Climate Change



Scientists are predicting a global average temperature increase of 2.5 to 10 degrees over the next century. Likely impacts include more droughts and heatwaves as well as stronger and more frequent hurricanes. Sea levels are predicted to rise 1-4 feet by 2100, submerging vast areas of land. Join Active Minds as we examine the predictions and the politics given the US withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.

Key Lecture Points

  • A 2018 report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that the world is warming faster than expected and that the former international goal of limiting an increase of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Degrees Fahrenheit) will still create tens of millions of climate refugees and the complete destruction of the world’s coral reefs.  New guidelines call for not exceeding 1.5 degrees C, which would require a rapid eleven-year transition away from CO2 producing fossil fuels to mostly renewable energy.
  • The Earth has now warmed by greater than 1 degree C, (about 2 degrees F) since the beginning of the industrial revolution, and the effects of climate change are starting to be felt around the world including changes in precipitation patterns and increased drought. Already climate change is having repercussions in society.  For example, experts have found that the effects of climate change are an ancillary factor in mass migrations from Syria and Guatemala.
  • Recent polls show that 80% of Americans, and a majority of both major political parties, believe in climate change and that it may harm them and their families. This has created new momentum for climate policy in the US, including the concept of a Green New Deal which, advocates argue, would create new jobs in renewable energy while addressing and alleviating the pending expenses associated with climate change.
  • On the other hand, President Trump’s withdrawal of the US from the 2015 Paris climate agreement and his advocacy for extended exploration for coal, oil and gas in the US indicates a wide swath of political opposition to a change in US energy policy that would drastically reduce US consumption of fossil fuels.  Many fear the cost in loss of existing jobs, as well as that of a shift to cleaner sources of energy.

Exploration Questions

  • How do scientists know that the current changes in the climate are caused by humans rather than natural fluctuations in the Earth’s climate?
  • How has climate change already affected human migration patterns? How will it continue to affect migration?
  • What factors contributed to the partisan shift in climate politics in the late 1990s?

Reflective Questions

  • How have weather patterns changed during your lifetime? Have you noticed a difference?
  • What do you think makes it so hard for humans to find solutions to climate change?

More to Explore

  • US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration resources Click here
  • Potential of renewable energy Click here
  • Summary of 2018 IPCC report Click here

Books for Further Reading

  • McKibben, Bill.  The Global Warming Reader. Penguin Books, 2012. 432 pages.  Van Jones, Al Gore, Elizabeth Kolbert, Naomi Klein, and other essential voices on global warming, from its 19th-century discovery to the present, in a volume edited by Bill McKibben, a widely respected writer on global warming.
    Click here to order
  • Hawken, Paul. Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. Penguin Books, 2017. 253 pages. The 100 most substantive solutions to reverse global warming, based on meticulous research by leading scientists and policymakers around the world.
    Click here to order