’re committed to the prompt evaluation and publication of submitted papers”

Science sections offer broadly accessible commentary by scientists and other experts on issues of interest to Science readers…most items in these sections are commissioned by the editors, but unsolicited contributions are welcome…reviews of current books, multimedia, exhibitions, and films are of interest to Science readers.”

Assignment #3 – policy review (10 points)

For this review, select a current city/state/regional/national/international climate policy proposal or a policy that was recently enacted. Describe and evaluate:

  • the stated problem this policy seeks to address
  • the policy objectives
  • the structure and function of the policy
  • who the proponents and opponents of policy enactment are
  • whether the stated objectives can likely alleviate the identified problem
  • the potential feasibility of the policy in achieving its stated aims
  • whether/how the policy may be a means to further climate policy action

Policy analysis, not just description, is the goal here. The review is due in class on Thursday, April 19.

For each assignment, follow the Harvard Citation Style for references.

Midterm and Final Examinations (20 points; 20 points)

Midterm and Final Examinations (20 points; 20 points) The examinations will both be closed-book and no-note exams. Dates and times for the examinations are final so see me immediately if you anticipate any kind of conflict or problem. The final exam will be cumulative in the sense that it builds from concepts and foundations discussed in the first portion of the course. The content for these examinations will come from the lectures as well as the required readings.

Midterm – Thursday, March 1, during class time

Final Exam – Saturday, May 5, 7:30-10:00 PM (!)