STS Climate Change Syllabus and Student Projects

About Project

Undergraduate Syllabus:

Social Science and STS Studies of Global Climate Change

This syllabus was developed from contributions of participants in an NSF STS sponsored 2022 workshop on STS approaches to global climate change.  Part of the workshop was devoted to undergraduate STS pedagogy on global climate change (GCC).  This syllabus is one product from that work.  The main goal of this syllabus is to provide users with information and a guide for developing their own course that fits their students’ needs.  Some of the readings listed under topics below might serve as required student reading, while most are background reading from which lectures and discussion topics can be gleaned.

 While the syllabus is directed to STS courses, users will note that it is heavily influenced by sociological literature which is the disciplinary background of most contributors.  Thus, users outside of sociology and STS may notice gaps to be filled from literature in their own disciplines.  The syllabus is organized into several sections that address somewhat distinct but overlapping concerns: (1) a brief foray into the scientific basis for GCC, (2) social construction of GCC as a public and political problem, (3) social drivers of GCC, (4) impacts of GCC and their unequal distribution, and (5) responses: adaptation and mitigation. 

 At the end of the syllabus, we have included project and assignment ideas that have been successfully used in the classroom.

 Brackets [ ] are used occasionally to contextualize topic progression and alert users to different organizational strategies.

 A special thanks to the following contributors for their syllabi, project assignments, or reading recommendations.

 Zeke Baker, Sonoma State University

Daniel Breslau, Virginia Tech

Mallory Fallin, Northwestern University

Shangrila Joshi, Evergreen State University

Marla Pérez-Lugo, University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley

Roopali Phadke, Macalester College

Stephen Zehr, University of Southern Indiana


Basic textbooks that might be used:

 Robin Leichenko & Karen O’Brien, 2019. Climate and Society: Transforming the Future. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. [referred to as “L&O” below]

 Dessler, Andrew E. & Edward A. Parson. 2019. The Science and Politics of Global Climate Change: A Guide to the Debate, 3rd edition.  New York: Cambridge University Press.

 Mike Hulme. 2022. Climate Change. London: Routledge.

 Mike Hulme. 2020. Contemporary Climate Change Debates: A Student Primer. London: Routledge.


 Course Topics and Readings


 1. GCC as a social challenge

 Why is climate change important?

  • Social inequalities
  • The Anthropocene
  • Are there any grounds for optimism?
  • Areas of uncertainty/indeterminacy/ignorance

  Leichenko & O’Brien (hereafter L&O): Chapter 1

 2. Scientific evidence of climate change and its limitations

 L&O: Chapter 2

 Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2020. 2022. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC.  Students should review the Executive Summary, Pgs. ES1—ES27.  Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2020 – Main Text (

 B. Relevant Sociological and STS Theory [Note: This section will most likely be a review for students who have completed basic coursework on social studies of the environment.  It also can be folded into specific topics below.  If included, the topics can be briefly introduced to avoid absorbing too much time in the course.  Readings below are focused within this last objective.]

 1. Human ecology and the IPAT model

 Introduce basic human ecology theory that ties human societies to the natural environment

  • Introduce the IPAT model: Impacts = Population x Affluence x Technology [The section on social drivers of GCC below uses this equation more as an orienting tool rather than a specific quantitative relationship.]

 2. Marxist, “treadmill of production” theory

 Marxist theory: capitalism exploitation of labor [brief introduction or review]

  • Metabolic rift [explained in the Foster reading]
  • Application of Marxist theory to the environment: environmental exploitation [James O’Connor’s 2nd contradiction of capitalism could be discussed]
  • Logic of the treadmill of production
  • Treadmill of consumption

Foster, J. B. 1999.  “Marx’s theory of metabolic rift: classical foundations for environmental sociology,” American Journal of Sociology 105:366-405.

 Clark, B. & York, R. 2005.  “Carbon metabolism: global capitalism, climate change, and the biospheric rift,” Theory and Society 34:391-428.

 Schnaiberg, Allan & Kenneth Alan Gould. 1994. Environment and Society: The Enduring Conflict. New York: St. Martin's Press.

 Gould, K. A. & T. L. Lewis (eds.). 2020. 20 Lessons in Environmental Sociology, 3rd edition. London: Oxford University Press, Ch. 2.

 Harvey, D. 2014. “Capital’s relation to nature,” Pp. 246-264 in Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism. London: Profile Books.

 3. Risk society thesis

 Beck, Ulrich. 1992. Risk Society.  London: Sage, Ch. 1.

 4. Ecological Modernization: Has late modernity ushered in a new regime for environment/social interactions?  [This theoretical orientation might be best covered in a lecture]

 Mol, Arthur P. J. & Gert Spaargaren. 2002. “Ecological modernization and the environmental state,” Research in Social Problems and Public Policy 10: 33-52.

 Mol, A.P.J.  2001. Globalization and Environmental Reform: The Ecological Modernization of the Global Economy Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

 5. Social constructionism (and co-constructionism) theory: the “natural” environment as (socially) constructed

 Yearley, Steven. 2002. “The Social Construction of Environmental Problems: A Theoretical Review and Some Not-Very-Herculean Labors,” Ch. 12 in RE Dunlap, FH

Buttel, P Dickens, and A Gijswijt, Sociological Theory and the Environment: Classical Foundations, Contemporary Insights.  Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

 Hannigan, John. 2014. Environmental Sociology, 3rd edition London: Routledge. [basic textbook that primarily uses a social constructionist perspective]

 6. Actor/network theory: removing the dualism between the social and natural [a reading from Latour might be used here.  An example is Ch. 1 from Politics of Nature, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.  It will require some explanation, or alternatively a lecture could be built around it.]

 C. Discourses, Values, Beliefs, Social Movements

 1. Climate change discourses

 L&O: Chapter 3

 2. Media framing of GCC

 Trends in amount of media coverage [See Home :: Media and Climate Chage Observatory (]

  • Media framing of GCC: drama, novelty and editorial pressures
  • Social construction of scientific uncertainty:
    • Practice of journalistic balancing
    • How scientists feed into the construction of uncertainty

 Antilla, L. 2005.  “Climate of skepticism: US newspaper coverage of the science of climate change,” Global Environmental Change 15:338-352.

