Earth's Changing Climate

Course No. 1219
Professor Richard Wolfson, Ph.D.
Middlebury College
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Course No. 1219
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Course Overview

In 2007 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that "warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level." Representing a consensus of hundreds of scientists, the report went on to note that human activity is "very likely" the cause.

This course of 12 half-hour lectures reviews the most up-to-date research on climate change, explaining the concepts, tools, data, and analysis that have led an overwhelming number of climate scientists to conclude that Earth is warming and that we humans are in great part responsible.

Behind the Consensus

Whatever your views on climate change, it's important to understand how the current scientific consensus on global warming evolved out of basic physical principles and a broad range of observations. In a lucid presentation designed for nonscientists, you will learn about:

  • The difference between climate and weather
  • The concept of energy balance, which governs the natural warming of the planet by the Sun and is the key to a stable climate
  • The greenhouse effect, which makes Earth warmer and more hospitable than it would otherwise be due to naturally occurring gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide and water vapor
  • The carbon cycle, which controls the rate at which carbon dioxide released by fossil-fuel combustion accumulates in the atmosphere, and how long it remains to enhance the natural greenhouse effect.

Along with these and other concepts, you will investigate the "fingerprints" of global climate change, ranging from borehole temperatures to melting glaciers to the altered behavior of plant and animal species. These and other indicators show that Earth has been warming at an unprecedented rate in recent decades.

You will also explore the physical mechanisms behind these changes and their connections to the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere since the start of the Industrial Revolution. And you will look at the techniques for projecting future climates, along with the options for switching to alternative energy technologies to avoid the most disruptive scenarios that now seem possible.

Your Personal Scientific Briefing

Earth's Changing Climate addresses only scientific issues and makes no policy recommendations. Instead, this course is designed to serve as your personal scientific briefing to equip you to engage knowledgeably in one of the most important environmental issues of our time. In Lectures 1–6 you will focus on the scientific basis of climate; then in Lectures 7–12 you will come to understand the human role in climate change and explore projections of future climate.

Professor Richard Wolfson is no stranger to this subject. A physicist who has written and taught extensively about climate change, in 1996 he taped an earlier course for The Teaching Company titled, Energy and Climate: Science for Citizens in the Age of Global Warming. Professor Wolfson's new course is completely updated and represents the latest research and analysis in this fast-changing field.

A master at making difficult concepts understandable, Dr. Wolfson's other Teaching Company courses are Physics in Your Life, hailed by Library Journal as "a wonderful series of lectures that make learning physics fun and interesting," and Einstein's Relativity and the Quantum Revolution, which one listener said was "as exciting as a suspense thriller!"

In Earth's Changing Climate, Dr. Wolfson brings these educational gifts to bear on a subject that, at times, can be complex and controversial. You will find his presentation clear, objective, engaging, and illustrated with fascinating examples and analogies.

The Evidence Mounts

Like many scientific problems, the gradual assembly of a detailed picture of past, present, and future climates has involved creative detective work. For example, scientists traditionally test their theories by changing different variables, but this has not been possible with theories about climate change on Earth for two reasons: It's unwise to transform the planet just to see what will happen, and there are not multiple Earths to serve as test subjects.

However, researchers have identified cases where nature has done the experiments for us:

  • Mars: Mars's atmosphere has only about 1 percent the density of Earth's and provides a test for the theory of the greenhouse effect—in this case, for a planet with a thin atmosphere. As theory predicts, Mars has negligible greenhouse warming.
  • Venus: Venus's atmosphere has 100 times the density of Earth's and is about 96 percent carbon dioxide. Here, the greenhouse effect has struck with a vengeance—just as theory forecasts—driving temperatures to 500°C, hot enough to melt lead.
  • Mt. Pinatubo: The eruption of the volcano Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 poured massive amounts of dust into the upper atmosphere and allowed scientists to test their climate models. The fall in average global temperature over the following few years was in close agreement with what the models predicted.
  • Ice Cores: Deep ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica preserve a nearly million-year-old record of Earth's past temperature and atmospheric composition, showing a correlation between temperature and carbon dioxide concentration.

Using such clues, scientists are able to connect the 0.65°C rise in average global temperature since the start of the 20th century with the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide over the same period. Looking ahead, they project a global temperature rise in the range of 1.5°C to 4.5°C during the 21st century, depending on the extent of worldwide economic growth and the rate of fossil fuel consumption.

