814333 The climate crisis as a grand challenge in the Anthropocene

Semester hours
Lecturer (assistant)
Schmid, Martin , Formayer, Herbert , Körner, Daniel , Rieder, Harald , Gingrich, Simone
Offered in
Wintersemester 2023/24
Languages of instruction


Manifold progress has been made in climate science over the last decades, leading to substantial advancements in our understanding of key processes in the climate system, system changes and the role of individual forcings and feedback mechanisms on different time-scales. A central issue in this lecture is the attribution of observed and projected climate change to the different forcings and especially human societies’ (i.e. anthropogenic) contribution to climate change past and future. The concept of radiative forcing, its temporal development and the main contributors to its change is discussed in detail and the role of different sources and sinks of greenhouse gases is addressed. The course explores the different emission pathways considered in IPCC assessment reports, their creation and the resulting global warming levels and projected impacts on global to regional scale (including feedbacks and tipping point considerations). What do we know about when and how humanity got into a situation that is now described as "Anthropocene"? How did the underlying transition to a nuclear-fossil socio-metabolic regime proceed in different regions of the world? Based on a socio-ecological understanding of the long-term evolution of the current sustainability challenges, this course propels an understanding of the transformative change, concepts and pathways needed to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and important aspects of the embedding of climate change mitigation strategies in the framework of sustainable development with its goals, principles, concepts and and interdisciplinary/system-oriented approach. This includes examples in climate friendly and sustainable lifestyle.

Objective (expected results of study and acquired competences)

After participation students will have gained an overview of the Grand Challenges in the Anthropocene, and a systemic socio-ecological understanding of climate change in the context of the Grand Challenges. They developed a particular understanding of challenges related to the climate crisis as well as of principles, concepts and pathways of sustainable development. Synergies between climate mitigation strategies and sustainable development will become clear in an exemplary manner. Regarding the human contribution to climate change, students have developed an in-depth understanding of the contribution of changes in atmospheric composition from land-use change, burning of fossil fuels and other anthropogenic activities from the preindustrial to present and the overlaying natural drivers of inter-decadal to inter-annual climate variability. Students will understand positive and negative contributions to radiative forcing and how these forcings and feedbacks are projected to change the climate system over coming decades. Students will also have obtained an understanding of chemical life times of individual greenhouse gases, their sources and sinks and the time-scales of greenhouse gas removal (through natural and technical processes). Through numerical exercises and practical examples students are improving their analytical skills. Students will gain a general understanding of the societal processes that shaped the emergence of the climate crisis. They will understand the role of technological change for the extent and social and ecological impacts of anthropogenic interventions into natural systems in a long-term perspective. Students will improve their skills regarding interdisciplinary and system-oriented thinking and scientific reasoning in various settings such as break out groups in class or plenary discussions.
You can find more details like the schedule or information about exams on the course-page in BOKUonline.