MOOC discussion group synopsis, Week 2

The World Bank is offering a four-week massive open online course (MOOC) called Warmer World: Why a 4-degree C Warmer World Must be Avoided.

Participants in the course (and non-participants, too) have gathered on the MSU campus to talk about issues related to the course.

The following is a synthesis of discussion from the group on 2/7/14. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Montana Institute on Ecosystems nor of the discussion leader, but rather are an overview of questions and ideas raised by the group.

The focus of the information presented in this week’s MOOC (massive open online course) entitled “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided” sponsored by the World Bank was on emissions scenarios.  Our group discussion revolved around the notion of emissions scenarios and climate change impacts.

There was a question and discussion about why some of the scenarios anticipate a decline in population growth.  Current demographic data indicates that the rate of natural increase (i.e., the change in population growth due to the difference in birth rates and death rates) around the world is slowing, and even declining in some regions. The group wondered whether the emissions scenarios in the report included a decline in population due to climate change impacts, or not.

We also discussed the challenges associated with communicating climate science.  One participant noted that time scales can be challenging to grasp.  For example, saying that we may see an increase in the frequency of extreme heat events by 2070 is not as clear as saying that this could happen in 60 years (i.e., within one’s lifetime).  The group also discussed how the concept of ‘uncertainties’ in science might make it difficult for some people to understand and/or trust the science. 

In terms of ways to communicate climate science, the group discussed the utility of “scenarios.” One participant noted that the use of stories or examples that people can relate to can be helpful.  Additionally, good visuals (e.g., movies, graphs, charts, etc.) are helpful in communicating climate science.

The Google Hangout from Jan. 31 answered some of the questions we had discussed in session 1, including the difference between climate change and variability, whether there is a useful way to use and/or store CO2, and why we use a 4-degree warmer world scenario vs. a 2-degree warmer world scenario. Watch it at:

The MOOC provides links to various interactive websites, including:

NASA Climate Time Machine -

Keeling Curve interactive -

Global Ice Viewer -

SPEI – Global Drought Monitor -

Earth Book – Project Earth





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