Climate Change Undergraduate Coursework

UC San Diego is continually working to offer undergraduate coursework that is current, relevant, and applicable.

Much of what supports and drives our understanding of climate change comes from the empirical study of Earth's past and present climate systems. UCSD offers comprehensive undergraduate coursework in Earth, oceans, and atmospheric sciences through Scripps Institution of Oceanography. 

Below are some of our course offerings that are designed to directly address anthropogenic climate change and its implications.


Climate Courses Offered


Satisfies a Climate Change Studies minor course requirement

Satisfies a Climate Change and Human Solutions Anthropology major or minor course requirement

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

  • SIO 25. Climate Change and Society (4)

    Climate change is one of the most complex and critical issues affecting societies today. This course will present the scientific evidence for climate change and its impacts and consider governmental policy responses and possible adaptation strategies. Prerequisites: none.

  • SIO 40. Life and Climate on Earth (4)

    Explores life on Earth and its relationship to the environment—past, present, and future. Topics include origins of life, earth history, elemental cycles, global climate variability and human impacts on our environment. Prerequisites: none.

  • SIO 116. Climate Change and Global Health: Understanding the Mechanisms (4)

    This course will introduce students to the public health effects of global climate change. The course will begin by understanding the climate change phenomena and explaining the direct and indirect links between climate change and human health, including the public health impacts of infectious diseases, atmospheric air pollution, and extreme weather events. The second part of the course will be dedicated to adaption and mitigation solutions with a particular focus on vulnerable populations. Students may not receive credit for SIO 116 and SIO 116GS. Prerequisites: upper-division standing or consent of instructor.

  • SIO 117. The Physical Basis of Global Warming (4)

    Introduction to the processes behind global warming, including the physics of the greenhouse effect, controls on greenhouse gases, atmospheric and oceanic circulation, climate feedbacks, relationship to natural climate variability, and global environmental issues related to global warming. Prerequisites: MATH 20D and PHYS 2C or consent of instructor.

  • SIO 143. Ocean Acidification (4)

    This course covers the fundamentals of ocean acidification, including the chemical background; past and future changes in ocean chemistry; biological and biogeochemical consequences, including organism and ecosystem function; biodiversity; biomineralization; carbonate dissolution; and the cycling of carbon and nitrogen in the oceans. Prerequisites: MATH 10C, PHYS 1C, CHEM 6C, or consent of instructor.

  • SIO 174. Chemistry of the Atmosphere and Oceans (4)

    An introduction to chemical compounds and their biogeochemical cycles in the oceans and atmosphere, with emphasis on climate issues like ocean acidification, greenhouse gases and the carbon cycle, other biogeochemical cycles, chlorofluorocarbons and the ozone hole, urban pollutants and their photochemistry, and aerosol particles and their effects on clouds. Prerequisites: CHEM 6C or CHEM 6CH and MATH 20C or MATH 31BH or consent of instructor.

  • SIO 190. Special Topics in Earth / Ocean / Atmosphere : Policy and Politics of Climate Change

    In this course, we will discuss state, federal and international policies related to climate change. The political context in which these policy responses have developed, and in which they will continue to evolve, will be emphasized throughout. Specific substantive topics include some review of key concepts related to the physical basis of global warming, efforts to put a price on carbon, successful past policy responses to environmental threats, including the Montreal Protocol, the ongoing efforts of the global community, via the UNFCCC and other instruments, to achieve international agreement on climate policy and the current domestic political and policy environment.

Climate Change Studies

  • CCS 101. Carbon Neutrality Initiative at University of California (2)

    The University of California-wide goals of the Carbon Neutrality Initiative are introduced through a series of modules where students learn basic principles of carbon neutrality, participate in seminars with campus operations staff, and tour relevant campus infrastructure including the UC San Diego microgrid, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings, and sustainable transportation efforts. Prerequisites: upper-division standing.

  • CCS 102. Research Perspectives on Climate Change (2)

    This course introduces students to exciting and current research topics related to climate change as presented by faculty and researchers across UC San Diego. The course is offered as a series of reading topics followed by seminars on original research presented by faculty and researchers. Prerequisites: upper-division standing.

  • CCS 197. Carbon Neutrality Internship (1–4)

    A campus-based internship, typically designed by the student, that will help the university meet our stated carbon neutrality goals. The project can be developed either individually or as part of a team. A written contract involving all parties will include learning objectives, a paper or project outline, and means of supervision and progress evaluation. May be taken for credit up to three times for a maximum of eight units. P/NP grades only. Prerequisites: CCS 101, CCS 102, and department approval.

  • CCS 199. Supervised Independent Study or Research (2–4)

    Independent reading or research on a topic related to climate change by special arrangement with a faculty member. May be taken for credit up to three times for a maximum of eight units. P/NP grades only. Prerequisites: CCS 101, CCS 102, and department approval.

