Let’s Talk About Climate Change!

On Friday April 12, while most of the DKU community was celebrating the signature work projects completed by the graduating class, an unusual group of twelve professors locked themselves away in a classroom in the Innovation Building to design a new class for Fall 2024: Let’s Talk About Climate Change!

From left to right, Yanran Yang, Laura Davies, Coraline Goron

DKU102, as it appears in the course catalog, is a two-credit university-wide course, designed by professors from natural science, social science, and arts and humanities. As the lead designer, James Miller, emphasizes, “This course is not an environmental science course, but a course for the whole university. Our message is that climate change changes everything, and will affect everyone in the DKU community over the course of their lifetimes.” 

The whole range of majors at DKU, from arts and media to economics, to global health, to data science are already being transformed by climate change. As a recent Wall Street Journal article argued, people are worried by the energy use and carbon impact of data centers running large language models for AI, but also hopeful that AI can help human beings to mitigate their energy usage. 

The course design is being led by James Miller, Professor of Humanities, Coraline Goron, Assistant Professor of Environmental Policy, and Ding Ma, Assistant Professor of Atmospheric and Environmental Science. Joining them for the course planning were nine new Climate Change Fellows, including Pascal Grange, Associate Professor of Mathematics. Grange’s contribution to the course will be a week devoted to the question, “Do you read your meters?” which will examine the types and units of measurement that are necessary to assess the causes of climate change. “If we cannot measure what causes climate change then we cannot properly address it,” says Grange. “Numbers are key.”

Lijing Yan, Professor of Global Health, will lead a discussion of the intersection of health and climate change. “Whether we are thinking about infectious diseases or healthy aging, all aspects of global health are paying attention to climate change now,” she says. 

In addition to scientific issues such as energy, biology and ecology, the course will consider a whole range of social and personal issues, such as climate justice, global governance, and personal ethics. The goal is to show how climate change intersects with the full range of academic disciplines at DKU, and to prepare all students, no matter their major, for a future that is being transformed by climate change. 

“Ultimately we want students to come away with a positive experience,” says course co-director, Coraline Goron. “We want students to feel empowered, and to learn about solutions. We want to help students to be more informed, resilient, and hopeful about the future.”

Modeled on the Duke course of the same name, DKU102 meets every Thursday from 7-9pm in the fall semester. Students learn from the professors in the first hour, then engage in discussions and activities in the second hour. The course has no graded assignments, and students earn two credits by participating in the weekly classes.