Online course shows how to put the brakes on climate change

- Robyn Meyer

It all began with a request from government. Could the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS), which is hosted and led by UVic, come up with an informative yet engaging way to explain the complicated science behind global warming? As a result, world-leading climate scientists—who were fortuitously based in Victoria—got together to create the first free, interactive online course in PICS’s Climate Insights 101 series, Climate Science Basics, which was launched by then-Environment Minister Terry Lake in August 2011.

Fast-forward more than two years, and the audience has stretched well beyond its intended base of BC civil servants. People from more than 150 countries are now using the course to understand why the earth’s climate is changing. And as of January 23, 2014, a new course in the series tells us what we can do about it.

The three-part Mitigation Needs and Action and Government Tools and Initiatives Part 1 and 2 course outlines the practical ways, and policy options, to combat human-induced climate change. Course “graduates” gain a solid understanding of how energy efficiency, energy conservation and carbon sinks are the key strategies for reducing the amount of heat-trapping greenhouse gases (GHGs) we put into the atmosphere.

And what are the specific tools in the toolkit? Topics explained and critiqued include: carbon pricing through carbon tax and cap-and-trade schemes, environmental regulations including vehicle tailpipe and low carbon fuel standards; carbon capture and storage technology, carbon sinks, renewable portfolio standards and clean energy incentive programmes and technologies.

Part 2 examines the mixed results of regional and international cooperative efforts toward achieving global GHG emissions reductions. Approaches under the microscope include emissions trading schemes, regional emissions caps, and the United Nation’s historic climate agreements from Kyoto, Copenhagen, Durban and Doha. The course also profiles countries with leading-edge policies that are successfully fighting the causes of climate change. All parts of the course contain “test-your-knowledge” sections.

PICS executive director Tom Pedersen says human society is on track for perhaps four or more degrees of warming by the end of this century due to rising GHG emissions, well beyond the threshold seen as dangerous. However, he says, if urgent action is taken there is still time to prevent this happening—and the new Mitigation course explains how.

Dr. Pedersen says there is no single solution to global warming, but this course shows there is an array of actions that, if taken, will transition society from fossil-fuel dependency to a low-carbon renewable energy future. 

Who should take this course? The relevant audience is wide, indeed global, in its scope: climate change knows no borders. Educators, policy-makers, members of the media and indeed anyone wanting a solid understanding of what works in climate change mitigation—and what doesn’t—will benefit from this course. Check it out here.

And stay tuned—the third and final course in the Climate Insights 101 series, Regional Impacts and Adaptation, is scheduled for release by PICS in spring 2014.

In this story

Keywords: climate change, Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, environment, education

People: Terry Lake, Tom Pedersen

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