Anthropology: Climate Change and Human Solutions

  • ANTH 105. Climate Change, Race, and Inequality (4)

    This course introduces students to the ways in which climate change exacerbates environmental racism and inequality. We will consider the ways that structural violence and discriminatory policies create environmental inequalities where marginalized communities take on more of the risk and burdens of climate change. We will address community organizing and social justice efforts to combat the systems of power that unevenly distribute the burdens of climate change to marginalized communities. Prerequisites: upper-division standing.

  • ANTH 106. Climate and Civilization (4)

    An introductory course that questions the whole collapse narrative while teaching students about the ways in which it has and hasn’t impacted humans. Prerequisites: upper-division standing.

  • ANTH 107. Designing for Disasters, Emergencies, and Extreme Weather (4)

    Examines the social, economic, environmental, and health impacts of anthropogenic climate change through engaged learning that integrates practice and theory. Prerequisites: upper-division standing.

  • ANTH 108. Indigenous Peoples, Extractive Development, and Climate Change (4)

    Across the world, indigenous peoples’ lands and livelihoods are increasingly vulnerable to extractive development projects such as mines, gas wells, dams, logging, and monoculture agriculture, all of which increase the impacts on climate change. This class addresses the ways indigenous communities use cultural and political resources to negotiate environmental, market, and political forces. Can protecting indigenous ways of life provide alternatives for global climate change? Prerequisites: upper-division standing.

  • ANTH 109. Climate Change, Cultural Heritage, and Vulnerability (4)

    Cultural heritage is a human right that is threatened by climate change. This course introduces students to the concept of heritage, how multiple historical and ancient processes influence social vulnerabilities, and what challenges are being faced in the context of changing climate. We will explore the formation and meanings of tangible and intangible heritage, its relation to traditional knowledge and the roles of knowledge over social vulnerability. Prerequisites: upper-division standing.

  • ANTH 110. The Climate Change Seminar (4)

    Explores climate change from the perspectives of biological, archaeological, sociocultural, and medical anthropology and global health. Students develop projects on key topics, such as food, health, sustainability, political economy, and the interaction of ecological and human processes across local, regional, and global scales. Examines social impacts and existential risks. Considers questions related to public policy, education, ethics, and interdisciplinary research collaboration. Prerequisites: upper-division standing.

  • ANAR 120. Documenting Climate Change: Past and Present (4)

    This course will help familiarize students with the types of methods that people use to document shifting climate in the past and present day, in addition to training on geospatial data sets. Prerequisites: upper-division standing or consent of instructor.

Natural Sciences

  • BILD 18. Human Impact on the Environment (4)

    Course will focus on issues such as global warming, species extinction, and human impact on the oceans and forests. History and scientific projections will be examined in relation to these events. Possible solutions to these worldwide processes and a critical assessment of their causes and consequences will be covered.

  • BIBC 140. Our Energy Future—Sustainable Energy Solutions (4)

    Course will provide an overview of energy production and utilization and the consequences of this on the economy and environment. The course will introduce renewable energy technologies including biofuels, and explores the social, economic, and political aspects of energy use. Prerequisites: BILD 1.

  • BIEB 174. Ecosystems and Global Change (4)

    This course will teach the principles of ecosystem ecology in terrestrial and marine systems and will use examples from recent research to help students understand how global environmental changes are altering processes from leaf-level ecophysiology to global cycling of carbon, water, and nutrients. Fieldwork may be required. Prerequisites: BILD 3.

  • BIEB 182. Biology of Global Change (4)

    This class will focus on ecological and evolutionary responses to three major anthropogenic stressors—climate change, resource exploitation, and urbanization. Students will learn about the eco-evolutionary changes that are currently happening due to anthropogenic impacts and also predictions about future changes due to such impacts. They will also learn about the economic and societal impacts of such changes and some of the strategies for conservation and sustainability in a changing world. Prerequisites: BIEB 102.

  • CHEM 145. Biofuels and Renewable Materials (4)

    Fundamentals of the chemistry and biochemistry of biofuel and renewable materials technologies. This course explores chemical identity and properties, metabolic pathways and engineering, refining processes, formulation, and analytical techniques related to current and future renewable products. Prerequisites: CHEM 40B, 40BH, 140B, or 140BH.

  • CHEM 171. Environmental Chemistry I (4)

    An introduction to chemical concerns in nature with emphasis on atmospheric issues like air pollution, chlorofluorocarbons and the ozone hole, greenhouse effects and climate change, impacts of radioactive waste, sustainable resource usage, and risks and benefits of energy sources. Students may only receive credit for one of the following: CHEM 149A or 171. Prerequisites: CHEM 6C or 6CH.

