Tag Archives: climate change

Climate Change finals

I’ve come to the end of the Climate Change course, I aced the week 8 quiz but i basically failed the two-part final quiz, so i was a little bit disappointed though I wasn’t surprised. Altogether i found it interesting and enjoyable, but it was hard! I realised I am scientifically challenged!

I wanted to share with you the week 8 final feedback video – if you have a spare half hour it’s worth watching. Also, despite my own difficulties, I would recommend the course. If and when it runs again, have a go – even if you just watch the videos and do nothing else, it’d be worth doing.

I liked that Professor Fenton is optimistic – we have all the scientific, energy solutions to prevent the apocalyptic scenario of climate change, higher temperatures, rising sea levels, melting ice, ocean acidification etc.

The problem is essentially social, economic and political.

I’m not a fan of governments or governmental control by any means, and I tend to think that they are essentially using climate change as a tool of control without actually doing anything substantial to deal with the real problems. And then there’s also the problem of the fact that governments are so often in bed with big businesses which don’t want to change.

If governments were really taking climate change seriously, they would be massively incentivising people to do the right thing wherever possible – by subsidising *customers* who would like to choose renewable energy but can’t afford to, which would in turn encourage fossil fuel companies to move into environmentally friendlier fuels for example? maybe subsidising organic vegetable growers?

Everybody needs to do their part, and everybody needs to be convinced and get on board, and I don’t think governments are the ones to do it.

I liked the idea that arts and humanities can play their part to change people’s minds and thereby to change their behaviour. (And I liked that my slightly hippy-oriented ideas about living in community, living on the land and planting, recycling, re-using, being vegetarian / vegan and so on are all justified. Our household carbon footprint for example was a fraction of somebody living alone for example.) But the real challenge is that we need to act fast to turn the tide.

I loved that Professor Fenton was not anti-human at all, and he said that we could in effect live very happily and healthily even as 9 billion or however many we become, *if* we live more environmentally friendly lives.


The Truth About Population: Don’t Panic

I discovered Hans Rosling and his amazing ability to make statistics beautiful and entertaining this week, and thought I would share this video as it is relevant to our Climate Change course. I also recomend his website (Gapminder) and I suprised myself by following his link to Melinda Gates’ website where she shows that the way to encourage developing countries to limit their family size is to care for their existing children.

Climate Change Weeks 3-6

I realised I hadn’t added any notes from the Climate Change: Challenges and Solutions course from Exeter University via FutureLearn since week 2, so this will just be a quick review.

Week 3

This week was essentially looking at evidence of climate change.

I found week 3 extremely difficult, and I ended the week not sure that I wanted to carry on to week 4. I more or less failed the quiz at the end of the week, but having spoken to other students, it wasn’t just me – some of the questions were worded differently to the way they were taught on the course itself, and they even included one question that hadn’t been covered on the course at all. Looking at the notes, I have almost nothing for Week 3 so I may need to go back for a review at some point. One of the questions that really stumped me was what, apart from volcanoes, causes aerosols. I still don’t have an answer to that.

Week 4

This week we were looking at possible Geo-engineering solutions. Some of the ‘solutions’ seem almost worse than the problems, and don’t address the root causes but rather try two work around them. It’s actually pretty terrifying because they could end up causing more havoc than we already have with excess CO2.

Week 4 was much better and much easier to understand, and I did pass the end of week quiz 🙂

Week 5

This week we were looking at the effects of climate change on the cryosphere and ocean acidification.

This week was again much better, although there was a lot of chemistry and as I’ve already mentioned, I have no chemistry background. The course requisites said no former knowledge was required, so I think they should have either differentiated between introductory and advanced level, or decided which level they wanted to teach toward.

Week 6

This week we were looking at Human Health and the Built Environment, urban heat islands, and the danger of heat waves in cities. And then Food Security.

The fact that worldwide we are dependent on 3 crops (wheat, rice and maize, or 4 if you include potatoes) is alarming in itself when you consider that monoculture crops are vulnerable to fungi and disease.

Even though the world reproduction rate has essentially gone down to around 2 children per woman, there is still an inevitable population increase (of those children who will grow up) of 50% by 2050. That is, by 2050, we expect there to be 11 billion people.  Therefore, our global food production needs to be doubled by 2050. That is alarming, and the solutions are all pretty scary: ‘new science, new genetics, genomics, genome sequencing, modern plant techniques’. We obviously also need to consider more diversity in farming (monoculture is bad!).

I think the West also urgently needs to address the issues of waste, encourage more home growing and maybe most important of all – discourage greed.

I did pass the end of week quiz, but again had a problem with one question that I ended up still not knowing the answer for. I think the quiz technology could include a “this is the right answer” at the end.

