ENVR E-103: Energy and Climate: Vision for the Future

The climate of our planet is changing at a rate unprecedented in human history. Primarily responsible is the build-up of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, most notably carbon dioxide emitted in conjunction with the combustion of coal, oil and natural gas.  Concentrations in the atmosphere of CO2are higher now than at any time over at least the past 850,000 years, higher arguably than at any time since dinosaurs roamed the planet 50 million years ago. The course provides a perspective on what we may expect in the way of future climate change if we fail to take action—more violent storms, extremes of precipitation, heat waves, pressures on food production, and an inexorable rise in sea level. It surveys the energy choices available should we elect to take action to minimize future damage to the climate system. Special attention is directed to the challenges and opportunities confronting China and the US, the world's two largest current emitters. The overall goal is to develop a vision for a more sustainable environmental future, one in which energy is supplied not by climate-altering fossils fuels but rather by zero carbon alternatives such as wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, tidal, and nuclear. The recorded lectures are from the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences course Science of the Physical Universe 25.The climate of earth is changing at a rate unprecedented in human history. The heat content of the ocean is increasing, the Arctic Ocean is losing its ice cover, sea level is rising, and weather is becoming increasingly extreme. Emissions of CO2 associated with combustion of coal, oil, and natural gas are primarily responsible for these changes. Minimizing the disruptive impact of current practice for future climate requires a revolutionary change in our energy system. The course discusses current understanding of human induced climate change and the actions that must be promoted to ensure a more sustainable global future. The recorded lectures are from the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences course Science of the Physical Universe 25.



Xinyu Chen





Course ID: 


Research Areas: 

  • [Course titles in brackets] indicate that the course is not scheduled to be taught during the 2017-2018 academic year, but may be offered in an alternate year.
  • An asterisk (*) before a course number indicates that a student must obtain the instructor's permission in order to enroll in the course.

Harvard University
Center for the Environment

Address: 26 Oxford Street, 4th Floor, Cambridge
Phone: (617) 495-0368

Connect with us

Follow HUCE to stay updated on energy and the environment at Harvard and beyond.

Subscribe to our mailing list