 Boykoff, M. T. & Boykoff, J. 2007.  “Climate change and journalistic norms: A case study of US mass-media coverage,” Geoforum 38:1190-1204.

 Boykoff, M. T. 2007.  “Flogging a dead norm? Newspaper coverage of anthropogenic climate change in the United States and United Kingdom from 2003 to 2006,” Area 39:470-481.

 Boykoff, Maxwell. 2019. Creative (Climate) Communications: Productive Pathways for Science, Policy and Society. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Chapter 1 – “Here and Now”

 Carvalho, A. & Burgess, J. 2005. “Cultural circuits of climate change in U.K. broadsheet newspapers, 1985-2003,” Risk Analysis 25:1457-1469.

 Freudenburg, W. R. & Alario, M. 2007.  “Weapons of mass distraction: Magicianship, misdirection, and the dark side of legitimation,” Sociological Forum 22:146-173.

 Murphy, Raymond. 2015. “The media construction of climate change quiescence: Veiling the visibility of a super emitter,” Canadian Journal of Sociology 40:331-354.

 Painter, James. 2013. Climate Change in the Media. London: I. B. Tauris & Co.

 Sapiains, R., Beeton, R. J. S. & Walker, I. A. 2016. “Individual responses to climate change: Framing effects on pro-environmental behaviors,” Journal of Applied Social Psychology 46:483-493.

 von Zabern, Lena & Christopher D. Tulloch. 2021. “Rebel with a cause: The framing of climate change and intergenerational justice in the German press treatment of the fridays for future protests.” Media, Culture & Society 43(1):23–47.

 Zehr, S. C. 2000.  “Public representations of scientific uncertainty about global climate change,” Public Understanding of Science 9:85-103.

 3. Layperson framing of GCC

 Houser, Matthew. 2016. “Who framed climate change? Identifying the how and why of Iowa corn farmers’ framing of climate change,” Sociologia Ruralis 58:40-62.

 Luke, Timothy W. 2015. “The climate change imaginary,” Current Sociology Monograph 63:280-296.

 White, Jonathan. 2017. “Climate change and the generational timescape,” The Sociological Review 65:763-778.

 4. Public values, beliefs, knowledges, and emotions as they relate to GCC

 Post-materialist value change?

  • Schwartz & Bilsky model of value systems & predictions of environmental concern
  • Relationship of values to behavior
  • Changes in attitudes and beliefs about GCC and GCC policy
  • Predictors of pro-environmental attitudes and beliefs
  • Linking attitudes & beliefs to behavior
  • Cross-national comparisons of GCC knowledge
  • Variable assumptions behind knowledge of GCC risk
  • Critical perspectives on studies of knowledge about GCC: Critique of the deficit model

 L&O, Ch. 4

 Borick, C. P. & Rabe, B. G.  2010. “A reason to believe: examining the factors that determine individual views on global warming,” Social Science Quarterly 91:777-800.

 Brechin, S. R. & Bhandri, M. 2011.  “Perceptions of climate change worldwide,” WIREs Climate Change 2:871-885.

 Brulle, R. J., Carmichael, J. & Jenkins, J. C. 2012.  “Shifting public opinion on climate change: An empirical assessment of factors influencing concern over climate change in the U.S., 2002-2010,” Climatic Change 114:169-188.

 Dietz, T., Dan. A. & Shwom, R. 2007.  “Support for climate change policy: Social psychological and social structural influences,” Rural Sociology 72:185-214.

 Dietz, T., Fitzgerald, A. & Shwom, R. 2005.  “Environmental values,” Annual Review of Environment and Resources 30:335-372.

 Dunlap, R. E. & York, R. 2008.  “The globalization of environmental concern and the limits of the postmaterialist values explanation: Evidence from four multinational surveys,” The Sociological Quarterly 49:529-563.

 Fagan, Madeleine. 2017. “Who’s afraid of the ecological apocalypse? Climate change and the production of the ethical subject,” The British Journal of Politics and International Relations 19:225-244.

 Fløttum, Kjersti, Trine Dahl & Vegard Rivenes. 2016. “Young Norwegians and their views on climate change and the future: Findings from a climate concerned and oil-rich nation,” Journal of Youth Studies 19:1128-1143.

 Hall, Michael P., Neil A Lewis Jr. &

 Phoebe C. Ellsworth. 2018. “Believing in climate change, but not behaving sustainably: Evidence from a one-year longitudinal study,” Journal of Environmental Psychology 56:55-62.

 Hamilton, L. C. & Stampone, M.D. 2013.  “Blowin’ in the wind: Short-term weather and belief in anthropogenic climate change,” Weather, Climate, and Society 5:112-119.

 Hamilton, L.C.  2010. “Education, politics and opinions about climate change evidence for interaction effects,” Climatic Change 104:231-242.

 Leiserowitz, A.A., Maibach, E.W., Roser-Renouf, C., Smith, N. & Dawson, E. 2013.  “Climategate, public opinion, and the loss of trust,” American Behavioral Scientist 57:818-837.

 Leiserowitz, A.A. 2005.  “American risk perceptions: Is climate change dangerous?”  Risk Analysis 25:1433-1442.

 Lorenzoni, I. & Pidgeon, N.F. 2006. “Public views on climate change: European and USA perspectives,” Climatic Change 77:73-95.

 McCright, A. M. & Dunlap, R.E. 2011. “The politicization of climate change and polarization in the American public’s views of global warming, 2001-2010,” The Sociological Quarterly 52:155-194.

 McCright, A.M. & Dunlap, R.E. 2011. “Cool dudes: the denial of climate change among conservative white males in the United States,” Global Environmental Change 21(4):1163-1172.

 McCright, A.M., Dunlap, R.E. & Xiao, C. 2013. “Perceived scientific agreement and support for government action on climate change in the USA,” Climatic Change 119:511-518.

 Nisbet, M.C. & Myers, T. 2007. “The polls—trends: twenty years of public opinion about global warming,” Public Opinion Quarterly 71:440-470.

 Pidgeon, N. 2012. “Public understanding of, and attitudes to, climate change: UK and international perspectives and policy,” Climate Policy 12:85-106.