An increase of a few degrees may not seem serious, but Professor Wolfson stresses that this is a global average. The rise will be more substantial in certain areas—particularly in the polar regions and over almost all land. He further notes that about 6°C separates the present-day climate from the depths of an ice age. Thus, an increase of a few degrees in global temperature is climatologically significant and may lead to many more extreme events, such as heat waves, intense precipitation, droughts, and intense tropical storms. At the same time, the sea level will be rising due to the thermal expansion of the oceans and the melting of land-based glaciers and ice sheets.

Over the longer term, a cause for worry is "surprise" events that could be initiated by as-yet poorly understood processes. These include the sudden slipping of a large land-based ice sheet into the sea with a resulting surge in sea level, or a major upset in patterns of ocean circulation.

As the evidence mounts, scientists will continue to refine their picture of what the climate is doing and where it is heading, and society will continue to grapple with this problem. You can begin to address it yourself—intelligently and prudently—by investing six stimulating and rewarding hours with this course.

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12 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Is Earth Warming?
    The course begins with a look at Earth's average temperature over the past century and a half, which shows an overall warming trend. How do scientists take Earth's temperature, and how do they interpret the pattern of variation? x
  • 2
    Butterflies, Glaciers, and Hurricanes
    This lecture looks at more subtle indicators of climate change and shows how statistical analysis reveals clear "fingerprints" of change on a host of natural systems. x
  • 3
    Ice Ages and Beyond
    Thermometer-based temperature rec­ords go back only 150 years. This lecture explores techniques that scientists use to push the global temperature record back millions, even billions of years. x
  • 4
    In the Greenhouse
    Stable climate entails a balance between incoming sunlight and outgoing infrared radiation. Infrared-absorbing greenhouse gases in a planet's atmosphere alter the details of this balance, causing the planet's surface to warm. x
  • 5
    A Tale of Three Planets
    How do we know that greenhouse gases such as water vapor and carbon dioxide are associated with the warming of Earth's surface? Nature provides a climate "experiment" on neighbor planets Venus and Mars. x
  • 6
    Global Recycling
    Cycling of materials plays a role in climate, with the most important cycles being those of water and carbon. Carbon added to the system stays for centuries to millennia and adds to the atmospheric carbon content, enhancing the greenhouse effect. x
  • 7
    The Human Factor
    Fossil fuel burning by humans has in­creased the concentration of carbon di­ox­ide in the atmosphere by nearly 40 per­cent since the start of the Industrial Revolution—to levels the planet has not seen in at least a million years. x
  • 8
    Computing the Future
    Climate models are mathematical descriptions, exploring how climate be­haves in response to human-induced changes and natural factors. Most models pro­ject a global temperature rise of several de­grees Celsius over the next century. x
  • 9
    Impacts of Climate Change
    A temperature rise of only a few degrees will have significant effects. The rise will be more substantial particularly in the polar regions and over almost all land. x
  • 10
    Energy and Climate
    Energy use is the dominant reason for our increasing influence on Earth's climate. Per capita energy consumption in the United States is more than 100 times our own bodies' energy output, meaning that we have the equivalent of about 100 "energy servants" each. x
  • 11
    Energy—Resources and Alternatives
    The fossil fuels that supply most of the world's energy have many deleterious environmental impacts, one of which is the emission of climate-changing greenhouse gases. This lecture surveys alternative energy resources. x
  • 12
    Sustainable Futures?
    Avoiding disruptive climate change in the future probably means keeping atmospheric carbon dioxide to at most a doubling of its preindustrial level. This final lecture discusses several possible paths to a stable climate. x

