January 19


How Biden hopes to use executive actions to address America’s “compounding crises”

Inauguration Day

What can President-Elect Biden Do on Day 1? We will talk about executive orders versus APA rules.


We are going to continue our tour of basic climate science. We learned how to build a climate on a rock in space last class. This is a very simple introduction to the effects of solar radiation on the planet. While CO2 from fossil fuel is a major contributor to this warming effect, CO2 is not the only GHG, and burning fossil fuels is not the only factor that controls the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

There is a separate effect of CO2 on the pH (acidity) of the ocean. This has a direct effect – independent of temperature changes – on many forms of sea life, especially anything with shells such as oysters.

What is Ocean Acidification?

Read through this article from last class. Do not worry if you do not understand the chemistry – when I was a grad student, I tutored medical students on acid-base chemistry and they did not understand it either.

EPA – Ocean Acidification

This has a good video introduction to the carbon cycle and additional information on acidification.

Climate versus Weather

World Meteorological Organization Climate Definitions

National Climate Assessment – Extreme Weather

One of the problems in teaching the public about climate change is that we only see the weather. Climate is a long term average of weather. These two short articles present the basic definitions for climate, weather, and extreme weather.


Before we get into climate models and analysis of climate change, we need to think about this key question – who do we trust? The IPCC was set up through the UN, with the support of the United States, to be an impartial program to evaluate climate science. We are going to look at how it is structured to increase trust in its results.

Then we are going to learn about the IPCC. This is the key international scientific organization on climate science.

Start here:

About the IPCC

Then review these short factsheets:

What is the IPCC? 

How does the IPCC select its authors? 

What literature does the IPCC assess? 

How does the IPCC review process work? 

How does the IPCC approve reports? 

How does the IPCC deal with alleged errors? 

How well does this organization succeed in making the IPCC impartial?

There is also a United State Climate Assessment, mandated by Congress:

US Climate Change Research Program



January 14


Check back.


I will do a basic introduction to the seasons, climate science, and global warming. This will not be a discussion class, but I want you to ask questions as I go to make sure you understand the basics. You need to review the resources before class. They are either short WWW pages or videos. This is basic climate nerd stuff so we all learn the language.

What is the temperature on the Moon?

What if the earth were like the moon, without an atmosphere?

Why is there an atmosphere around our earth and not around other planets?

How did the earth’s atmosphere form?

Heat capacity of water

Why water is the magic of climate and life. Things to think about: Why does ice float, rather than sink? What would the climate be like if ice didn’t float?

What are the main greenhouse gases?

Water as a GHG

Why water really controls the temperature of the planet, but why other GHGs that set the thermostat.

What causes the seasons?

The ice age cycles

How Ice Ages Happen: The Milankovitch Cycles

Why the climate changes without human intervention

Where are we in the Milankovitch Cycles?

Would the planet be warming or cooling now, if there were no people?

Solar Variability

One more variable

What is Ocean Acidification?

This is a direct effect of CO2, separate from its effect on heat retention in the atmosphere.


ACS Climate Science Toolkit – this is a collection of excellent tutorials on climate change and global warming.

January 12


China Breaks Decades of Climate Gridlock


We are going to start our discussion of climate change by looking at the cultural cognition problem – what shapes people’s beliefs about scientific issues? This work was done in 2012-2014. The Trump presidency, with its cries of fake news and denial of science in most areas of policymaking, makes it even more critical to examine what shapes people’s attitudes on what should be factual questions.

Kahan, Dan M., Climate-Science Communication and the Measurement Problem (June 25, 2014). Advances in Pol. Psych., 36, 1-43 (2015).

Read to 3. The “normality” of climate science in Southeast Florida. p. 33. This research explores the critical distinction between what a person knows and what a person believes. This has important implications for communicating information about controversial subjects such as climate change. It is also fundamental to trial practice: you have to persuade jurors to believe your story, not just know your story. The article is well written but can be heavy going. Pay attention to the graphs. Look carefully at the section that discusses why telling people that 97%  of scientists believe something is not a good way to get them to change their minds.

Course Information

This class will be held through Zoom on TTH, 1:50-3:20 pm CST. The first day of class is 12 January 2021. The course materials and assignments will be posted on this site. There are no materials to be purchased. We will use public domain materials primarily, including primary documents such as IPCC reports. Some materials will be posted on Moodle to preserve copyright.

Under the new law school attendance policy, you will need to log into Moodle during the first 15 minutes of class and record your attendance. If you are delayed, you will be able to log in as late. Occasional late attendance will not count against you, but a consistent pattern of late attendance will be a problem. Instructions for marking attendance are here: Moodle: How to use the Attendance activity (Students)

You should leave your audio muted except when you are called on. You should leave your video on, with allowances for brief personal breaks due to local disruptions at your end. We will use Poll Everywhere for polling during the class sessions. You respond through a URL and you do not need to buy a license. The in-class polls will not be graded, but participation will count toward class participation points. Class participation can raise or lower your grade by up to 0.3 points.