Daniel Schrag Photo

Daniel Schrag

Professor of Public Policy, HKS; Sturgis Hooper Professor of Geology and Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering, FAS


This course will consider the challenge of climate change and what to do about it. Students will be introduced to the basic science of climate change, including the radiation budget of the Earth, the carbon cycle, and the physics and chemistry of the oceans and atmosphere. We will look at reconstructions of climate change through Earth history to provide a context for thinking about present and future changes. We will take a critical look at climate models used to predict climate change in the future, and discuss their strengths and weaknesses, evaluating which forecasts of climate change impacts are robust, and which are more speculative. We will survey a range of climate change impacts, also looking at what strategies might be developed to better adapt to climate change, and the implications of those strategies for sub-national and international equity. We will look at the complex interactions between climate and human society, including climate impacts on agriculture and the relationship between climate change, migration and conflict.

The last half of the class will consider what to do about climate change. First, we will review the recent history of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as various national and international efforts to limit emissions in the future. We will discuss reducing carbon emissions using forestry, agriculture and land use, and then focus on how to transform the world’s energy system to eliminate CO2 emissions. We will conclude by examining different strategies for accelerating changes in our energy systems to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

The course is intended as a foundational course on climate change for graduate students from around the university, preparing them for more specialized courses in their individual degree programs. No prerequisites are required; students will be encouraged to apply their different preparations and interests to the various individual and group assignments. The course emphasizes the scientific and technological aspects of climate change (including the clean energy transition), but in the context of current issues in public policy. Students in this course will be encouraged to engage with other students from around the university through classroom sessions that will meet at HKS.  This course is intended for graduate students only. Students who are not in HKS should enroll in EPS 239 rather than in IGA 402 - as both courses will meet synchronously. 

Please note, all students in IGA 402 (HKS) and EPS 239 (FAS) will watch GENED 1094 lectures either live or on Panopto (video within Canvas) prior to attending the class sessions. GENED 1094 meets MW from 12:00-1:15 PM. In addition, all students are required to attend a class session on Mondays at 4:30 PM at HKS.