Lecture Titles

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Your professor

Richard Wolfson

About Your Professor

Richard Wolfson, Ph.D.
Middlebury College
Dr. Richard Wolfson is the Benjamin F. Wissler Professor of Physics at Middlebury College, where he also teaches Climate Change in Middlebury's Environmental Studies Program. He completed his undergraduate work at MIT and Swarthmore College, graduating from Swarthmore with a double major in Physics and Philosophy. He holds a master's degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in Physics from...
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Earth's Changing Climate is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 105.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A bit dated for late 2018 A bit dated for late 2018 but painfully relevant as not much has been done for progress.
Date published: 2018-12-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dated but still relevant I bought the audio version a couple of years ago but just got around to listening to it last month. I never did get a chance to look at the charts he was talking about but I felt he described it well enough that I didn't go back to look at them. I think he did a good job of explaining what we know with certainty and the problems we have with the inability to model such a complex system. So I learned a LOT listening to the course. Just this week, I read a news article that the oceans have stored more heat than we had previously thought. This appears to make the AGW problem significantly worse than we had thought. I would love to have someone explain the science behind the new information.
Date published: 2018-11-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Earth's Changing climate I wanted to understand the science behind the climate changes and this course provided good information.
Date published: 2018-10-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Updated my understanding of Ecology As an activist in the Sierra Club, I learned all the concepts that I needed to know so I could get up to speed on environmental and ecology issues. Quick, easy and informative, I was able to learn much and know what the discussion was about.
Date published: 2018-10-07
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Don’t purchase Audio Version. I accidentally purchased the audio version. I tried listening to it, but it was difficult to follow as visuals were used to explain ideas and concepts. I looked through the course paperwork that was available, but was unable to find the visuals. Maybe, I just didn’t see them. If that’s the case, then I think they should be more obvious. I really wanted this course, and must have selected audio instead of video. So, I cannot use this and wasted $12.00.
Date published: 2018-08-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Earth's Changing Climate Rather disappointed. The course content was up to date, the professor was exciting and extremely learned, but is stuck on Carbon Dioxide as the Global warming cause. He mentions Thermal pollution only once but does not make the connection that the heat from burning fossil fuels is heating the atmosphere. Still lots of valuable information!
Date published: 2018-06-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I would buy the video version next time. Definitely should not be sold without access to the charts and graphs illustrating the information. I wouldn't recommend the CD. A complex subject supported by mathematics and physics, and some prior knowledge would be helpful.
Date published: 2018-06-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Global warming is a fact Typical of Professor Wolfson, this is a great course. I have read both of Al Gore’s books on global warming and neither book makes as convincing an argument as Professor Wolfson does in his course. The reason for this is that while former VP Gore is highly intelligent and articulate, he is not a scientist. Al Gore throws a massive amount of statistics at the reader as does Professor Wolfson. The difference is that Professor Wolfson is a scientist and he explains why and how the stats are gathered and what they mean in scientific terms. His argument that global warming is at least partly caused by human activity is more than compelling. It is irrefutable. If anyone knows a climate change doubter do the world a favor, buy this course and give it that person. I do have one complaint about this and every other course taught by Prof. Wolfson. Prof. Wolfson is a speed talker. In other words he talks too fast. I often find it necessary to listen to a particular lecture more than once to get everything. Of course this is worthwhile since Prof. Wolfson has so much information to convey. He does this in understandable terms but I wish I was a faster listener. Perhaps the problem may be that he doesn’t waste words or give dramatic pauses. This makes his courses more dense in a good way, more info per minute. All his courses are well worth the time to digest the info he puts into his courses.
Date published: 2018-05-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Solid, easy-to-understand presentation, but dated This course does an excellent job building an air-tight case for global warming and climate change. Dr. Wolfson has a low-key, non-alarmist presentation that rarely strays from scientific fact to such dicey matters as climate policy. On the other hand, the course is 10 years old and needs updating. Since cruise ships now navigate the north polar sea and methane gas is percolating up from the Siberian permafrost, I fear that we may already be at (or past) the “tipping point” at which bad things start to snowball. I suggest that Dr. Wolfson revise his worst-case scenarios to factor in the effect of methane. I realize that this complicates his models, but there is fossil evidence that points to methane gas emissions from melting permafrost as the culprit in major climate changes, including the Permian mass extinction, or Great Dying. See “Methane Hydrate: Killer cause of Earth’s greatest mass extinction” in Paleoworld 25 (2016). In summary, the course could easily double in size just to keep pace with unfolding events. Earth’s climate is changing more rapidly than man’s ability, or willingness, to adapt to it. We can’t get the facts out fast enough. I will definitely buy this course again if he updates it.
