The Climate Crisis and Society

Course Description

Even with rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, we will no longer be able to avoid disastrous effects from the climate crisis. This reality means that we must take seriously the social consequences of climate change, considering how local, national, and international communities will cope with new and unpredictable geophysical threats. Central to this conversation is the need for climate justice. Due to forms of socioeconomic inequality across scales, resources to address climate change are not equally distributed. Developing countries with little responsibility for historic greenhouse gas emissions often have the fewest resources to address climate risks, while wealthy countries – which have benefited economically from historic emissions – can insulate themselves from the worst effects of climate change. Some proposed responses to climate change redistribute resources to engender just climate outcomes, while others risk reinforcing or exacerbating inequalities.

In this course, we will think through these difficult problems using a sociological lens, focusing on the social causes and effects of the climate crisis. We will consider how different ways of framing the climate change problem result in very different solutions. Current and proposed responses to the climate crisis include mitigation (emissions reductions), adaptation (decreasing climate vulnerability), loss and damage (compensation for loss due to climate change), and geoengineering (attempting to modify the geophysical world). We will consider actual and hypothetical cases to see how these responses might further the cause of climate justice, reinforce forms of injustice, or create other unintended problems. We will also discuss the political and economic aspects of these responses and how they work at the national and international scales.

Our discussions will be informed by a range of sources, including recent nonfiction books and academic journal articles, supplemented with articles from newspaper and publications from policy-focused sources. This course will be focused on in-class discussions and activities, and you will also submit short written assignments.

During this course you will learn:

  • About social causes and effects of climate change.
  • About the range of current responses to the climate crisis, at the local, national, and international levels.
  • How to apply critical sociological frameworks to climate-related concerns.
  • How to read and critique scholarship on climate change.
  • About approaches to writing a college level social science paper.
This two-week long, in-person course will give you the tools to think about climate change from a critical sociological perspective. This will prepare you for future college-level coursework focused on climate change, climate justice, and a range of environmental issues, also giving you an introduction to sociology and other social science disciplines. Further, this course will equip you with resources to focus on climate action outside of the classroom.


This course does not have specific prerequisites. However, students will have ideally taken some social science courses in high school and have an active interest in learning about social aspects of the climate crisis.


One Section Available to Choose From:

Online sections of Pre-College courses are offered in one of the following modalities: Asynchronous, Mostly asynchronous, or Blended. Please review full information regarding the experience here.

Dates: June 20, 2022 - July 01, 2022
Duration: 2 Weeks
Meeting Times: M-F 3:30P-6:20P
Status: Closed
Format: On-Campus
Instructor(s): John Uri
Course Number: 10348