Skip to main content

GEOG 438W - Human Dimensions of Global Warming

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.


Geography 438W is a writing-intensive course that concentrates on the human-environment interactions involved in contemporary and future global warming. The course is divided into three units which approach the human-centered challenges of a changing climate from the following perspectives:

  • Unit 1 is all about where we are with climate change currently. We'll take a close look at how we got here and how we might change course as well.
  • Unit 2 will show us where it's going and how that changing climate is manifesting in ways that have impacts. Climate change isn't all about polar bears drifting sadly on little chunks of ice.  Climate change impacts our health, our ability to grow food, our access to clean and plentiful drinking water, our weather, our ecosystems and our economy. We'll also look at how to create resiliency and adaptations to the changes we're facing.
  • Unit 3 will give us the chance to imagine where we want to be. We'll look at climate futures and what it means to be sustainable. We'll think about the role of our own thoughts, opinions, and actions in addressing this planetary challenge.


By the end of our semester, you will have broad understanding of the human dimensions of global warming, better writing ability, and improved critical reading skills. We're going to be busy!

When you complete this course successfully, you will be prepared to:

  • Explain the human causes of climate change and the potential mitigation alternatives for these causes;
  • Examine human vulnerability to and adaptation to climate change impacts and how these vary across space, populations, and other variables;
  • Write well-organized, thoroughly supported, and critical discussions of complex issues related to the human dimensions of climate change.

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.


(EARTH 2, GEOG 10 or METEO 3) and GEOG 30N


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

Climate Change in My Community Writing Project (45% of total course grade)

Three unit-based components of the written project. Each unit is worth a bit more than the last, recognizing that your writing skills are developing over the course of the semester. Unit 1 (10%), Unit 2 (15%), and Unit 3 (20%). Additionally, students will have the opportunity after Units 1 and 2 to revise their submissions based on instructor feedback and resubmit for additional partial credit.

Writing Self-Assessments (5% of total course grade)

At the end of each unit, students will complete a self-assessment for your performance on the unit’s project submission. This is an opportunity to reflect on the areas in your writing (both mechanics and process) with which you struggle and those you feel you’re improving through continued practice in the course. You'll also complete a "cognitive wrapper" reflection after each unit's submission is returned to you. This is another opportunity to reflect and to think about the writing you've done and your practice as the course continues.

Lesson Content Quizzes (35% of total course grade)

Each lesson contains a content quiz which will ask questions related to the course content and assigned readings.

Write to Learn Discussions (10% of total course grade)

This course goes beyond just establishing good writing mechanics, though. We’ll also be writing to learn, not just learning to write. Each week, there’s a discussion-based question prompt to consider which helps you connect the larger, sometimes abstract themes we’re studying into your own life. These brief write-ups will not be graded for writing quality, but instead represent an opportunity for you to get your thoughts out about the topics we’re discussing without feeling the pressure of creating a masterful piece of writing. These prompts are intended to help you connect to the material and engage with your classmates. 

Our Climate Future (5% of total course grade)

At the end of the semester, we’ll take a step back to imagine (and write about) what our climate future might look like based on what you learn throughout the semester.

Course Schedule


Course Schedule
11Unit 1: Where We Are, 
The Science of Climate Change
  • Lesson Quiz
  • Write to Learn
12Unit 1: Where We Are, 
Emissions by Sector
  • Lesson Quiz
  • Community Details
  • Write to Learn
13Unit 1: Where We Are,
Planetary Impacts
  • Lesson Quiz
  • Write to Learn
14Unit 1: Where We Are,
Climate Change in My Community - Project Work
  • Unit 1 Project Submission
  • Unit 1 Self-Assessment 
25Unit 2: Where We're Going, 
  • Lesson Quiz
  • Write to Learn
26Unit 2: Where We're Going, 
Impacts on Places
  • Lesson Quiz
  • Write to Learn
27Unit 2: Where We're Going,
Impacts on People
  • Lesson Quiz
  • Write to Learn
28Unit 2: Where We're Going,
  • Lesson Quiz
  • Write to Learn
  • Unit 1 Self-Assessment (returned submission)
29Unit 2: Where We're Going, 
Climate Change in My Community - Project Work
Unit 2 Project Submission
Unit 2 Self-Assessment 
310Unit 3: Where We Want to Be, 
Public Opinion on Climate Change
  • Lesson Activity 
  • Write to Learn
311Unit 3: Where We Want to Be, 
Individual Behavior and Collective Action
  • Lesson Activity
  • Write to Learn
312Unit 3: Where We Want to Be, 
  • Lesson Quiz
  • Write to Learn
313Unit 3: Where We Want to Be, 
  • Lesson Quiz
  • Write to Learn
314Unit 3: Where We Want to Be, 
Climate Change in My Community – Project Work
  • Unit 3 Project Submission
  • Unit 3 Self-Assessment 
315Unit 3: Where We Want to Be, 
  • Lesson Quiz
  • Write to Learn
  • Our Climate Future