Date published: 2018-04-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from earth's changing climate This is an excellent and gripping account of the physics involved in global warming. it is very timely , particularly when there are interests and politicians denying the impact of what is happening. I have recommended it to friends and to grandchildren who are starting to study physics.
Date published: 2018-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Good Source of Climate Change Education Regardless of what is believed prior to using this course the information presented is insightful, and well presented. The course was created about 10 years ago (I believe, which affected my Content rating...), and it was enlightening to mentally insert current information while viewing. And considering the current price this course is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to learn some fundamentals of the ongoing climate change discussion. I would be interested in an update to this course.
Date published: 2018-01-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Insightful presentation Prof. Wolfson's presentation helped me appreciate the problem more clearly than anything I had previously had read or seen. He has a a thorough understanding of the science, and a great gift in his ability to convey that appreciation.
Date published: 2018-01-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enlightened As someone who knows the very basics of the climate, I thoroughly enjoyed delving deeper into the subject. The content was explained in a way that even I could understand and I have come away much more enlightened. The professor was excited about the subject and had mounds of knowledge concerning how the climate worked down to the smallest detail. He did, however, repeat a lot of hum's and ahh's but it seemed to slow his speech to the right speed. Overall I would recommend this course if you would like to know the specifics of climate change.
Date published: 2017-12-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An important course for a well informed citizenry With so much misinformation and outright denial circulating about climate change, this course should be "required reading" not only for policy makers but for anyone interested in sorting the facts from the fiction in the current public fora. The lecture style is very engaging, and the material is wide-ranging, well organized, and clearly presented. Climate change is now and will remain an important, complex scientific and public policy issue. I am not an expert in this field, but since I am a scientist myself I am often asked about it when it comes up in informal discussion. This course gave me a much deeper understanding of the issues and an ability to better explain what is known and not known.
Date published: 2017-12-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course by an Excellent Professor As a hydrogeologist, I thought I had a handle on climate change through casual reading. How wrong I was. This course thrust my awareness of climate science and its many tools into the stratosphere. I highly recommend this course for anyone who wants verification of his/her beliefs... or is engaged in debate with a conservative flat-earth believer who is attached to ideology rather than actual science.
Date published: 2017-10-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great features A powerful explanation of important information. Every person on Earth should take this course!!
Date published: 2017-10-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from If you ........., then take this course. If you believe in climate change (e,g, warming), then take this course. If you aren't sure you believe in climate change (e,g, warming), then take this course. If you do not believe in climate change (e,g, warming), then take this course. This is the most coherent, cohesive discussion of the planet earth in situ I have discovered. The professor presents information, data and uncertainty in a logical, well thought out discussion. He doesn't claim to know everything and emphasizes areas of uncertainty. This course helped me to put a better perspective on the ongoing argument/discussion on climate change.
Date published: 2017-10-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good content I enjoyed the course, but would have enjoyed it more if the lecturer didn’t speak so fast. It was hard to keep up.
Date published: 2017-10-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Explanation of Climate Change I bought this course and have finished 6 of the 12 lessons. It's a very nice introduction to the evidence behind the climate change debate. This is an audio course and I've been listening to it during my commute, so I might not always pay full attention. The course provides a good summary of the evidence that climate change is occuring using a wide variety of data sources ranging from thermometers to observations on other planets. I had heard some complain about adjusting thermometer readings, but the professor explained that when equipment is replaced, the readings are adjusted to provide a continuous series of readings. As an economist, I'm familiar with making similar adjustments in the consumer price index and other data. When I finish this course, I'm going to try to find an equally rigorous explanation of the case against climate change or the human role for climate change.
Date published: 2017-09-25
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Obsolete Upon completion, I sent a note to the professor expressing some concerns with his in-course expression about a lack of understanding of "first principles" in this field, along with my concerns about the data relevance and mathematical modeling. (I don't know much about climate, hence my interest in this course, but have knowledge and practice with research data efficacy and mathematical modeling). His reply was, "Thanks, but that course is hopelessly out of date. Everything we know about climate is a lot more certain today. RW" Professor Wolfson did a good job with this collection of apparently now-obsolete data, "science", and references. Some of that is useful, but definitely "hopelessly obsolete". I was reminded of the famous quote (Wolfgang Pauli as I recall) in which he described such a work as "Not even wrong". I had hoped to develop an understanding of climate change from this course, but clearly, what a reasonably competent and open-minded scientist or engineer would want to know just isn't, by the professor's admission, in there.
