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Comprehending the Climate Conundrum

Course Highlights:

  • Learn about climate change in its many aspects.

This survey course will examine the workings of climate science, current and anticipated impacts, mitigation technologies, climate economics, climate policies and politics, and low carbon futures.

  • Learn how experts think the Pacific Northwest will be affected.

Studies of the impacts of climate change on key Northwest industries, such as electricity and agriculture,  will be reviewed, as well as and how to minimize these impacts.  Focus  will also be placed on the opportunities created by the transition to a low carbon economy, and why the Pacific Northwest is well situated to use this transition as a competitive advantage.


Climate Science

  • The Earth’s energy budget
  • How the greenhouse effect works
  • Comparing the greenhouse gases
  • How potent is carbon dioxide?

Impacts of Climate Change

  • Putting climate change in perspective
  • Measured impacts to date
  • The climate models: how they work, how accurate
  • Major impact areas: ice sheets, Himalayan glaciers, the Amazon, oceans, flood, drought, fires
  • Northwest impacts: key affected industries
  • The skeptics’ positions

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

  • US emissions: components, history, and projections
  • International emissions and growth
  • Pacific Northwest: how it differs

Climate Solutions: Low Carbon Technologies

  • The seven wedges
  • Energy efficiency: building, industrial, and transportation
  • Renewable energy
  • Nuclear power
  • Low carbon fossil fuels: natural gas and geological sequestration
  • Forest and agricultural sequestration

Climate Economics

  • Cost studies of our changing climate
  • Subsidies for fossil fuels
  • GHG reduction supply curves
  • Reviewing the low carbon future studies

Mitigation Policy Options

  • Energy efficiency: programs and standards
  • Renewable energy: portfolio standards and subsidies
  • Carbon offsets
  • Cap and trade: pros and cons
  • Carbon tax: pros and cons

Climate Politics

  • Kyoto and the international arena
  • US climate politics

Low Carbon Futures

  • Survey of various low carbon futures
  • Making the tradeoffs: Given a fixed GHG emission budget for 2050, what are the priority uses?

About the Instructor:

Mike Burnett has over 30 years of experience as a pioneer in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and carbon offsets.  Most recently, he was the founding CEO of The Climate Trust, our nation’s first carbon offset enterprise and one of the most respected offset providers globally.  He has extensive experience in the Pacific Northwest electric utility arena, and served as a start up specialist in a number of prominent organizations, including Conservation and Renewable Energy System, Public Power Council, Pacific Northwest Utilities Conference Committee, Bonneville Power Administration, Western Solar Utilization Network, and National Park Service.