  • PHYS 12. Energy and the Environment (4)

    A course covering energy fundamentals, energy use in an industrial society and the impact of large-scale energy consumption. It addresses topics on fossil fuel, heat engines, solar energy, nuclear energy, energy conservation, transportation, air pollution and global effects. Concepts and quantitative analysis.

  • ANAR 120. Documenting Climate Change: Past and Present (4)

    This course will help familiarize students with the types of methods that people use to document shifting climate in the past and present day, in addition to training on geospatial data sets. Prerequisites: upper-division standing or consent of instructor.

  • ENVR 30. Environmental Issues: Natural Sciences (4)

    Examines global and regional environmental issues. The approach is to consider the scientific basis for policy options. Simple principles of chemistry and biology are introduced. The scope of problems includes: air and water pollution, climate modification, solid waste disposal, hazardous waste treatment, and environmental impact assessment. Prerequisites: none.

  • ESYS 10. Introduction to Environmental Systems (4)

    This course explores the interdisciplinary character of environmental issues through an examination of a particular topic (climate change, for example) from numerous disciplinary perspectives (e.g., biology, chemistry, physics, political science, and economics). Prerequisites: none. (W)

  • ESYS 102. The Solid and Fluid Earth (4)

    Earth’s dynamic physical systems interact in complex ways with profound impact on our environment. Processes such as volcanism and weathering enable geochemical exchange between solid and fluid (ocean and atmosphere) systems. Sea level and climate changes interface with tectonic processes. Prerequisites: Math 10A or Math 20A, Chem 6A, Physics 1A or 2A, or consent of instructor. (W)

Social Sciences

  • POLI 162. Environmental Policy (4)

    (Same as SIO 109.) Climate change is an urgent global problem affecting the lives of hundreds of millions of people, now and for the foreseeable future. This course will empower students to confront climate change as critical actors to innovate creative cross-disciplinary solutions. Students may not receive credit for POLI 117 and SIO 109. Prerequisites: upper-division standing.

  • SIO 109 / POLI 117. Bending the Curve: Solutions to Climate Change (4)

    (Same as SIO 109.) Climate change is an urgent global problem affecting the lives of hundreds of millions of people, now and for the foreseeable future. This course will empower students to confront climate change as critical actors to innovate creative cross-disciplinary solutions. Students may not receive credit for POLI 117 and SIO 109. Prerequisites: upper-division standing

  • SOCI 30. Science, Technology, and Society (4)

    A series of case studies of the relations between society and modern science, technology, and medicine. Global warming, reproductive medicine, AIDS, and other topical cases prompt students to view science-society interactions as problematic and complex. Will not receive credit for SOCI 30 and SOCL 30

  • COMM 171. Environmental Communication (4)

    Survey of the communication practices found in environment controversies. The sociological aspects of environmental issues will provide background for the investigation of environmental disputes in particular contested areas, such as scientific institutions, communities, workplaces, governments, popular culture, and the media. Prerequisites: COMM 10 and one from COMM 100A, 100B, 100C.

  • PSYC 185. Psychology of Climate Crisis (4)

    This course provides tools for the student to think about the escalating climate crisis. Urgent action is needed at a large, societal scale to prevent the worst consequences of anthropogenic global heating. Better understanding the prospects for such action can come from human psychology. How do people arrive at their beliefs? What is the basis of denial and delay? How does belief flow to action? What kinds of actions can people take? Prerequisites: upper-division standing.

  • ECON 131. Economics of the Environment (4)

    Environmental issues from an economic perspective. Relation of the environment to economic growth. Management of natural resources, such as forest and fresh water. Policies on air, water, and toxic waste pollution. International issues such as ozone depletion and sustainable development. Prerequisites: ECON 2 or 100A.

  • ECON 132. Energy Economics (4)

    Energy from an economic perspective. Fuel cycles for coal, hydro, nuclear, oil, and solar energy. Emphasis on efficiency and control of pollution. Comparison of energy use across sectors and across countries. Global warming. Role of energy in the international economy. Prerequisites: ECON 1 and (ECON 2 or 3 or 100A or 131 or ESYS 103 or MAE 124) and MATH 10C or 20C or 31BH.

  • HILD 40. Anthropocene 1: The Neolithic (4)

    Examines controversial hypothesis that humans have had a significant impact on the Earth’s climate and ecosystems over the past 8,000 years by focusing on the origins of settled agriculture and its environmental implications, including effects on greenhouse gas emissions.

  • HILD 43. Anthropocene 4: The Great Acceleration, 1945–Present (4)

    Explores the intensification of industrialization and urbanization and their environmental impact, including skyrocketing greenhouse gas emissions, air and water pollution, soil depletion, and deforestation. Also, analyzes different environmentalisms and imagines futures distinct from climate catastrophe.