 Shao, Wanyun, James C. Garand, Barry D. Keim, & Lawrence C. Hamilton. 2016. “Science, scientists, and local weather: Understanding mass perceptions of global warming,” Social Science Quarterly 97:1023-1057.

 Smith, Tom W., Jibum Kim & Jaesok Son. 2017. “Public attitudes toward climate change and other environmental issues across countries,” International Journal of Sociology 47:62-80.

 Spence, A., Leygue, C., Bedwell, B., & O’Malley, C. 2014. “Engaging with energy reduction: Does a climate change frame have the potential for achieving broader sustainable behaviour?” Journal of Environmental Psychology 38:17-28.

 Stuart, Diana. 2017. “Climate change and ideological transformation in United States agriculture,” Sociologia Ruralis 58:63-82.

 Uhl, Isabella, Johannes Klackl, Nina Hansen & Eva Jones. 2018. “Undesirable effects of threatening climate change information: A cross-cultural study,” Group Processes & Intergroup Relations 21:513-529.

 Weber, E.U. & Stern, P. C. 2011. “Public understanding of climate change in the United States,” American Psychologist 66:315-328.

 5. The environmental movement and countermovement

 The challenge of a global problem that appears divorced from local and present day concerns.

  • Environmental movement constructions of climate change:
    • Making the future relevant to the present
    • Developing visual imagery
    • Carbon offset programs
    • Carbon sequestration programs in 2nd & 3rd world nations
    • Countermovement
      • Connections to fossil fuel industry and conservative think tanks
      • Scientific support: “uninformed minority view” or “minority challenging the hegemony”?
      • Political strategies of the countermovement
        • Organizational networks and tactics
        • Attacking the evidentiary basis of GCC
        • Suppressing scientific results and intimidating individual scientists
  • Implicatory denial
  • Does the social science critique of the countermovement itself evoke scientism?

Antonio, R.J. & Brulle, R.J. 2011. “The unbearable lightness of politics: Climate change denial and political polarization,” Sociological Quarterly 52:195-202.

 Brulle, R. & Jenkins, J.C. 2008. “Fixing the bungled U.S. environmental movement,” Contexts 7(2):14-18.

 Carroll, William, Nicholas Graham, Michael K. Lang, Zoë Yunker & Kevin D. McCarthy. 2018. “The corporate elite and the architecture of climate change denial: A network analysis of carbon capital’s reach into civil society,” Canadian Review of Sociology 55:425-450.

 Freudenburg, W.R., Gramling, R. & Davidson, D.J. 2008. “Scientific certain argumentation methods (SCAMs): Science and the politics of doubt,” Sociological Inquiry 78:2-38.

 Green, Jessica F. 2020. “Less talk, more walk: Why climate change demands activism in the academy,” Daedalus 149 (4):151-162.

 Kinniburgh, Colin.  2020. “Can extinction rebellion survive?” Dissent 67(1):125-133.

Lahsen, Myanna. 2013. “Climategate: The role of the social sciences,” Climatic Change 119:547-558.

Norgaard, K.M. 2006.  “’We don’t really want to know’: Environmental justice and socially organized denial of global warming in Norway,” Organization & Environment 19:347-370.

Shellenberger, M. & Nordhaus, T. 2005. “The death of environmentalism: Global warming politics in a post-environmental world,” Social Policy 35(3):19-30.

D. Social Drivers of GCC

 1. Background:

  • Cross-national differences and historical changes in greenhouse gas emissions
  • Human activities that generate greenhouse gas emissions:
    • Transportation
    • Agriculture
    • Land use and biomass burning
    • Residential energy
    • Industrial energy and processes
    • Life cycle analysis
    • Carbon Sinks

2. Population, Urbanization, and Land-Use Changes:

  • Global population growth
  • Population or household growth as the key independent variable?
  • Urbanization
    • Housing density & CO2 emissions
    • Transportation efficiencies?
    • Raised environmental consciousness?
    • Suburbanization & urban sprawl
      • Dependence upon automobile transportation
      • Low housing density and high household per capita rate
      • The American lawn phenomenon
      • Control over population growth & future projections

 L&O, chapter 5

 Bai, X., Shi, P. & Liu, Y. 2014. “Realizing China’s urban dream,” Nature 509 (8 May):158-160.

 Bulkeley, H. & Broto, V. C. 2014. “Urban experiments and climate change: Securing zero carbon development in Bangalore,” Contemporary Social Science 9:393-414.

 DeFries, R.S., Rudel, T., Uriarte, M. & Hansen, M. 2010.  “Deforestation driven by urban population growth and agricultural trade in the twenty-first century,” Nature Geoscience 3:178-181.

 Gonzalez, George. 2005. “Urban sprawl, global warming and the limits of ecological modernization,” Environmental Politics 14:344-362.

 Jiang, L. & Hardee, K. 2011.  “How do recent population trends matter to climate change,” Population Research & Policy Review 30:287-312.

 Jones, Christopher & Daniel M. Kammen. 2014. “Spatial distribution of U.S. household carbon footprints reveals suburbanization undermines greenhouse gas benefits of urban population density,” Environmental Science and Technology 48:895-902.

 Jorgenson, A.K. & Clark, B. 2010.  “Assessing the temporal stability of the population/environment relationship in comparative perspective: A cross-national panel study of carbon dioxide emissions, 1960-2005,” Population and Environment 32:27-41.

 Lankao, P.R., Tribbia, J.L. & Nychka, D. 2009.  “Testing theories to explore the drivers of cities’ atmospheric emissions,” Ambio 38:236-244.

 Mayer, Audrey L. et al. 2016. “How landscape ecology informs global land-change science and policy,” Bioscience 66(6):458-469.

 MacKellar, F.L., Lutz, W., Prinz, C. & Goujon, A. 1995.  “Population, households, and CO2 emissions,” Population and Development Review 21:849-865.

 Mayer, A. L. et al. 2016. “How landscape ecology informs global land-change science and policy,” BioScience 66:458-469.

 National Academy of Sciences, “Suburbanization: The impact on energy use, CO2 emissions.”

 National Academy of Sciences. 2008. “Driving and the built environment: The effects of compact development on motorized travel, energy use, and CO2 emissions.”

