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Now live: Could we control our climate?

Updated Wednesday, 31 March 2021
This free course tells the story of climate science in a new way, aiming to find a fresh perspective for thinking about the future.

Photograph of Moraine lake, Alberta. The photo shows a blue-green expanse of lake water, with dense forest on the left, and rocky mountainous terrain to the right of the lake.

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face as a society, but it can be a difficult subject to approach. Not only can the science seem dauntingly complex, but the solutions are also far from clear. This leaves many people feeling confused, guilty, anxious, angry, or else completely switched off from the subject.

This free course, Could we control our climate?, looks at the subject through the lens of 'climate engineering' – deliberate climate modification intended to counteract the impact that we’re observing now and predicting for the future. This subject is by turns hopeful, when uncovering new technologies that could prevent and reverse the most severe consequences of climate change, and enormously controversial when discussing risks and the ways that these technologies could be misused. Above all, climate engineering serves as a useful tool to move beyond the usual, often frustrating conversations around climate change action, and examine the topic from a new angle.

These are just some of the questions you’ll study in this course:

  • 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 about 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 aid us in our search for solutions.

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This OpenLearn science course has been produced with the kind support of Dangoor Education, the educational arm of The Exilarch's Foundation.

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