Climate Change



Scientists are predicting that climate change adaptation options that are feasible and effective today will become constrained and less effective with rising global warming. As the effects of climate change increase, losses, and damages will increase and additional human and natural systems will reach adaptation limits. Overshooting 1.5°C increase in warming over pre-industrial levels will result in irreversible adverse impacts on certain ecosystems with low resilience, such as polar, mountain, and coastal ecosystems, impacted by ice-sheet melt, glacier melt, or by accelerating and higher committed sea level rise. Join Active Minds as we examine the predictions and potential solutions surrounding this critical issue.

Key Lecture Points

  • A 2023 report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded with “high confidence” that “Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, and biosphere have occurred. Human-caused climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. This has led to widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people.”
  • The UN’s World Meteorological Organizational 2023 report indicates that there is a 66% chance that the annual global temperature will hit the danger threshold of 1.5°C over the pre-industrial temperature in the next five years (by 2028).
  • The Earth has now warmed by 1.1°C (about 2.2°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 the Middle East and Latin America.
  • Recent polls show that 46% of Americans believe that climate change is caused by human activity, a drop by nearly half since 2019 when 80% of Americans, and a majority of both major political parties, believe in climate change and that it may harm them and their families.
  • American politics is polarized around the issue of climate change to the point that it has been nearly impossible to make strategic planning for long-term solutions that survive one administration to another. Despite the clear evidence of the need for changes 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.

Discussion 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?
  • 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
  • World Bank data and info on climate change Click here
  • Summary of 2022 IPCC report Click here

Books for Further Reading

  • Dessler, Andrew. Introduction to Modern Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, 2021. 288 pages. The third edition of this introductory textbook for both science students and non-science majors has been brought completely up-to-date. It reflects recent scientific progress in the field, as well as advances in the political arena around climate change.
    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
  • Usher, Bruce. Investing in the Era of Climate Change. Columbia Business School Publishing, 2022. 304 pages. This book is a guide to the risks and opportunities for investors as the world faces climate change. It explores the role that investment plays in reducing emissions to net zero by 2050, detailing how to finance the winners and avoid the losers in a transforming global economy.
    Click here to order