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Earth 104N - Energy and the Environment

This is a sample syllabus.

This sample syllabus is a representative example of the information and materials included in this course. Information about course assignments, materials, and dates listed here is subject to change at any time. Definitive course details and materials will be available in the official course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.


This course presents the past, present, and possible future response of Earth’s climate to human energy use. This course will explore the impact of a growing population, economic growth, and finite fossil fuel resources on our current energy supply system. The combination of these factors requires reduced emissions via conversion of energy systems to non-fossil fuel sources.


Students who excel in this course are able to:

  • Explain how the combination of a growing population, economic growth, and finite fossil fuel resources means that our current energy supply system is not sustainable.
  • Use a simple model to show that carbon emissions must decrease dramatically if we are to avoid a dangerous level of global warming.
  • Explain how the combined costs associated with reducing emissions and climate-related damages demonstrate that the smart move is to act quickly to shift our energy system to non-fossil fuel sources.

Required Materials

Typically, there are no required materials for this course. If this changes, students will find a definitive list in the course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.




We have worked hard to make this the most effective and convenient educational experience possible. How much and how well you learn is dependent on your attitude, diligence, and willingness to ask for clarifications or help when you need them. We are here to help you succeed. Please keep up with the class schedule and take advantage of opportunities to communicate with us and with your fellow students. You can expect to spend an average of 8 - 10 hours per week on class work.

Major Assignments

  • 12 Quizzes (35% of total course grade)
  • 4 Summative Assessment Activities (30% of total course grade)
  • 5 Discussion posts and comments (10% of total course grade)
  • 3 Self-assessments (10% of total course grade)
  • 1 Capstone Project (15% of total course grade)

Course Schedule

Course Schedule
  • Post a self-introduction to the Discussion
  • Complete the Initial Course Survey

Why Energy Matters

  • Unfriending Fossil Fuels
  • Dealing with Drought
  • Running Out of Trees
  • Running Out of Whales
  • Module 1 Discussion Post
  • Module 1 Discussion Comments
  • Quiz 1

Module 2 What is Energy?

  • Three Examples
  • Powering the Big Units
  • Energy and the US Economy
  • Module 2 Discussion Post
  • Module 2 Discussion Comments
  • Quiz 2

Oil, Coal & Natural Gas | Drilling, Fracking & Reserves

  • The Formation and Future of Fossil Fuels
  • Origins of Oil, Coal, and Gas
  • How Nature Makes Coal, Oil, and Gas
  • Reserves and Resources
  • Future of Fossil Fuels
  • Summative Assessment
  • Quiz 3

Global Warming - Physics

  • The Unavoidable Warmness of Burning
  • The Warming from the So-Far-Unavoidable Burning
  • Summative Assessment
  • Quiz 4

Global Warming - History

  • Who Did Start the Fire?
  • The Projection Project
  • Quiz 5
  • Unit 1 Self-Assessment
67Solar and Wind Power
  • Discussion Post
  • Discussion Comments
  • Quiz 6
78Geothermal, Hydroelectric & Nuclear
  • Discussion Post
  • Discussion Comment
  • Quiz 7


  • Global Conservation Potential
  • Inefficient Use of Energy
  • Options and Opportunities for Energy Conservation
  • Achieving the Potential of Conservation
  • Summative Assessment
  • Quiz 8


  • The Geoengineering Taxonomy
  • Albedo Modification within the Earth’s Atmosphere
  • Albedo Modification from Space
  • Terrestrial Sequestration
  • Geologic Sequestration in Unmineable Coal Seams
  • Geologic Sequestration in Deep Saline Aquifers
  • Quiz 9
  • Unit 2 Self-Assessment


  • Paying the Piper
  • Interesting Discounts
  • Forever, and Ever
  • All Together Now... Integrated Assessment
  • Fees to Flush
  • Dithering with the Discount Rate
  • Getting What You Measure
  • Summative Assessment
  • Quiz 10

Policy Options

  • Policy Options and Regulations
  • Tax and What?
  • Harmonious Taxes
  • Policy Pile-On
  • The Present Policy Position
  • Discussion Post
  • Discussion Comment
  • Quiz 11

Ethical Issues

  • Wanting What We Do
  • Libertarians for Government Intervention?
  • Environmentalists for Economic Growth?
  • Sharing the Jump Ramp Fairly?
  • Pure Rate of Time Preference
  • Extinction Is Forever
  • Resource Curse
  • Risking It


  • Module Quiz 12
  • Unit 3 Self-Assessment
  • Begin Capstone Project
Capstone Project and submit