Miscellaneous Notes

Just some general notes today. I’m in week 3 of my OU course, DD101, and ought to be concentrating on writing my first TMA essay, but in fact I’m already procrastinating while I finish up some other bits and pieces.

I finished Maya Adam’s Just Cook for Kids course on Nutrition from Stanford School of Medicine via Coursera, and I’m quite sad to have finished as she was such a lovely teacher. I’ll aim to write up course notes from the final week at some point. I’ve also discovered that some of the optional videos from that course are also available on Khan Academy (wow, there’s lot’s more there than I ever realised, in fact!)

I’m in week 5 of the University of Exeter Climate Change course. It has been so difficult for my tiny non-sciency brain to cope with that I think that if I had to drop something this would be the one, but hopefully now Just Cook is finished I’ll have the time / energy / brainpower to devote to it. We’ll see.

I also started a couple of Christian / Bible courses (in my spare time, you know, because I seem to have this kind of compulsive drive to have / do / be / whatever one of everything! I’m a bit klepto with books, so obviously this extends to courses as well.

But I’m recognising my limits, and I’ll lay those other courses down I think at least until Climate Change is finished. It is tempting though, as they’re interesting and easy 😀 I’ll post more about them when I finish Climate Change.

OK! How are you doing? What are you studying? Anyone crazy like me doing more than one course?

Climate Change: El Nino

El Nino was mentioned a couple of times but I wasn’t sure of the significance. This video seems helpful.
If anybody else has more resources, please share them!

Climate Change Week 3 Notes

3.1 What evidence do we have of the signals of climate change, including an increase in extreme weather events?

In addition to written records over the last 170 years, modern records are able to be taken more widely and more reliably increasingly high-tech meteorological records are now possible, including data from weather satellites, weather balloons, unmanned submersibles for deep sea temperature, thermometers that measure water temperature on board ship, thermometers inside Stephenson screens on the land, which shield from direct radiation and rain.

3.2 How has our climate changed?

– Sea level rise
– Global average temperature rise
– Ocean temperature rise
– Shrinking ice sheets
– Declining Arctic sea ice
– Glacial retreat
– Extreme weather.

There has been a significant rise in temperatures over the 20th century, with the last decade being the warmest within the whole record.

3.3 Do the major extreme weather events of 2012 provide further evidence of climate change or does it all add more complexity to the issue? (National Snow and Ice Data Center for more information.)

The cold weather does make it more confusing, but the fact that extreme weather of all sorts seem to be increasing all over the globe is compelling. It is certainly a complex puzzle.

3.4 What places on Earth have experienced the largest warming from 1980-2004? Are the areas that are experiencing the most warming also showing the largest variability in temperature and or precipitation?

The northern hemisphere seems to have had the largest warming. I found the interactive map a little bit frustrating. To be honest I found the graphs unhelpful and it would have been more helpful to see the differences in countries overlaid on one graph.

3.5 What would you consider the largest threats from extreme weather events to where you live?

Flooding and sea damage seem to be the biggest problems facing the UK; however the UK Government seems to be managing the problem particularly badly – despite the knowledge that an increase in tree-growing can mitigate against the effects of flooding, it seems to be determined to clear the land, which makes me suspect they are doing so with the specific agenda of pushing climate change as an excuse for more government control.

3.6 Our Changing Carbon Cycle: Professor Pierre Friedlingstein identifies the components of the carbon cycle and how human activity has contributed to an atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide not seen since the Pliocene epoch between 2.6 and 5.3 million years ago.

I really struggled to understand this video at all. Subtitles would not have gone amiss. I’ve watched it 3 times and I’m none the wiser.

3.7 Create a graph to show a variety of countries at different levels of economic development by following this link to the World Bank web site. Include the USA and China in your graph. Share your graph in the discussion. You may also want to try plot carbon dioxide emissions measured in metric tons per capita. What conclusions can you draw?

Really frustruated with this, I couldn’t work out how to make a graph. If I figure it out, I’ll post again.

3.8 Week 3 Quiz

Despite everything, I managed to pass this week’s quiz with 15/15.

Altogether, it seems so complex to me that I feel a little bit overwhelmed. Although I am persuaded that climate change is real and that it could mean disaster, I don’t feel as though I’m totally getting to grips with the subject. I haven’t seen enough evidence yet to conclude that the human element is the cause of the rapid changes (although I’m trying to keep an open mind and I’m willing to be convinced) but I certainly haven’t changed my mind about the fact that governments are using climate change as a tool to control people and extend government.

