Skip to main content

Contemporary Energy and Climate Change (342-0-01)


Yarrow Larue Axford
Technological Institute F394/F395
Office Hours:

Meeting Info

Technological Institute F285: Tues, Thurs, 11:00AM - 12:20PM

Overview of class

The increasing worldwide demand for energy presents a number of complex interdisciplinary challenges, from resource depletion to climate change. This class will challenge students to answer the question, How shall we power the world in the 21st century? We will examine the history and geography of energy use; links between energy and climate change; inequities in climate impacts; challenge of sustainability; and the fundamental science of climate change.

Registration Requirements

Open to graduate students from all disciplines, senior undergraduates majoring in natural sciences or engineering ONLY. Please apply with link below.

PRE-REGISTRATION: All Earth & Environmental Sciences majors/minors

REGULAR REGISTRATION: All registration is done through the departmental waitlist. Please sign up on our departmental waitlist here: We do not use the Caesar waitlist for this course. In order to be considered, you must fill out the questionnaire on the departmental waitlist. We do not choose students based on their waitlist order. Priority enrollment will go to EARTH and ISEN Graduate Students and Senior EARTH Undergraduates. Juniors will not be enrolled.

Learning Objectives

- Consider the history of energy use and industrialization, and how this shapes the modern world
- Track & quantify their own energy consumption and the energy embodied in products and services
- Discuss the benefits and drawbacks of historical and present-day patterns of global energy consumption in terms of social costs/benefits and sustainability
- Evaluate the scientific evidence regarding human-caused climate change
- Consider the unequal burdens of climate impacts within and beyond the U.S.
- Survey practical aspects of major alternative energy technologies
- Monitor and critique news media coverage of energy-related topics
- Research and discuss the trade-offs associated with various energy technologies and proposals

Teaching Method

Two 80 minute lectures per week

Evaluation Method

One group project

Class Materials (Required)

1. Wolfson, R. THIRD EDITION, 2017. Energy, Environment and Climate, Norton & Company, ISBN: 9780393622911 (available at the Norris bookstore or through online sellers) Price: $127 new, $60 rental, $63 digital. Digital version is acceptable. A reserve copy will be made available for short-term borrowing.
2. One mass-market nonfiction book or novel to be purchased from a list of options provided by instructor. ($5-20; used, new or digital)
3. Additional readings will be posted on Canvas.

Class Notes

Course is for graduate students or senior undergrads in the sciences or engineering. Please sign up on our departmental waitlist here: for consideration.

Class Attributes

Natural Sciences Distro Area
SDG Sustnble Cities&Commnities
SDG Responsible Consumption
SDG Climate Action
SDG Affordable and Clean Energy
SDG Innovation & Infrastructure

Enrollment Requirements

Enrollment Requirements: Registration reserved for Graduate students in all disciplines or seniors majoring in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Math, EPS, Biol Anthro, Mat Sci, Chem Eng, Mech Eng, Civ Eng, Envir Eng, Envr Sci, or Electrical Eng.
Add Consent: Department Consent Required