Social and Political Dimensions of Climate Change

3500-107 :
Discipline: Semester at Sea Seminars
Instructor: Roberts
Credits: 3
Day: C
Start: 0800
End: 0915
Field Work: Day 1 - Antalya - Wednesday, 3 July | Turkey
Prerequisites: None Download Syllabus

Climate change creates injustices in who caused the problem, who is suffering worst and first, and who is taking action.  Power between nations and social groups drives unequal disaster risks and the “compounded vulnerabilities” of poor peoples and nations, and has led to gridlock in United Nations negotiations.  The course reviews social and political dimensions of local and national adaptation efforts, media dynamics, collective and individual denial, and the rise of climate social movements.

The human emissions of billions of tons of gases known to trap heat in the atmosphere is a massive experiment on the systems that support our species.  Human civilization has developed in a remarkably stable period of global temperature and precipitation, but the climate impacts are rising and projected to get much worse in the decades ahead.  Are we helpless?  Who is suffering first and worst from climate change?

Field Work

Country: Turkey
Day: 1 - Antalya - Wednesday, 3 July

July 3 (Antalya, Turkey) The lab will begin with a bus tour of two or three highly vulnerable areas of the city, including coastal areas experiencing flooding, and informal settlements in flood-prone areas around urban rivers.  At each stop, we will hear from local residents and community organizations about their experiences and concerns.  Lunch will take place at a good park or location with a vista of these problems.  Next we will travel to wealthier and higher neighborhoods for comparison, and the final stop will be municipal and federal planning and/or environmental agencies, to see mapping of flood-prone areas, hear about disaster mitigation efforts, urban planning directions, and the role of climate change in their formulation. Students will read Turkey’s national position papers on climate change, which include descriptions of the nation’s vulnerability and adaptation efforts, and its position on its responsibility to reduce emissions and make binding commitments in the UNFCCC negotiations. We will compare this with the piece by World Bank urban specialist Anthony Bigio comparing Casablanca, Tunis and Alexandria’s vulnerability and flooding preparations.  Students will review Google Earth and LIDAR flooding maps, review NGO and government websites on the issue.  They will collect notes and photos during the visit, and produce a 3 page review tying the trip to the course’s larger themes of the social and political dimensions of climate change. Academic Objectives:

  1. To see vulnerable riverine and coastal areas and human habitation and infrastructure, and consider other types of climate change-related risks such as drought and heat waves,
  2. To observe strategies for adaptation to rising sea levels and coastal defense being adopted, as well as upland efforts,
  3. To hear from local and national government officials, NGOs, and community members about climate change and solutions being considered and adopted.