Online Climate Course for the New Year!

This January I have begun my first online course through Future Learn, on the topic of Climate Change with Exeter University. As part of improving critical thinking, self awareness and analytical skills it has been suggested that participants write a blog…guess what?

A bit about me to begin. I am currently researching the political literacy of young people in Cambridgeshire so perhaps working on this blog and new course can be seen as yet another displacement activity. However I do have an ongoing and passionate interest in climate change. I have been an on/off member of Greenpeace since my teenage years and admire their direct actions in bringing unsustainable practices into view and making envionmental destruction known to the wider public. Over the last three years I have attended seminars and events with the Global Institute for Sustainability at Anglia Ruskin University (where I am studying) that have illustrated the conversations we have on the topic of climate change and sustainability are vitally important, be it with policy makers, government representatives or people in our communities or families. I think this course will support a deeper knowledge of climate change and give me confidence to speak up on some of the issues that surround it.

As a social scientist I have found the first week of climate change study to be quite different and very stimulating. Instead of dealing with the ideologies and philosophies that drive politics and education, or considering young people’s participation or engagement with politics, or even pondering why, with so many varied interpretations of democracy on offer, Britain seems to be locked and is regressing further into plutocratic, class rule, instead I find I have now been transported into a very detailed geography lesson.

This week the discussion has introduced the key principles of climate change.

The greenhouse analogy has been developed, and it is perhaps better to think of the atmospheric gases which trap gas (Water vapour, CO2, methane, ozone and nitrous oxide NOT oxygen and nitrogen) as a blanket that trap heat rather than a glass pane that allows heat to pass out unhindered. Without this trapping of heat the Earth’s temperature would not be conducive to life as we know it, with an average temperature of minus 18 degrees. Brrrrr.

The difference between climate and weather has been explored. The briefest explanation is that they are issues of time and space. Weather change: My umbrella comes down and my sunglasses go on as the rain stops and the sun appears from behind the clouds. Climate change: After eighteen months of drought the rain needed to fill up groundwater supplies would take more than this brief autumnal shower. Although climate change generally takes into account thirty year+ periods.

Climate can be conceptualised as a system of interlinked components and understanding key feedback mechanisms helps build a picture of what is going on.

The climate system has five identifiable spheres…ATMOSPHERE, BIOSPHERE, CYROSPHERE, HYDROSPHERE and LITHOSPHERE (surface of earth’s crust). It is important to understand climate is not just a simple case of cause and effect between these spheres.The three principle feedback roles are Water Vapour (Hydrosphere), Ice Albedo (cyrosphere) and radiation. That has now stumped me on which sphere to attribute…radiation comes from the sun but that would not necessarily be atmosphere and heat does radiate out of the lithosphere through volcanic activity. Yes this is very much like being in geography except I drink coffee nowadays.

I have yet to do the weekly quiz and test my knowledge. Maybe this afternoon if my lovely laptop decides it has enough memory I will do it…they say pets are like owners, well it’s my laptop that definitely takes after me 😉


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