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SCI 68 — Climate Change in Context: What Does the Past Tell Us about the Future?

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Thursdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 9 weeks
Date(s): Jan 25—Mar 21
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Jan 27
Unit: 1
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $505
Instructor(s): Michael McWilliams, Franklin (Lynn) Orr
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Jan 25—Mar 21
9 weeks
Refund Date
Jan 27
1 Unit
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
Michael McWilliams, Franklin (Lynn) Orr
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
A fundamental tenet of geological thinking is uniformitarianism—the idea that the natural laws and processes occurring today operated in the past. Put simply, whatever has happened, can happen. Climate change is happening now, and it has been happening on Earth for 4.6 billion years. Humans have accelerated the pace of climate change in recent times, but are these anthropogenic drivers significant when compared with the natural forces that affect Earth? Are the climate change signals we see now just business as usual on our planet? How do the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, and the biosphere respond to internal and external forces? How can these signals inform us about what to expect? We’ll travel through time to learn about the big events in the history of our planet in order to understand how climate affects life and life affects climate. Using these observations as a framework, we will then interpret models of future climate change on a human timescale to better comprehend what to expect in our lifetimes and those of our children and grandchildren.

Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Emeritus, Stanford

Michael McWilliams has taught undergraduate, postgraduate, and Continuing Studies courses in geology, geochemistry, and geophysics. He has held numerous international science leadership roles, including chief executive of the New Zealand Geological Survey, and is a frequent contributor to academic publications. McWilliams received a PhD in geophysics from the Australian National University.

Keleen and Carlton Beal Professor in Petroleum Engineering, Emeritus, Stanford; Former Under Secretary for Science and Energy, US Department of Energy

Franklin (Lynn) Orr served as the under secretary for science and energy from 2014 to 2017. He joined Stanford in 1985, where he was the Keleen and Carlton Beal Professor Emeritus in the Department of Energy Resources Engineering, the founding director of the Precourt Institute for Energy, the founding director of the Stanford Global Climate & Energy Project, and the dean of the School of Earth Sciences. He received a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Andrew H. Knoll, A Brief History of Earth: Four Billion Years in Eight Chapters (ISBN 978-0062853929 )