Understanding Climate Change: Science, Policy, and Practice

By Sarah L. Burch and Sara E. Harris

© 2014

Conversations about climate change are filled with challenges involving complex data, deeply held values, and political issues. Understanding Climate Change provides readers with a concise, accessible, and holistic picture of the climate change problem, including both the scientific and human dimensions.

Understanding Climate Change examines climate change as both a scientific and a public policy issue. Sarah L. Burch and Sara E. Harris explain the basics of the climate system, climate models and prediction, and human and biophysical impacts, as well as strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing adaptability, and enabling climate change governance. The authors examine the connections between climate change and other pressing issues, such as human health, poverty, and other environmental problems, and they explore the ways that sustainable responses to climate change can simultaneously address those issues.

An effective and integrated introduction to an urgent and controversial issue, Understanding Climate Change contains the tools needed for students, instructors, and decision-makers to become constructive participants in the human response to climate change.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 328 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.9in x 9.0in
Product Formats

SaveUP TO 15181

Book Formats

SKU# SP003601

  • PUBLISHED JUL 2014

    From: $37.36

    Regular Price: $43.95

    ISBN 9781442614451
  • PUBLISHED JUL 2014

    From: $37.36

    Regular Price: $43.95

Quick Overview

Understanding Climate Change provides readers with a concise, accessible, and holistic picture of the climate change problem, including both the scientific and human dimensions.

Understanding Climate Change: Science, Policy, and Practice

By Sarah L. Burch and Sara E. Harris

© 2014

Conversations about climate change are filled with challenges involving complex data, deeply held values, and political issues. Understanding Climate Change provides readers with a concise, accessible, and holistic picture of the climate change problem, including both the scientific and human dimensions.

Understanding Climate Change examines climate change as both a scientific and a public policy issue. Sarah L. Burch and Sara E. Harris explain the basics of the climate system, climate models and prediction, and human and biophysical impacts, as well as strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing adaptability, and enabling climate change governance. The authors examine the connections between climate change and other pressing issues, such as human health, poverty, and other environmental problems, and they explore the ways that sustainable responses to climate change can simultaneously address those issues.

An effective and integrated introduction to an urgent and controversial issue, Understanding Climate Change contains the tools needed for students, instructors, and decision-makers to become constructive participants in the human response to climate change.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 328 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.9in x 9.0in
  • Reviews

    ‘This book would be a good book for a climate change course at the undergraduate or beginning graduate level. It is also a good book for those generally interested in climate change science and policy.’


    Richard Smardon
    Journal of Environmental Studies & Sciences vol 5:2015

    Perhaps the most accessible book yet to be written on climate change: If you decide to read only one book about climate change, Understanding Climate Change is the one you should choose. 


    Jason MacLean
    Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal

    ‘This book is an excellent overview of the scientific and human dimensions of anthropogenic climate change… The main contribution is the seamless integration between the physical science and the social science… Highly recommended.’


    J. Schoof
    Choice Magazine vol 52:07:2015

    “This book seeks to move beyond the fundamentals and introduces the reader to the economic, political, and social dynamics of climate change. Each chapter begins with “Main Points”, or guided questions, which is ideal for guided research in schools or undergraduate classes.”


    Pat M. Couts, American Association of School Librarians
    University Press Books for Public and Secondary Schools 2015, Twenty Fifth Edition

    “Bridging social and natural science, Understanding Climate Change is a very accessible and well developed explanation of climate change. Students without scientific backgrounds will find the approach refreshing and appealing, yet those with natural science training will still find it engaging and interesting.”
    Len Broberg, Director, Environmental Studies Program, University of Montana

    “Written in an accessible style that will engage the reader, Understanding Climate Change is a well-balanced, comprehensive review of climate science and politics. The field has been crying out for such a resource.”
    Aled Jones, Director, Global Sustainability Institute, Anglia Ruskin University

    Understanding Climate Change is a well-written text, with strong and substantive content. Undergraduates will find its analogies and metaphors catchy and effective for learning and retention.”
    Max Boykoff, Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Colorado-Boulder
  • Author Information

    Sarah L. Burch is an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Management at the University of Waterloo.