 Zagheni, E. 2011. “The Leverage of demographic dynamics on carbon dioxide emissions: does age structure matter?”  Demography 48:371-399.

 3. Affluence:

  • Are advanced economies decarbonizing?  Are they becoming ecologically modernized?
    • Decarbonization per unit GDP (carbon intensity)
    • What is left out of the carbon intensity equation?
      • Jevon’s Paradox: Does efficiency lead to higher usage rates? (e.g., mpg efficiency)
      • Unequal ecological exchange – do advanced economies decarbonize by transferring greenhouse gas production offshore?
      • Macro-level evaluations of the treadmill of production versus ecological modernization thesis.
        • Jorgenson’s work on methane
        • York’s work on CO2 intensity
        • Spaargaren & Mol on growth of citizen-consumers
        • Evaluation of the economic growth model: Is economic growth a necessity for capitalist economic security and stability?
          • Neoclassical economics version
          • No-growth model and possibilities for economic stability
          • Case studies of treadmills of production and consumption particularly relevant to greenhouse gases
            • Automobile transportation
            • Distinction between luxury and necessary consumption
            • Work and spend cycle
            • Disaggregation of egregious industries and corporations from those who are more benign

 Cohen, M. G. 2014. “Gendered emissions: Counting greenhouse gas emissions by gender and why it matters,” Alternate Routes 25:55-80.

 Dietz, T., Rosa, E.A. & York, R. 2012.  “Environmentally efficient well-being: Is there a Kuznets curve?” Journal of Applied Geography 32:21-28.

 Dietz, T., Rosa, E.A. & York, R. 2009.  “Environmentally efficient well-being: Rethinking sustainability as the relationship between human well-being and environmental impacts,” Human Ecology Review 16:114-123.

 Ehrhardt-Martinez, K. & J. B. Schor. 2015. “Consumption and climate change,” Pgs. 93-126 in Dunlap & Brulle (eds.), Climate Change and Society. New York: Oxford University Press.

 Fulkerson, G. M., Mckinney. L. A., & Austin, K. 2010. “Global warmers and global coolers: A cross-national examination of global warming dynamics,” International Journal of Sociology 40:44-64.

 Grimes, P. & Kentor, J. 1997.  “Exporting the greenhouse: Foreign capital penetration and CO2 emissions 1980-1996,” Journal of World System Research 9:261-275.

 Jackson, Tim. 2009. Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet. London: Earthscan.

 Jorgenson, A. K.  2006. “Unequal ecological exchange and environmental degradation: A theoretical proposition and cross-national study of deforestation, 1990-2000” Rural Sociology 71:685-712.

 Jorgenson, A. K. 2009. “The sociology of unequal exchange in ecological context: A panel study of lower-income countries, 1975-2000,” Sociological Forum 24:22-46.

 Knight, K., Rosa, E. A. & Schor, J. B. 2013. “Reducing growth to achieve environmental sustainability: The role of work hours,” In Wicks-Lim, J. & Pollin, R. (eds.) Capitalism on Trial: Explorations in the Tradition of Thomas E. Weisskopf.  Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 187-211.

 Peters, G.P., Minx, J.C., Weber, C.L. & Edenhofer, O. 2011. “Growth in emission transfers via international trade from 1990 to 2008,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108(21):8903-8908.

 Prew, P. 2010.  “World-economy centrality and carbon dioxide emissions: A new look at the position in the capitalist world-system and environmental pollution,” Journal of World-Systems Research 16:162-191.

 Reckien, D., Ewald, M., Edenhofer, O. & Lüdeke, M. K. B. 2007.  “What parameters influence the spatial variations in CO2 emissions from road traffic in Berlin? Implications for urban planning to reduce anthropogenic CO2 emissions,” Urban Studies 44:339-355.

Spaargaren, G. 2003.  “Sustainable consumption: A theoretical and environmental policy perspective,” Society and Natural Resources 16:687-701.

 Spaargaren, G. & van Vliet, B. 2010.  “Lifestyles, consumption and the environment: The ecological modernisation of domestic consumption,” Environmental Politics 9:50-76.

 York, R. 2010.  “The paradox at the heart of modernity: The carbon efficiency of the global economy,” International Journal of Sociology 40:6-22.

 4. Technology and energy: [There are different ways to proceed in this section.  One direction is a historical look at societal decisions around energy.  Another decision is whether to introduce theory on sociotechnical transitions here or delay to the last main section of the course.  Listed below is only a partial collection of readings and topics that might be addressed.]

 Socio-technological systems/networks and momentum (theory)

  • Application to energy and production
  • Possibilities for socio-technical system change (theory & some applications)

Burns, Shirley Stewart. 2007. Bringing Down the Mountains: The Impact of Mountaintop Removal on Southern West Virginia Communities. Morgantown, WV: West Virginia University Press.

Montgomery, Scott L. 2018. “Cheap oil is blocking progress on climate change,” The Conversation (12 December). Cheap oil is blocking progress on climate change (

 Nye, David E. 1990. Electrifying America: Social Meanings of a New Technology, 1880-1940. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

 Pierce, Fred. 2013. “New green vision: Technology as our planet’s last best hope,” Yale environment 360 (15 July).  Available at

 Wrigley, E. A. 2010. Energy and the English Industrial Revolution. New York: Cambridge University Press.

 L&O, chapter 6

E. Climate Change Impacts and Their Unequal Distribution

1. Overview of some impacts: GCC as a risk multiplier

 L&O, Chapter 7

 2. Cross-national inequality, intergenerational inequality, & vulnerability

 L&O, chapter 8

 Faist, Thomas. 2018. “The Socio-natural question: How climate change adds to social inequalities,” Journal of Intercultural Studies 39:195-206.

 Garschagen, M. & Romero-Lankao, P. 2015. “Exploring the relationships between urbanization trends and climate change vulnerability,” Climatic Change 133:37-52.

 McMichael, A. J., Woodruff, R. E. & Hales, S. 2006.  “Climate change and human health: Present and future risks,” Lancet 367:859-869.

 Parks, B. C. & Roberts, J. T. 2006.  “Globalization, vulnerability to climate change, and perceived injustice,” Society and Natural Resources 19:337-355.