Date published: 2017-09-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Provides essential information At first I wasn't going to purchase this course, telling myself that I have already read plenty about climate change on the internet, so I probably already knew the material. But I finally decided to buy Earth's Changing Climate, and I am so glad I did! I recommend this course to anyone who finds themselves living in the 21st century. We need to understand climate change in order to make good decisions in our lives. I wish I had bought this course as soon as it came out. I now feel equipped to understand articles I read about climate change. Better yet, I can now engage meaningfully in conversations about this hot topic. Dr. Wolfson artfully manages not to venture into contentious arenas involving political leanings and policy recommendations. Instead, he focuses squarely on factually-grounded technical and scientific explanations relevant to earth's changing climate. He clearly presents facts and processes that we need to grasp, so we can make sense of what we are hearing in news and social media. There is no hype or exaggeration. As a non-science major, I sometimes feel “lost” in Teaching Company lectures in the field of science, but in this course, Wolfson's explanations of concepts (such as earth's carbon cycle, atmospheric composition, computer models, albedo effect and more) are quite understandable and applicable. Thank you for making this course available.
Date published: 2017-08-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Solid presentation that explains the science I was concerned that the material was prepared nearly a decade ago. The science hasn't changed that much and the program filled in areas that I was lacking information in. I attended the Climate Reality training in Denver this year (2017) and have a lot of information about the effects of climate change, but I was missing facts on the theoretical/scientific side of the problem. This course is balanced, thoughtful, provides a solid understanding of the science behind climate change, refrains from editorializing and generally proved very helpful to me.
Date published: 2017-07-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Is It Hot Enough For You? It’s 2017 and there’s still a lot of hot air over whether the Earth’s average global temperature is rising and whether human burning of fossil fuels is contributing to that rise. Ten years ago Professor Wolfson had the answers: yes and yes. As evidence on the first issue he points (in Lectures 1 through 3) to the shrinkage of most glaciers, to global temperature measurements since 1860, to the width of tree rings, and to the ratios of oxygen isotopes in ice sheet cores going back 400,000 years. In the next three lectures Wolfson explains how greenhouse gases keep the Earth’s atmosphere warmer than it would be in their absence, by about 33 degrees Celsius (+15 instead of -18). The most important are water vapor and carbon dioxide (CO2). While the former continuously cycles from atmosphere to surface to atmosphere in about a week through precipitation and evaporation, carbon takes about five years, through inhalation by plants and their decay, absorption and upwelling in the oceans, and other processes. Much of it remains locked up in ocean deeps and in rocks, especially fossil fuels (10,000 gigatons). Because less than 1% of Earth’s atmosphere consists of CO2, the global climate is currently very comfortable for humans, especially compared to Venus, where the atmosphere is a hundred times denser and 96% of it is CO2. There the surface temperature is 500 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately, we humans are changing the balance in favor of warming by burning fossil fuels and chopping down trees. About half of the CO2 we release remains in the atmosphere rather than being absorbed by oceans or life forms. In 1750 the CO2 level was about 275 parts per million, in 2000 it was 375, and at the time of the course 390. As I write, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration webpage shows it nearing 410 PPM. Wolfson warns that when we reach about 550, we will see serious disruptions to agriculture and marine life, as more CO2 in the ocean makes it more acidic. What is to be done? If we make no changes, the International Panel for Climate Change predicts a CO2 level at 1000 PPM and a 4.5 degree Celsius rise in global average temperature by the year 2100, just 83 years from now (Lectures 9, 12). Even an immediate and aggressive response would not prevent the temperature from rising by 1.5 C. Wolfson argues in Lectures 11 and 12 that nuclear fission is the only major alternative to fossil fuels, though it carries the danger of weapons proliferation, and a nuclear war would be far worse for the planet than even the worst-case climate change scenario. He dismisses massive engineering projects supposed to offset global warming and is skeptical of our ability to capture CO2 emissions. He supports conservation and believes there is plenty of room for increasing the energy efficiency of our transportation. I recommend this course for anyone wanting to better understand the scientific basis for global warming. Wolfson uses plenty of helpful graphs to make his points. My only critique is the time that has gone by since the course came out. In a few more years the Teaching Company should consider issuing a second edition to take account of new research and long-range forecasts. It may also turn out that prospects for solar energy have brightened since Wolfson dismissed them.
Date published: 2017-06-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Earth's changing climate Course is very interesting and quickly goes thru essential details too fast to absorb. Course sorely needs a full transcript. Also needs vidweo so presenter can show the figures as he presents them.