    Sara E. Harris is a Senior Instructor in the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of British Columbia.
  • Table of contents

    1. Climate Change in the Public Sphere

    1.1. Communicating about climate change

    1.2. The state of the science

    1.3. Responding to climate change: mitigation and adaptation

    1.4. The state of the policy

    1.4.1. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol
    1.4.2. The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Rio, and Rio +20)
    1.4.3. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

    1.5. The scale of the challenge: accelerating action on climate change

    1.6. Roadmap to the book

    2. Basic System Dynamics

    2.1. What’s a system?

    2.1.1. System parts and interactions
    2.1.2. Stocks and flows
    2.1.3. Feedbacks
    2.1.4. Lags
    2.1.5. Function or purpose

    2.2. Earth’s Climate System: The parts and interconnections

    2.2.1. Atmosphere, Hydrosphere, Biosphere, Geosphere, and Anthroposphere
    2.2.2. The Ins and Out of Earth’s Energy Budget

    3. Climate controls: Energy from the Sun

    3.1. Incoming Solar Radiation

    3.1.1. Blackbody radiation: the Sun versus Earth
    3.1.2. Our place in space: the Goldilocks planet

    3.2. Natural Variability

    3.2.1. 4.5 billion years of solar energy
    3.2.2. Orbital controls: baseline variability in the past million years
    3.2.3. Sunspots: how big a deal?

    3.3. Mitigation strategies and policy tools

    4. Climate Controls: Earth’s Reflectivity

    4.1. Natural Variability

    4.1.1. At Earth’s surface: Ice, water, and vegetation
    4.1.2. In the atmosphere: Aerosols and clouds

    4.2. Anthropogenic Variability

    4.2.1. Land-use changes
    4.2.2. Anthropogenic Aerosols

    4.3. Mitigation strategies and policy tools

    5. Climate Controls: The Greenhouse effect

    5.1. How does the greenhouse effect work?

    5.1.1. Characteristics of a good greenhouse gas
    5.1.2. Energy flows in a greenhouse world

    5.2. The unperturbed carbon cycle and natural greenhouse variability

    5.2.1. Carbon stocks and flows
    5.2.2. Timescales of natural greenhouse variability
    5.2.3. Feedbacks involving the greenhouse effect

    5.3. Anthropogenic interference

    5.3.1. Perturbed stocks, flows, and chemical fingerprints
    5.3.2. Cumulative carbon emissions: a budget

    6. The Core of Climate Change Mitigation: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Transforming the Energy System

    6.1. Introduction to reducing greenhouse gas emissions

    6.2. The Global Energy System

    6.3. Mitigation Strategies

    6.3.1. Demand-side mitigation: energy efficiency and conservation
    6.3.2. Supply-side mitigation
    6.3.3. Carbon capture and storage

    6.4. Fostering accelerated and transformative mitigation

    7. Climate Models

    7.1. Climate Model Basics

    7.1.1. Physical Principles
    7.1.2. The Role of Observations
    7.1.3. Time and Space
    7.1.4. Parameterization
    7.1.5. Testing climate models

    7.2. Types of climate models

    7.2.1. Energy Balance Models
    7.2.2. Earth System Models of Intermediate Complexity
    7.2.3. General Circulation Models
    7.2.4. Regional Climate Models
    7.2.5. Integrated Assessment Models

    7.3. Certainties and Uncertainties

    8. Future Climate: Emissions, climate, and what we do about it

    8.1. Emissions scenarios

    SRES scenario ‘families’ and storylines 8.1.1.
    Post-SRES and Representative Concentration Pathways 8.1.2.

    8.2. Global Climate in 2100

    Temperature, precipitation, sea level rise, and extreme events 8.2.1.
    Uncertainty 8.2.2.

    8.3. Regional forecasting

    8.4. Backcasting

    8.5. Scale of the challenge: Transforming emissions pathways

    9. Climate Change Impacts on Natural Systems

    9.1. Observed Impacts

    Impacts on Land 9.1.1.
    Impacts in the Oceans 9.1.2.

    9.2. Adaptation in Natural Systems

    9.3. Policy Tools and Progress

    International tools 9.3.1.
    National and sub-national tools 9.3.2.

    9.4. Conclusions

    10. Climate Change Impacts on Human Systems

    10.1. Introduction

    10.2. Key concepts in climate change impacts and adaptation

    10.3. Observed and Projected Impacts

    10.3.1. Climate change impacts on food and water
    10.3.2. Climate change impacts on cities and infrastructure
    10.3.3. Equity implications: Health, culture, and global distribution of wealth

    10.4. Adaptation in human systems

    10.5. Policy Tools and Progress

    10.5.1. Policy tools for adaptation
    10.5.2. International and national adaptation
    10.5.3. Sub-national adaptation
    10.5.4. Social movements and human behavior change: the root of the adaptation conundrum

    11. The Frontier: Innovative Action on Climate Change

    11.1. Integrating Adaptation and Mitigation: Pursuing Sustainability

    11.2. What Road will we choose? The ethics of geoengineering

    11.3. Transformative change: reorienting development paths to yield a sustainable future

    11.4. Conclusions and future directions