Climate News Network: Having trouble explaining the impact of greenhouse gases on the atmosphere? Puzzled by talk of the acidification of the seas? Interested to learn the effect global warming will have on food supplies?
Then step this way. Or rather, enrol on a course being run online by the UK’s Exeter University in partnership with the UK Met Office Hadley Centre, called “Climate Change: Challenges and Solutions”.
And the best thing about the eight week course? It’s all for free. Already more than 8,000 people from around the world have signed up.
Tim Lenton, professor of climate change and earth systems science at Exeter, is the main organiser of a unique experiment at the University called the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).
“Climate change is a huge, defining issue of the era”, Lenton told Climate News Network. “We feel it’s vitally important to make the subject open and accessible to everyone – not just to those who can afford to come to university. Access to the latest information on the issue is important.”
Lenton hopes the course, which begins on 13 January 2014, will appeal to a wide spectrum of people – to those in the developing world who might not have ready access to information on climate change and to others who might never have thought of going to university but are interested in learning more about the world and its climate.
“This is a new project for us – it’s really designed as a taster to get people interested and to be spurred to become more involved in the whole question”, says Lenton.
“We want to appeal to everybody, including those who might be sceptical. And we’re certainly not spreading a doom and gloom message: we want to offer solutions as well as examine the challenges that face us all.”
The course is being led by eight prominent academics from various disciplines at the university. It examines the record of climate change in terms of the Earth’s history, looks at developments since the industrial revolution, and questions the underlying assumptions behind various modelling techniques.
The course will also focus on geo-engineering and its possible applications, and on how buildings can be better adapted to a changing climate.
“We wanted to approach climate change in a multidisciplinary way”, says Lenton. “For instance we’ll be looking at sustainability and social and political factors – why some object to wind farms, how the whole issue of climate change has become so politicised.
“And students will have plenty of opportunity through social media to give feedback and participate in what we hope will be a very active debate.”
Lenton admits the motive for the course is not entirely altruistic. It was relatively inexpensive to structure as some parts of the programme are already being taught at the University. And for Exeter and the Met Office Hadley Centre, also in the city, it’s good public relations.
“It’s a chance to showcase some of the important work we’re doing down here”, says Lenton. “It makes us more visible. And it could well encourage students to come to Exeter and learn more.” – Climate News Network
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