Course Introduction

Environmental change is a major problem at the global level. The natural state of the Earth is one of continuous change: mountains and oceans come and go, landmasses change in size and location, ice ages alternate with warm ages, and plants and living beings evolve and become extinct. Other factors compound and complicate the course of environmental change: human actions influence, even dominate, the physical and biological environment. Will the effects of these actions increase the spread of infectious diseases? Does global warming really occur and, if so, how will it affect human lives? What implications does the ozone hole have for human life? What are the consequences of massive deforestation? And what is one to believe or do in light of the great scientific uncertainty on the issue of global warming?

This course attempts to address these and other such questions by exploring scientific issues involved with environmental change and  underlying social and economic drivers, the impact of environmental change on society, and the policies and practical measures that address concrete environmental problems.

The course is organized into five modules, reflecting the major categories of this subject matter in relation to global environmental change:

  1. Changes in the Environment and Changes in Environmental Ideas
  2. The Driving Forces of Global Environmental Climate Change
  3. Ecosystems and Biodiversity
  4. Global Food Security and Public Health
  5. Managing Planet Earth in the Future


GNSC361/BEHS361/HUMN360 Global Environmental Change is a model course in the American Association of College and Universities' Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities" (SENCER) Program.  With support from the National Science Foundation, AACU has established the SENCER Program to foster science literacy in the context of general education and seeks to develop students' abilities in critical thinking, analysis, and inquiry.  Courses in the SENCER program aim to integrate complex public issues and the basic science required to comprehend and address these issues.

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