 Roberts, J. T. & Parks, B. C. 2007.  A Climate of Injustice: Global Inequality, North-South Politics, and Climate Policy.  Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

 Stallworthy, M. 2009.  “Environmental justice imperatives for an era of climate change,” Journal of Law and Society 36:55-74.

 3. Disaggregation of vulnerable collectives [This section could obviously be expanded beyond the two foci below.  Readings listed below address inequalities in both effects of climate change and participation in policymaking.]

  • Age
  • Gender

 Bartlett, S. 2008.  “The implications of climate change for children in lower-income countries,” Children, Youth and Environments 18:71-98.

 Dankelman, I. 2002.  “Climate change: Learning from gender analysis and women’s experiences of organizing for sustainable development,” Gender and Development 10(2):21-29.

 Hemmati, M. & Röhr, U. 2009.  “Engendering the climate-change negotiations: Experiences, challenges, and steps forward,” Gender & Development 17(1):19-32.

 Rhoades, Jason L., James S. Gruber, & Bill Horton. 2016. “Developing an in-depth understanding of elderly adults’ vulnerability to climate change,” The Gerontologist 58:567-577.

 Thew, Harriet, Lucie Middlemiss, & Jouni Paavola. 2020. “‘Youth is not a political position’: Exploring justice claims-making in the UN climate change negotiations.” Global Environmental Change 61:102036.

 Wong, S. 2009.  “Climate change and sustainable technology: Re-linking poverty, gender, and governance,” Gender & Development 17(1):95-108.

 4. What is climate justice?

 Joshi, Shangrila. 2021. Climate Change Justice and Global Resource Commons: Local and Global Postcolonial Political Ecologies. New York: Routledge.

 Malm, Andreas & Rikard Warlenius. 2019. “The grand theft of the atmosphere: Sketches for a theory of climate injustice in the Anthropocene,” In Kum-Kum Bhavnini, et al. (eds), Climate Futures: Reimagining Global Climate Justice. London: Zed, pp. 32-39.

 Munshi, Debashish et al. 2019. “The future is ours to seek: Changing the inevitability of climate chaos to prospects of hope and justice.” Pp. 1-10 in Kum-Kum Bhavnini, et al. (eds), Climate Futures: Reimagining Global Climate Justice. London: Zed.

 Rice, Jennifer L., Daniel Aldana Cohen, Joshua Long & Jason R. Jurjevich. 2020. “Contradictions of the climate-friendly city: New perspectives on eco-gentrification and housing justice,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 44:145-165.

 F. Responses to GCC: Adaptation and Mitigation

 1. Adaptation and building resilience

 L&O, Chapter 9

 Adger, W. N., Huq, S., Brown, K., Conway, D., & Hulme, M. 2003.  “Adaptation to climate change in the developing world,” Progress in Development Studies 3(3):179-195.

 Adger, W.N., Barnett, J., Brown, K., Marshall, N., & O’Brien, K. 2012. “Cultural dimensions of climate change impacts and adaptation,” Nature Climate Change 3:112-117.

 Adger, W.N., Dessai, S., Goulden, M., Hulme, M., Lorenzoni, I., Nelson, D.R., Naess, L.O., Wolf, J. & Wreford, A. 2009. “Are there limits to adaptation to climate change?” Climatic Change 93:335-354.

 Butzer, K.W. & Endfield, G. H. 2012. “Critical perspectives on historical collapse,” PNAS 109:3628-3631.

 Goklany, I. M. 2006.  “Climate change in the 21st Century,” Social Science and Modern Society 43(6):63-70.

 Murphy, R. 2009.  Leadership in Disaster: Learning for a Future with Global Climate Change.  Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

 Pérez-Lugo, Marla D., Cecilio Ortiz-García & Didier Valdés. 2021. “Understanding hurricane Maria through Puerto Rico’s electrical system,” Ch. 5 in Maria T. Mora, Havidán Rodríguez & Alberto Dávila (eds.), Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico: Disaster, Vulnerability, and Resiliency. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

 Rojas Blanco, A. V.  “Local initiatives and adaptation to climate change,” Disasters 30:140-147.

 Rudel, T. K. 2001.  “Sequestering carbon in tropical forests: Experiments, policy implications, and climatic change,” Society and Natural Resources 14:525-531.

 Sakakibara, Chie. 2016. “People of the whales: climate change and cultural resilience among Iñupiat of Arctic Alaska,” Geographical Review 107:159-184.

 Smith, J. W., Anderson, D. H., & Moore, R. L. 2012.  “Societal capital, place meanings, and perceived resilience to climate change,” Rural Sociology 77:380-407.

 Walker, B. J. A., Adger, W. N. & Russel, D. 2015. “Institutional barriers to climate change adaptation in decentralized governance structures: Transport planning in England,” Urban Studies 52:2250-2266.

 Clarke, L. 2008.  “Possibilistic thinking: A new conceptual tool for thinking about extreme events,” Social Research 75:669-690.

 Giddens, A. 2009.  The Politics of Climate Change.  Polity Press, Cambridge.

 Grundmann, R. & Stehr, N. 2010. “Climate change: What role for sociology?” Current Sociology 58:897-910.

 Heinrichs, D., Krellenberg, K. & Fragkias, M. 2013. “Urban responses to climate change: theories and governance practice in cities of the global south,” International Journal of Urban & Regional Research 37:1865-1878.

 Köpsel, Vera, Cormac Walsh, & Catherine Leyshon. 2017. “Landscape narratives in practice: Implications for climate change adaptation,” The Geographical Journal 183:175-186.

 Kreslake, Jennifer M., Mona Sarfaty, Connie Roser-Renouf, Anthony A. Leiserowitz & Edward W. Maibach. 2018. “The critical roles of health professionals in climate change prevention and preparedness,” American Journal of Public Health 108:S68-S69.

 Marshall, B. K. & Picou, J. S. 2008.  “Postnormal science, precautionary principle, and worst cases: The challenge of twenty-first century catastrophes,” Sociological Inquiry 78:230-247.

 Murphy, R. 2015. “The emerging hypercarbon reality, technological and post-carbon utopias, and social innovation to low-carbon societies,” Current Sociology 63:317-338.