Date published: 2017-03-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Buy this for Your Skeptical Friends audio download version Professor Wolfson does an excellent job of separating science from public policy, at least until the last couple of lectures. And even then he informs his audience when he is presenting his own views rather than reasoned conclusions from sound data. While I suspect that many who might be persuaded that human causes are contributing to global climate change will never buy this course, nor would they pay attention if someone else bought it for them, I still feel that some may change their minds after listening to this course. To be sure “geoperky” in another of his excellent reviews shows that reasoned arguments, backed up by sound, extensive data can indeed be persuasive. Some reviewers did not care for Dr. Wolfson’s delivery, but I did not find it off-putting, neither in speed, nor enthusiasm. To be sure it may help to have some modest background in physics, geology or such to keep up with Dr. Wolfson at some points, but in the main only some basic math is really necessary in being able to follow the arguments. The graphs provided help in this, and I think that a video version make understating these points a bit easier. Even though my academic background (many years ago), is in physics and math (though professionally I was neither a physicist nor a mathematician) I was dissatisfied with having to look at the graphs after listening to the audio on my morning walks. I also felt that the graphic reproductions in the downloaded course guidebook were of a poor quality and seemed to not be as complete as I expected from Professor Wolfson’s descriptions. From the moment in lecture 1, when Dr. Wolfson distinguishes between weather and climate to the last lecture where he discusses paths to a stable climate, I was impressed with his scientific rigor and his ability to present logical conclusions from data, not belief. The course gave me many talking points when engaging in spirited debate. Highly Recommended
Date published: 2017-01-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Earth's Changing Climate - Good but dated I bought this course to increase my understanding of the discussion regarding man-made climate change (Ethnogenic). The professor is knowledgeable and enthusiastic. The course plan and presentation are suitable to this surface level presentation of the information, Fortunately, the professor kept pretty much to science and stayed away from policy or politics. The course was produced in 2007, so the material is a bit old, but the science of climate study hasn't changed all that much in the last 10 years. I now have a better layman's familiarity with the factors and issues involved in global climate. I learned of the methods used to gather data on the current climate and how data is inferred about climate in the past. The course is heavily focused on the last 150 years, when there is an ever increasing amount of empirical data about the earth's climate. The amount of time spent on explaining what is known or inferred about climate throughout earth's history is suitable to this overview course. I would like to know much more about climate in the past and the changes that have occurred in earth's history.
Date published: 2016-12-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Indispensable This is one of those courses that I would say contains indispensable material and explanations for anyone who wants to acquire a basic foundation of relevant, reliable information on the subject of global warming today and its context in the history of Earth's climate.
Date published: 2016-11-27
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Yawn Very tedious DVD. Climate change is real, but this just does not engage the viewer.
Date published: 2016-11-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from This skeptic is now less skeptical... ...about anthropomorphic climate change (or ACC, aka AGW = anthropomorphic global warming). Prior to listening (yes, I listened to the audio download) I was not a proponent of ACC, in fact I doubted its scientific validity (the man-made parts). Due to my background in earth science, I believed that the earth's climate can change...sometimes rapidly and drastically... and has changed countless times in the past. I have witnessed geologic evidence in a variety of environments, from 2.2 billion year-old rocks in the upper peninsula of Michigan to the breathtaking valleys of Yosemite. While not denying that global temperatures are rising, I doubted that it was man-made.I bought this set of lectures to reinforce my beliefs by learning more about what 'the other side' believed. Unfortunately, Dr Wolfson's lectures caused me to rethink my position and drill down a little deeper into the subject and check into the more current thinking of this controversy. The first six lectures examine the scientific methods by which the ACC theory is based (and the IPCC)...particularly in the measurement of CO2 in the atmosphere, and how it can be 'fingerprinted' back to a source using 13C/12C ratios (Lecture 7). That particular point triggered my curiosity, and pushed me onto other sources and beyond the scant notes and graphs included in the lectures. One must look at other skeptical science points of view. The web can provide the student with a list of points made by climate change skeptics accompanied by explanations and data supporting the ACC/AGW point of view. These arguments pick up where Wolfson leaves off, and updates and confirms his conclusions with data. Thank you Dr Wolfson for a stimulating set of lectures, presented in a high-energy, rapid-fire way. I'm glad I found this set on sale and with a generous coupon (it cost under $0.50/lecture). Recommended for all those who might be interested in learning.
Date published: 2016-10-22
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Dull, stumbling, boring presentation Oh Dear! Is this ever DULL ! The first lecture was occupied telling us what we all know from news reports and newspapers, TV shows: that the earth's climate has been WARMING over the past several decades! Things don't get much better. I won't go into details. I will state that of HUNDREDS of Great Courses I have viewed, this is one of my worst buys ever, even on sale. NOT RECOMMENDED. Btw, his conclusion about the earth's recent temperature rise is that it is attributed to "astronomical factors related to earth's orbit". That is interesting to know,eh?
Date published: 2016-09-21
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