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

Quarter: Fall
Day(s): Wednesdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 9 weeks
Date(s): Sep 29—Dec 1
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Oct 1
Unit: 1
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $445
Instructor(s): Michael McWilliams
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
Please Note: No class on November 24
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Sep 29—Dec 1
9 weeks
Refund Date
Oct 1
1 Unit
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
Michael McWilliams
Please Note: No class on November 24
DOWNLOAD 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 Emeritus of Geological Sciences, Stanford

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

Textbooks for this course:

There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.