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Could we control our climate?
Could we control our climate?

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Introduction and guidance

This free badged course, Could we control our climate?, lasts 24 hours, with 8 ‘sessions’. You can work through the course at your own pace, so if you have more time one week there is no problem with pushing on to complete a further study session. The eight sessions are linked to ensure a logical flow through the course. They are:

  1. What is engineering the climate?
  2. The planet is changing
  3. We are causing change
  4. Future of the planet
  5. Ways to engineer the climate
  6. Design and implementation
  7. Should we engineer the climate?
  8. Will we engineer the climate?

This course looks at climate change in a new way - through the lens of climate engineering, the idea of deliberately trying to modify the climate to counteract the changes we’re observing and predict will happen in the future.

Some of the questions you’ll be studying are: How would you design the perfect climate? How could we control Earth’s climate? How would we predict the consequences of our actions, or even know if they were working as we expected? How would different countries collaborate or compete? What would we as a society be trying to preserve - and what would we be willing to risk?

To answer these questions you will learn some of the science and mathematics involved in measuring, predicting and potentially controlling climate change. You will also consider the context in which that science exists: the political and ethical issues, the deep challenges of communicating and managing climate risks using incomplete evidence, and the influence of competing priorities and values. By considering exactly what we want for our planet's climate, and what we would be willing to sacrifice to get there, climate engineering has the potential to help us find more clarity in our search for solutions.

After completing this course, you will be able to:

  • explain the climate change challenges facing the planet
  • understand the concepts of climate change measurement and modelling, and be familiar with a range of predictions about climate change and its impacts on humans and other life
  • understand the Paris agreement targets for future climate change, and the way these – and other climate change issues – are discussed and presented in the media
  • appreciate the advantages and disadvantages of different geoengineering methods for controlling the climate, together with social, physical and governance issues surrounding their implementation
  • design the ideal future climate, and reflect on how this decision was made.

Moving around the course

In the ‘Summary’ at the end of each session, you will find a link to the next session. If at any time you want to return to the start of the course, click on ‘Full course description’. From here you can navigate to any part of the course.

It’s also good practice, if you access a link from within a course page (including links to the quizzes), to open it in a new window or tab. That way you can easily return to where you’ve come from without having to use the back button on your browser.

The Open University would really appreciate a few minutes of your time to tell us about yourself and your expectations for the course before you begin, in our optional start-of-course survey [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . Participation will be completely confidential and we will not pass on your details to others