 2. Mitigation and reimagining the future

 L&O, chapter 10

 Governance and policy options

Bhavnani, Kum-Kum, John Foran, Priya A. Kurian, & Debashish Munshi (eds.). 2019. Climate Futures: Reimagining Global Climate Justice. London: Zed Books.

 Chapman, R. & Boston, J. 2007.  “The social implications of decarbonising the New Zealand economy,” Social Policy Journal of New Zealand (31 July):104-136.

 Fisher, Dana R., Anya M. Galli Robertson, Joseph McCartney Waggle, Amanda M. Dewey, Ann H. Dubin & William Yagatich. 2018. “Polarizing climate politics in America,” Environment, Politics, and Society 25:1-23.

 Foss, Ann. 2018. “Divergent responses to sustainability and climate change planning: The role of politics, cultural frames and public participation,” Urban Studies 55:332-348.

 Krosnick, J. A. & MacInnis, B. 2013.  “Does the American public support legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?” Daedalus 142:26-39.

 Ylä-Anttila, T. et al. 2020. “Breaking the treadmill? Climate change policy networks and the prospects for low carbon futures in Australia and Finland,” Society & Natural Resources 33:1380-1398.

 Zahran, S., Brody, S. D., Grover, H. & Vedlitz, A. 2006.  “Climate change vulnerability and policy support,” Society and Natural Resources 19:771-789.

 Green Consumption and production

Lorenzen, Janet A. 2014. “Green consumption and social change: Debates over responsibility, private action, and access,” Sociology Compass 8:1063-1081.

 Phadke, Roopali. 2018. “Green energy futures: Responsible mining on Minnesota’s Iron Range,” Energy Research and Social Science 35:163-173.

 Schewe, Rebecca L. & Diana Stuart. 2017. “Why don’t they just change? Contract farming, informational influence, and barriers to agricultural climate change mitigation,” Rural Sociology 82:226-262.


Fitzgerald, Jared B., Juliet B. Schor, & Andrew K. Jorgenson. 2018. “Working hours and carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, 2007-2013,” Social Forces 96:1851-1874.

 Gunderson, Ryan. 2019. “Work time reduction and economic democracy as climate change mitigation strategies: Or why the climate needs a renewed labor movement,” Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences 9:35-44.

 Factors that affect participation in voluntary programs

Isley, S. C., Stern, P. C., Carmichael, S. P., Joseph, K. M.  & Arent, D. J. 2016. “Online purchasing creates opportunities to lower the life cycle carbon footprints of consumer products,” PNAS 113:9780-9785.

 Dietz, T., Stern, P. C. & Weber E. U. 2013.  “Reducing carbon-based energy consumption through changes in household behavior,” Daedalus 142(1):78-89.

 Dietz, T., Gardner, G. T., Gilligan, J., Stern, P. C. & Vendenbergh, M. P. 2009.  “Household actions can provide a behavioral wedge to rapidly reduce US carbon emissions,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 106(44):18452-18456.

 Graham, J., Koo, M. & Wilson, T. D. 2011.  “Conserving energy by inducing people to drive less,” Journal of Applied Social Psychology 41:106-118.

 Moon, S. 2008.  “Corporate environmental behaviors in voluntary programs: Does timing matter?” Social Science Quarterly 89:1102-1120.

 National Research Council. 2011.  America’s Climate Choices.  National Academies Press, Washington, DC.

 Spence, A., C. Leygue, B. Bedwell, & C. O’Malley. 2014. “Engaging with energy reduction: Does a climate change frame have the potential for achieving broader sustainable behaviour?” Journal of Environmental Psychology 38:17-28.

 Vandenbergh, M. P., Stern, P. C., Gardner, G. T., Dietz, T. & Gilligan, J. M. 2010.  “Implementing the behavioral wedge: Designing and adopting effective carbon emission reduction programs,” Environmental Law Reporter 40:10547-10554.

 Continued knowledge production?: Role of scientists and academics

Glavovic, Bruce C., Timothy F. Smith, & Iain White. 2021. “The tragedy of climate change science,” Climate and Development DOI: 10.1080/17565529.2021.2008855

 Green, Jessica F. 2020. “Less talk, more walk: Why climate change demands activism in the academy,” Daedalus 149:151-162.

 Alternative futures from indigenous studies

 Whyte, Kyle. 2017. “Indigenous climate change studies: Indigenizing futures, decolonizing the anthropocene,” English Language Notes 55:153-162.

 Socio-technology transitions [This section would vary in length depending upon the introduction of sociotechnical transition theory earlier in the course.  We list here only a recent review article that captures much of this literature as it is relevant to climate change.]

Sovacool, B. K. et al., 2020. “Sociotechnical agendas: Reviewing future directions for energy and climate research,” Energy Research & Social Science 70:101617.

 Performing imagined futures

Oomen, Jeroen, Hoffman, Jesse, & Hajer, Maarten A. 2022. “Techniques of futuring: On how imagined futures become socially performative,” European Journal of Social Theory 25:252-270.

 3. GCC and sustainable development

 GCC as a resource for obtaining sustainable development objectives

  • Combining GCC with other sustainable development problems

 Hansen, K. B. 2015. “Exploring compatibility between ‘subjective well-being’ and ‘sustainable living’ in Scandinavia,” Social Indicators Research 122:175-187.

 Szell, G. 2014. “Regional and local sustainable development,” International Review of Sociology 24:4-12.

Project ideas from a course on the sociology of climate change:

1. Conduct an analysis of your campus’ carbon footprint on an annual basis.  You will collect several forms of quantitative and qualitative data for your analysis.  Include items such as: (a) annual electricity consumed (data most likely available at physical plant) and calculate average tons of CO2 emitted from this usage based on its source (local electricity provider), (b) gasoline consumed by campus vehicles (again calculate CO2 emissions), (c) an estimate of gasoline consumed by commuters to campus (develop and defend a methodology for determining the average # of automobiles on campus on school days, average miles commuted, and average mpg – calculate CO2 emitted from this calculation), d) pounds of food consumed daily on campus and energy used and emissions produced to get it here (you may or may not be able to obtain an estimate from the campus food provider – if not, try to develop a methodology for estimating it), (e) other relevant items that are worthy of inclusion.  The second part involves developing specific and doable plans that might reduce the campus carbon footprint.  Focus these plans on social or cultural dimensions of energy usage – or at least include them in the plans’ development.  Keep in mind economic and socio-cultural aspects of these plans and make them at least neutral to the underlying mission of the university to educate students and produce new knowledge.  In other words, make them reasonably achievable without undermining the reason for the university’s existence.