  • HISC 163/263. History, Science, and Politics of Climate Change (4)

    The complex historical development of human understanding of global climate change, including key scientific work, and the cultural dimensions of proof and persuasion. Special emphasis on the differential political acceptance of the scientific evidence in the United States and the world. Graduate students are required to submit an additional paper. Prerequisites: upper-division or graduate standing. Department stamp required.

  • ANSC 147 / GLBH 147. Global Health and the Environment (4)

    Examines interactions of culture, health, and environment. Rural and urban human ecologies, their energy foundations, sociocultural systems, and characteristic health and environmental problems are explored. The role of culture and human values in designing solutions will be investigated. Students may not receive credit for GLBH 147 and ANSC 147.

  • USP 169. Introduction to Green Building (4)

    Introduction to green building including the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system which explores sustainable strategies in the built environment including site, energy, water, materials, waste, and health. Develops a general understanding of concepts and prepares students for the LEED GA exam. Prerequisites: USP 124 and upper-division standing.

  • USP 170. Sustainable Planning (4)

    This course will explore the different factors and processes that shape a sustainable city. Contemporary green planning techniques and values will be evaluated. The course will also discuss planning, designing, and implementation of sustainable facilities that will reduce sprawl. Prerequisites: upper-division standing or consent of instructor.

  • USP 171. Sustainable Development (4)

    Sustainable development is a concept invoked by an increasingly wide range of scholars, activists, and organizations dedicated to promoting environmentally sound approaches to economic development. This course critically examines the diverse, often contradictory, interests in sustainability. It provides a transdisciplinary overview of emergent theories and practices. Prerequisites: upper-division standing.

  • ESYS 103 / MAE 124. Environmental Challenges: Science and Solutions (4)

    This course explores the impacts of human, social, economic, and industrial activity on the environment. It highlights the central roles in ensuring sustainable development played by market forces, technological innovation, and government regulation on local, national, and global scales. Prerequisites: Math 10A-C or Math 20B or consent of instructor. (S)

Arts and Humanities

  • PHIL 26. Science, Society, and Values (4)

    An exploration of the interaction between scientific theory and practice on the one hand, and society and values on the other. Topics can include the relationship between science and religion, global climate change, DNA, medicine, and ethics.

  • ANBI 174. Conservation and the Media: Film Lab (4)

    Conservation on a human-dominated planet is a complex topic. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. This course explores how films about conservation and the human predicament tackle current problems. What makes them effective and what makes them “fail”? We view one film a week and discuss it based on articles and books about that week’s topic. Prerequisites: upper-division standing.


  • ECE 128B. Power Grid Modernization (4)

    In-depth coverage of the future power grids. Covers the practical aspects of the technologies, their design and system implementation. Topics include the changing nature of the grid with renewable resources, smart meters, synchrophasors (PMU), microgrids, distributed energy resources, and the associated information and communications infrastructures. Presents actual examples and best practices. Students will be provided with various tools. Prerequisites: ECE 35 and ECE 128A.

  • ECE 128C. Power Grid Resiliency to Adverse Effects (4)

    This course offers unique insight and practical answers through examples, of how power systems can be affected by weather and what/how countermeasures can be applied to mitigate them to make the system more resilient. Detailed explanations of the impacts of extreme weather and applicable industry standards and initiatives. Proven practices for successful restoration of the power grid, increased system resiliency, and ride-through after extreme weather providing real examples from around the globe. Prerequisites: ECE 128B.

  • MAE 118. Introduction to Energy and Environment (4)

    Overview of present-day primary energy sources and availability: fossil fuel, renewable, and nuclear; heat engines; energy conservation, transportation, air pollution, and climate change. Students may not receive credit for both MAE 118 and MAE 118A. Prerequisites: MAE 101A or CENG 101A, or consent of instructor.

  • MAE 119. Introduction to Renewable Energy: Solar and Wind (4)

    Basic principles of solar radiation—diffuse and direct radiation; elementary solar energy engineering—solar thermal and solar photovoltaic; basic principles of wind dynamics—hydrodynamic laws, wind intermittency, Betz’s law; elementary wind energy engineering; solar and wind energy perspectives; operating the California power grid with 33 percent renewable energy sources. Students may not receive credit for both MAE 118B and MAE 119. Prerequisites: MAE 101A or CENG 101A, or consent of instructor.

  • MAE 125. Building Energy Efficiency (4)

    Physical building performance including building thermodynamics, daylighting, and solar control. Heat transfer through building envelope, solar geometry, and shading. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system design, water heating, microclimates, passive system design, energy efficient design, applicant energy use, cost estimating. Building energy codes and standards. Building design project with whole building energy simulation software. Prerequisites: upper-division standing.