Course Description

Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, "Some people are weatherwise, but most are otherwise." Ol' Ben understood that weather can have a great effect on our everyday lives, and he knew the importance of having an understanding of what makes the atmosphere work (and not just knowing when it's safe to fly a kite). In Meteo 3, we will examine all aspects of the weather. You'll learn the fundamental processes that drive the atmosphere, along with some of the tools we use to measure those processes.

Coastal Processes, Hazards and Society

Credit: Wave 2444043 by TimHill is licensed under CC0

Course Description

Has your attention recently been caught by news of coastal catastrophes such as hurricanes and tsunamis? Do you wonder why so many coastal communities in the world are vulnerable to flooding and other coastal hazards? Have you considered what coastal flood protections cities like Houston and Miami will need in the future to protect their residents? This course will provide a better understanding of these phenomena.

two fingers touching behind a lightbulb

Credit: Home Energy by George Hodan is licensed under CC0 1.0

Course Description

Our world runs on energy - without it, things come to a screeching halt, as the recent hurricanes have shown. Ever stop to wonder what our energy future is? What are our options for energy, and what are the associated economic and climatic implications? In "Energy and the Environment" we explore these questions, which together represent one of the great challenges of our time - providing energy for high quality of life and economic growth while avoiding dangerous climate change.

Advanced Energy Policy

Credit: Solar Powered Landscape by Dennis Dimick is licensed under (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Course Description

Energy policy is typically evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary. We can look to historical policies to understand how we've inherited the policies governing our energy use today. But looking backward only tells us part of the story. In the face of climate change, we need to look ahead and instead envision a more revolutionary change to our energy systems and the policies that govern them. This class takes you on that journey to energy policies past, present, and future.

Human Dimensions of Global Warming

Credit: Sunny Day Tidal Flood by User B137 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Course Description

GEOG 438W is a writing-intensive course that concentrates on the human-environment interactions involved in contemporary and future global warming. The course comprises two broad topical areas: global warming impacts, which takes place in the first half of the course, and global warming mitigation and policy, which encompasses the second half of the course. Each week highlights a theme, such as the impacts of climate change on human health or greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, that weaves through the course lecture, reading assignment, class discussion, and writing activity.

Energy Policy

Credit: Purple Flowers by winterseitler is licensed under CC0

Course Description

Energy policy sits at the crossroads of science and policy. And now, energy and climate policy are inextricably linked; the policies we choose have very real consequences for our climate. This intersection of science and policy is chaotic and bustles with activity motivated by various competing (and conflicting) interests and factors. We must understand the motivations driving them and bridge the divides between our reliance on fossil fuels and our need to transition to less carbon-intensive and renewable alternatives.

Course Description

Increasingly volatile climate and weather; vulnerable drinking water supplies; shrinking wildlife habitats; widespread deforestation due to energy and food production. These are examples of environmental challenges that are of critical importance in our world, both in far away places and close to home, and are particularly well suited to inquiry using geographic information systems. In GEOG 487 you will explore topics like these and learn about data and spatial analysis techniques commonly employed in environmental applications.

Geographic Perspectives on Sustainability and Human-Environment Systems

Credit: Ariel view of a flooded neighborhood near New Orleans by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Schofield is Public Domain

Course Description

What factors lead to a natural disaster? What causes a famine? Why do cities flood? According to a recent article in The Atlantic, Houston's flooding during the 2017 Hurricane Harvey was primarily caused by impervious pavement which prevents the absorption of water into the land. This example illustrates how nature and society are interlinked, which is the main focus of Geography 30, Penn State's introductory course to nature-society geography.

Earth in the Future

Credit: Mountains 482689 by Angie Agostino is licensed under CC0

Course Description

Our planet is becoming hot. In fact, Earth may be warming faster than ever before. This warming will challenge society throughout the 21st century. How do we cope with rising seas? How will we prepare for more intense hurricanes? How will we adapt to debilitating droughts and heat waves? Scientists are striving to improve predictions of how the environment will change and how it will impact humans.

Course Description

This course presents an examination of ethical issues relevant to systems-based research procedures, professional conduct, social and environmental impacts, and embedded ethics in research and professional practice in RESS based jobs. In this course, you will consider case studies of ethical issues that can arise when engaging renewable energy and sustainability systems. You will also develop an ethics case study based on your area of RESS interests.

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Course Spotlight

From Meteorology to Mitigation: Understanding Global Warming (METEO 469) - learn about the fundamentals of climate change and its impact on societal, environmental, and economic policies. Visit the course.

Faculty Spotlight

Dr. Richard Alley

Dr. Richard Alley has been with us since the beginning, with one of our first OPEN courses - Geology of the National Parks. See what he has to say about the OPEN.ED effort over ten years later.