 2. After working through some of the literature on media and layperson framing of climate change (see syllabus), conduct your own analysis where you compare frames of climate change appearing in “letters to the editor” to either a U.S. national newspaper (e.g., New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post – check for availability in the library using the database Nexis Uni), a small city newspaper, or a major non-U.S. newspaper (many are available via Nexis Uni).  Use several years’ worth of articles (e.g., 2010-2020; 2000-2010; 1990-2000).  You’ll read the letters to the editor for the time period covered.  Identify major frames/themes and how they might have changed over time.  Address additional research questions such as: (a) why are these the dominant frames; (b) what are the different potential impacts on readers?; (c) to what extent is climate change presented as a local, national, or global issue?; (d) to what extent is uncertainty built into the letters?; (e) do these letters privilege any particular source of information (e.g., science, environmentalists, corporations, government) and denigrate other sources?; (f) are there patterns in what the letters are reacting to? (g) Etc.  You decide which questions are important and relevant.  For this project, you should use your library’s reference librarians for help in accessing and using available newspaper databases.  You may also need to access the local public library if relevant materials are not available in the university library.  A key part of this project is to develop a simple methodology for detecting, recording, and presenting major frames.

 3. This project involves using data from the United Nations Development Programme to test the Environmental Kuznets Curve hypothesis.  This will be addressed in class and there are numerous articles on the topic.  The basic idea is that as per capita income increases in a nation, environmental conditions worsen up to a point, then they get better, following an inverted U curve.  Thus, one might hypothesize that environmental conditions in nations with very high human development are somewhat similar to conditions in nations with low human development and better than nations with medium human development.  

 Access data from the most recent Human Development Index Human Development Index | Human Development Reports (  Use the “dimension” “Environmental Sustainability”.  From there obtain data on the following indicators related to climate change: carbon dioxide emissions, per capita; carbon dioxide emissions (kg per 2010 US$ of GDP); degraded land (% of total land area); forest area, change (%); fossil fuel energy consumption (% of total energy consumption); age-standardized mortality rate attributed to household and ambient air pollution (per 1000,000 population); and renewable energy consumption (% of total final energy consumption).  Collect data for the United States, the average of each of the four levels of human development (very high, high, medium, and low), and the different regions (Arab States, East Asia & Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, Latin America & the Caribbean, South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa).  You can use the U.S. data as a surrogate for North America.   Scroll to the bottom for these data.  Collect data for the most recent year available and record that information.  [Note: If you use this project assignment, these instructions may need updating.]

 From there you’ll compare data of these indicators across level of human development and across world regions noting the different economic situations of these regions.  These data are available elsewhere and will be covered in class.  The final paper will include an organized presentation of these data oriented around evaluation of the environmental Kuznets curve hypothesis.  The data may give mixed results, so you’ll need to sort that out.  A key part of the evaluation of the paper will be how carefully you combine and present the data so that the reader can easily follow your discussion and reach the same conclusion that you do.  Obviously, these data need to be placed in tables rather than rattled off in your text.  Provide a wider discussion of the results.  Why do you see the results that you’ve obtained?  The literature review for the final paper will involve review of research on the environmental Kuznets curve and the logic behind the hypothesis.

 4. Numerous technologies are currently available that if much more widely used would reduce per capita CO2 emissions.  They include such technologies as electric cars, photovoltaic solar panels, windmills, energy star appliances, enhanced home insulation, low-E and energy star roofing materials (e.g., cool asphalt shingles), energy saving landscaping, heating systems with high annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) ratings, and so on.  From a simple economic perspective, the rational consumer or business owner should utilize many of these technologies because of their long-term economic benefits.  Yet many don’t.  Also, the opposite is the case.  Consumers may choose not to utilize these technologies due to their own, often short-term, rational economic decisions despite the environmental benefits and potential long term economic benefits.

 The objective of this project is to partially explain why by looking for bottlenecks in the supply chain or resistance against the technology due to momentum within existing sociotechnology infrastructure (that is, what the newer technology is likely to replace).  In other words, end consumers’ decisions not to use the more environmentally efficient technology may result from decisions or resistance within the supply chain (e.g., manufacturers not producing enough, suppliers not sending enough to retailers, retailers not stocking enough for consumers, retailers not advertising or encouraging consumers to purchase them, contractors unfamiliar with the technology), cultural or social factors (e.g., values or beliefs that oppose the efficient technology, lack of information, social network ties that discourage such technology purchase, etc.), economic resistance from companies and others dependent on existing less efficient technologies (e.g., utilities owning power plants that burn coal resisting the use of solar panels, oil companies resisting the development of electric cars, contractors and installers resistant to learning about more energy efficient materials), and infrastructural resistance from existing technological systems (e.g., an interstate highway network replete with gasoline stations but short on charging stations, a national grid built around the production of electricity at centralized power plants rather than rural and dispersed windmill and solar production).  Choose one or more technologies and research the factors why it is not more readily adopted.  Your research should combine information that may be available on the web with qualitative or quantitative data that you individually collect.  For example, you might conduct phone interviews with local suppliers or contractors, make observations of supplies available at local retail outlets for the technology, examine advertising for efficient and less-efficient versions of your technology, and so on.  The goal of your paper will be to provide a sophisticated analysis of why your energy efficient technology (ies) is not adopted more often than it currently is.  Place this analysis within the theoretical framework of ecological modernization and perhaps other theory on technological transition.  Towards the end of the paper discuss means through which these bottlenecks and sources of resistance could be altered.

 The format for your final paper should be roughly along these lines.

 1. A title page listing the title, your name, and course name and number.

 2. An opening paragraph or two in which you bring the reader to your topic and identify the research problem/question.

 3. Three pages or so of a literature review in which you discuss, organized by thematic content, existing research related to your research topic and situate it, as relevant, into one or more theoretical orientations.  This review should be structured so that the reader sees why your research topic is an important contribution to existing research.  Minimally, you must conduct a search on SocIndex for past research on your topic.

