Global Climate Change is one of the most pressing issues in modern times, posing a potential risk to human health and the balance of the ecosystem. This course covers the basic physics of radiation and energy as they apply to incoming solar and outgoing longwave radiation that determine the energy budget of the Earth and force climate change, commonly known as the greenhouse effect. Human perturbations to this balance will be considered, especially the emission of greenhouse gases by the combustion of fossil fuels.
Global warming is the main effect of disturbing the balance of the Earth’s radiation budget but can also lead to additional effects as e.g. an increased frequency of extreme weather events. Changing the temperature distribution in the atmosphere produces stronger winds, warmer sea surfaces fuel stronger tornados and heavy rainfall can lead to high flood risks. Beside the emission of greenhouse gases like Carbon Dioxide and Methane that have a global impact on the Earth’s climate, other pollutants like Ozone, Aerosols and Nitrogen Dioxide directly impact public health on a local level. This course covers all kinds of anthropogenic emissions and explores their different impacts on the ecosystem and on society and examines the human influence on global environmental systems and their subsystems with an emphasis on understanding the major biogeochemical cycles. It will be shown how human activities (e.g. deforestation, changes in biodiversity, air pollution, desertification) can disrupt environmental processes. Important feedback mechanisms between biological and physical processes and the atmosphere are also considered in detail. The course explores how natural and managed ecosystems respond to a changing climate and altered resource availabilities while taking prospects for the future into consideration.
Climate feedback processes and climate sensitivity to Radiative forcing will be explained. Numerical climate prediction models will be explained qualitatively, and the projections of future global change will be put in the context of past climate change. Besides climate impacts on ecosystems and economic systems options for mitigation and adaptation will be explored. We will look at the problems caused by global climate change in different countries and societies and their mitigation strategies.
Students will learn about different measurement techniques that produce the data sets modern assessments of global changes are based on. Those measurement techniques range from global satellite remote sensing to networks of local monitoring stations. Students will be taught how measurement uncertainties affect those assessments and will be able to get some hands-on measurement experience using portable air quality measuring instrument boxes that have been developed at LMU and will be used during a field trip.
Learning outcomes of the course
By completing this course, the students will have acquired relevant knowledge in the science of climate change and gained the skills to be able to:
• understand the physical basis of the greenhouse effect.
• explain the connection between radiative forcing and global climate change.
• consider the effects of climate change on extreme weather events.
• appreciate ways to lower the human impact on the environment.
• distinguish the effects of different atmospheric pollutants on the environment.
• assess the influence of measurement uncertainties on climate predictions.
• recognize climate change effects and mitigation strategies in different countries.
• conduct air quality measurements and interpret the measured values
Teaching and evaluation methods
The evaluation methods for this course consist of five parts. At the end of each lecture there will be a set of tutorial questions to be answered individually (e.g. via Moodle) about the topic covered on that day followed by some questions to be discussed in small groups. After the group discussions each group present their findings to the class. Another contribution to the grade will be group presentations. The students will be grouped according to their home countries, so that we can compare national differences regarding climate change aspects, e.g. public opinions towards the anthropogenic impact on climate change, or open mindedness and acceptance of climate friendly technology. The forth assessment will be based on a report the students have to write about air quality measurements, which they will conduct using an easy to use device that has been developed in my group at LMU. This device consists of gas, aerosol and GPS sensors, stores the measurement values using a small on- board computer and generates concentration maps that can be downloaded. Each student can choose a topic to study (indoor/outdoor air quality, street side exposure levels, cross roads, water fronts, etc.) and the instrument provides data to write a short essay about this topic without the need for programming or data processing. The mid-term and final exam make up two parts of the evaluation.
The contribution of the different evaluation methods is as follows:
Class participation (tutorial questions and group discussions towards the end of each lecture, ≈1% each lecture for 24 lectures) 24%
Mid-term exam 20%
Group presentations 20%
Field measurement essay (conducting air quality measurements) 16%
Final exam 20%
Recommended reading of the book “Climate Change The Science, Impacts and Solutions” by A. Barrie Pittock.
The lecture slides will be provided on Moodle.
Last updated: May 11, 2023