Climate Change Week 3

I have really struggled to keep up this week, mainly because there were only 2 videos (one of which was hard to understand – subtitles would have been helpful) and the rest was articles. I just haven’t had the time this week to get to the reading.

One of the questions was how can this year’s extra cold weather be explained within an overall trend of global warming?

This link and video has helped me grasp that particular issue:


More later as I find time.

Climate Change Week 2 Reflection


  1. What are the most important themes you have learned this week?
  2. What aspect of this week did you find difficult?
  3. What did you find most interesting? And why?
  4. Was there something that you learned this week that prompted you to do your own research?
  5. Are there any web sites or other online resource that you found particularly useful in furthering your knowledge and understanding?

1. I guess the most important aspect is the carbon cycle, and the snowball earth theory which showed how dangerous global cooling could be.

2. I am finding it hard as I have no chemistry knowledge to speak of and there’s a lot of new imformation and I don’t have the time to mentally process it! I only got 11 on the test because I basically skipped the question on what causes aerosols. So apart from volcanic eruption, what causes them?

3. I really enjoyed the Snowball Earth documentary (for anybody not doing the course who may be interested in watching, the documentary is here.

4. I’ve had less time than I did last week, so as much as I would like to research more and read all the articles, it hasn’t been possible.

5. Nothing beyond the resources linked to from the course itself.

It is a bit frustrating to be so pressed for time, but I am taking notes and printing out the articles so I hope to look at it over again when I have a chance.

What are others’ experiences?

400 Parts Per Million

Climate Change: Challenges and Solutions course by Exeter University via FutureLearn, Week 2, activity 2.6

“Understanding past climate changes can be key to understanding the state of the climate in the future. On May 9, 2013, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reached the level of 400 parts per million (ppm). The last time the Earth experienced this level of carbon dioxide was in the Pliocene about three to five million years ago. Investigate what the temperatures were during this time period and compare them to today. Using your knowledge from the course so far, what could explain the changes?”

OK. I have to put my hand up here and say at the outset that, although I knew that ‘millions of years’ and ‘evolutionary biology’ and geology would be an inevitable part of this course, it is a challenge to get my head around understanding these issues with a background of belief in creation and a much younger earth. I am obviously trying to be as open-minded as I possibly can (and plan to take a course in evolutionary biology at some point as well) I wish I understood more about both geology and biology and would love to hear from creationists on their understanding of climate change. That isn’t an invitation for debate by the way, so please don’t attempt to post anti-creation or pro-evolution arguments. I am really getting plenty of that side of things and don’t need additional comments from that perspective. If you’re willing to be respectful and helpful, I’d be glad to hear from you.

In answer to the question, as best as I can, presumably past high levels of carbon dioxide would have been due to volcanic activity, whereas it is considered that the current high levels are to do with human activity. I’m not clear on how the levels have dissipated in the meantime.

Climate Change week 2 questions 2.5

It has been much harder to keep up with the Climate Change course this week – not because it has been much harder than last week, but just because I have been so much busier and really haven’t had any additional time to devote to this beyond the minimum 3 hours a week. I’m sure that, if you had the time to search out all the articles etc. you’d get a lot more out of it. So I’ll try to answer the questions as basically as I can from what I’ve gleaned from the videos.

The activity required for 2.3 was a diagram showing the feedback mechanisms for Snowball Earth. Mine is very basic, and I hope it covers what it needs to:


Then the questions at 2.5:

What are climate change records?

Climate change records include recorded data over the last few hundred years, satellite data more recently, and for several hundreds into several thousands years, evidence is found in ‘proxy records’ such as ice core samples and tree rings.

How do volcanoes affect climate change?

Volcanic eruptions throw out dust clouds and aerosol gases into the atmosphere, which reflect solar radiation, making earth colder.

How is today’s warming different from the past?

The increase in temperature over the last 100-150 years can not be explained either by solar variations (eccentricity, obliquity or precession) or by volcanic activity.

What is the role of isotopes in determining temperatures from the past?

The level of oxygen in calcium carbonate deposits in marine sediment varies, depending on the temperature of the surrounding water.

How have trees been used to reconstruct different climate variables across the world?

I won’t pretend to understand dendrochronology, but the basic idea is that trees grow wider rings on years when the summer is warmer. Comparison can be made between tree-ring patterns by matching the patterns in different series in a process called “cross-dating”.

How can ice cores provide a record of atmospheric composition?

Each layer of ice has a different chemical composition, like the marine sediments, which give an indication of the conditions at the time when the ice was laid down. The oxygen content is important in ice in the same way as it is in the marine sediment.

We didn’t have to answer all 6 questions, but I wanted to make sure I had a basic understanding of all of them. I hope it’s not too basic, and welcome feedback 🙂