 4. One-half to one page where you describe your research methodology.  It does not need to be technical.  Just discuss how you collected and organized your data.

 5. A few pages where you present your data.  The presentation should be organized so that the reader sees clearly the same things you are seeing.  Do not reproduce raw data in your paper.  If the data are quantitative, use tables or graphs.  If your data are qualitative, organize your presentation in some other way that makes sense.  In this section don’t just repeat the data that you’ve included in graphs or tables.  Instead refer to the tables or graphs and discuss.

 6. Analysis of your data.  The analysis may be combined with section 5 above (section may be titled “Data and Analysis), or it may come in a separate section.  Do whatever you think would be most effective.  Carefully explain to the reader what the data are saying.  What sorts of generalizations can you draw?  What are important themes in the data?  How is your research question(s) answered?

 7. A conclusion section of a page or two where you relate your findings back to the literature review.  Perhaps you might discuss the shortcomings of your research.  You could also discuss unanswered questions that were generated through your research.  You might discuss how your project advances this broader literature.

 8. List of references presented alphabetically.


Assignment on Rural Electrification

 Watch the film below, Power and the Land (Power and the Land - YouTube). Write an essay of 800-900 words discussing the film's treatment of rural electrification in light of Chapter 7 of Nye's Electrifying America. Be sure to discuss: 1) how the film documents the process of rural electrification; 2) how the film presents and tries to influence cultural ideas about agriculture and rural life; 3) how the film illustrates the REA's approach to promoting rural electrification.

Just Transition: A Group Project

 Mitigating the effects of climate change requires transitioning, as far as possible and as fast as possible, to a sustainable, carbon-neutral, energy system. But there is a general recognition that the transition should not be made at the expense of the already disadvantaged populations and regions of the world. The energy transition should be just.

 The concept of Just Transition is not precisely defined, and you will find a range of definitions if you search. For purposes of this project we will define it broadly and will include any of the following ideas:

  • The principle that the costs of the energy transition should be fairly distributed, and paid primarily by those who are most responsible for the emissions.
  • The idea that the transition should be done in a way that is not only fair, but addresses preexisting inequalities in the society, in terms of race, social class, gender, over the distribution of resources, jobs, income, etc.
  • The idea that the energy transition will only succeed if it is just and thus will win the support of the world's population.

Objective: To carry out a research-based project on one aspect of just transition. Consistent with the theme of the course, the project must examine the social dimensions of energy systems, and, where relevant, should incorporate ideas and concepts from the course.

 Final product: The deliverable is a slide show with audio narration. You are encouraged to add any media that will help present your work: images, video, sounds. We will spend some time in class on the range of available apps you can use to produce your slide show, as well as standards for design and accessibility.

 Process: You will be assigned to work in groups of 4-5. Some class time will be reserved for group projects. However, you will need to coordinate outside of class. Make sure that you have set up a system for keeping in touch with group members and distributing tasks fairly. Each group will have its own discussion board on Canvas to use for online planning.

 Topics: Below is a list of sample topics with links to more information. You may choose one of these, a subset of one of these, or propose your own, subject to approval.

Content: Your research should be guided by a set of questions about the intersection of energy transition with justice.

 Sources: Your project must use materials from the course, including readings and lectures, for concepts, perspectives, or historical comparison cases. However, this is a research project, so external sources are also required. While the most appropriate sources will vary with the topic, you should consider both primary and secondary sources, as well as both popular and academic sources. Do not rely too much on one type of source, i.e. industry reports, as this can provide a distorted perspective. In particular, we will be looking for evidence that you have surveyed and incorporated appropriate secondary, academic literature.

 Sources must be properly cited, either by footnotes on individual slides, or by adding a slide with a list of references at the end of your presentation. Use a standard citation format and stick with it, either Chicago ( or APA ( .  Be sure to fully cite and evaluate web resources. Even projects without a final print report, such as a video, must be accompanied by a properly-formatted list of sources. Here is an excellent guide for citing sources in a presentation. (

 Outstanding projects will be selected to participate in the STS Undergraduate Research Day in the Spring.


All component assignments will be posted to a discussion board on the course Canvas site, for feedback from the rest of the class.

 Sept. 23: Groups will meet for first discussion to select a topic. Come to this meeting with ideas for your group.

  • Oct. 7: One paragraph topic and initial questions.

The questions should result from group brainstorming around the topic, and will guide your preliminary research.

 Oct. 21: Abstract, key research questions, one page bibliography, and research plan.

By this point, you should have narrowed your topic and formulated a thesis or story about your idea. Preliminary research has helped you identify key questions, the most relevant sources and devise a plan for completion of the research.

 Nov. 11: Progress report

By the end of class on Nov. 11, your group should have a sketch of your slideshow. Using Google Slides, plan out how many slides you'll have, what content each one will cover, and who is responsible for each one. Additional details will be provided.

 Dec. 8: Final product due by 5:00 PM

Grading: Your project will be graded based on the following criteria

 (The entire project is worth 20% of the course grade, with 15% a group grade and 5% individual)

 1. Well-defined question(s)

2. An original argument that engages the social, political, or cultural dimensions of the topic

3. Arguments well-supported by evidence

4. Quality of writing and/or production values of final product

5. Evidence of strong research can be found in both the content of the product (that is, relevant information is present and accurately portrayed) and in the cited references (that is, they are diverse, balanced, and trustworthy).

6. Participation in the group project will be evaluated anonymously by your peers. In order to receive a positive peer evaluation, you must participate in the group process, contribute substantially to research, and respect and value the views and skills of others.

7. Timeliness

 Keep the requirements and evaluation criteria in mind when selecting a topic. The topic should be one that interests you and that you care about, but it should also be one that will provide an opportunity to successfully meet the expectations of the assignment.

 All work turned in on this project will be posted to a discussion board on the Canvas site, and will be visible to the entire class. You are encouraged to read other groups' work and to post constructive comments.

 Also, each group will have a private discussion board for coordinating its activity.

 A helpful resource for getting started: (

 How to add narration to Google Slides (link) (

 How to narrate and make a video from PowerPoint (




Start and End Date


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