[[ENV 622] () ] / 2024-2025

Decarbonizing Pathways to Limit Climate Change

Note: this course information is for the 2024-2025 academic year, not the current academic year (2023-2024).
Credits: 3


Pollution from fossil fuels, deforestation, and other causes have already resulted in more than 1˚C of warming above pre-industrial levels, which has radically altered our climate. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that the world will face severe climate impacts even with 1.5˚C temperature rise. And without increased ambition in countries’ climate commitments and climate actions we can anticipate at least 3˚C of warming by the end of the century (UNEP 2019), leading to an unrecognizable planet. To achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, global emissions will need to be halved by 2030 and reach net zero by mid-century. As we head into this decisive decade, we need to understand the magnitude of the climate challenge and which mitigation pathways are available to transition to a net-zero future and limit the most dangerous climate impacts. Accordingly, this course is devoted to understanding the scale of the climate problem and solution sets that would set us on an emissions pathway to achieve net-zero emissions. We start the course by examining emissions trends and impacts, as well as the necessary scale of emissions cuts consistent with achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. We then turn our attention to strengthening our global response, with an investigation into countries’ commitments, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), long-term strategies and net-zero targets. This is particularly relevant this coming year as countries are preparing these commitments in advance of the 26th Conference of the Parties, to be held in November 2021. The last portion of the class is dedicated to informing the design of climate solutions, as we have a narrow window of time to steer action. We first explore theoretical frameworks for shaping our interventions, and then examine the role of different sectors and solutions sets in achieving netzero greenhouse gas emissions.