Further information: George Kinney: Taking Personal Climate Action in Northfield

Course materials.  We’ll use the IPCC 6th Assessment summaries (https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/#TS ), the Northfield Climate Action Plan (https://www.ci.northfield.mn.us/DocumentCenter/View/8333/Climate-Action-Plan-Adopted-November-5-2019 ), and state and national goals.  In addition, these texts (available through bookfinder.com or can be ordered from Content books) will be used in our studies:

Under the Sky We Make, by Kimberly Nicholas (online price $13 new, $10 used)

Just Cool It! By David Suzuki and Ian Hanington (online price $14 new, $6 used)

The Story of  More by Hope Jahren (online $ 9 new or used). 

In addition, there will be outside speakers.

Week 1.  Read the Introduction and Chapters 1and 2 in Suzuki; Chapters 1-4 in Jahren.  Overview and objectives.  What is climate change? What can I do? How may I make a difference? What changes must we make to slow and stop the problem?  What stresses have weather changes caused both locally and globally — such as wars and climate change-induced migrations?  We’ll have an introduction to the documents, a short film, and an introduction to the concept of a climate footprint. 

Week 2. Before coming to class, please calculate your personal climate footprint, and read Suzuki Chap. 3, Jahren chap. 14, and Chapter 7 in Nicholas.  SCIENCE – YAY!  History and Physics — How was CO2 determined to increase heating of air? Lab work from 1856.  Term ‘greenhouse effect’, etc. Review CO2 readings on the top of Mauna Loa.  The world is currently releasing 51 gigatons/year (gigaton = billion tons) of CO2!  Discuss current and long-term problems with release of this amount of gas. How does the earth’s archaeological record see this problem?  Check ‘homework’ of carbon footprints.  How complex would an accurate carbon footprint be? What changes can students make to reduce the footprint? Look at the City of Northfield website for energy audit info. 

Week 3.  Read Jahren, Chap. 15, 16, and 17. Climate and local weather.  MN climate changes for seasonal rain/snow. Phenology changes.  Review the Northfield Climate Action Plan’s “Resilience Strategies” about flooding risks, adaptation to changes, and ways to increase resilience.  Review recent climate effects nationwide – fires, floods, hurricanes, and worldwide.  Short video. 

Week 4.  Read Nicholas Chapters 1-5 and 11; Jahren Chapter 9.The economy and its effect on climate change.  The current economic system is linear and dependent on growth and disposal.  A more ‘circular’ economy would reuse and regenerate material, and in the process reduce CO2.    Information on City, County, and state waste disposal system.

Week 5.  Read Suzuki Chapter 5, Nicholas Chapters 8-10, Jahren Chapters 5-9. 

Soils, agriculture, farming practices.  Regenerative agriculture — does it work? Fertilizer practices.  Effects of crops, dairy/beef, poultry, etc. Outside speaker discussing possible changes.  Seasonal changes affecting crops.  Also — Northfield’s tree canopy – the benefits for summer temperature management and amount of carbon capture.  Changes to tree species in the future?

Week 6.  Read Nicholas Chapter 9, Jahren Chapter 10.  Transportation now and going forward.  City estimate of “Transportation” sector of Carbon budget (Plan, p. 14), relate to estimates of US and world emissions worldwide (16% of world emissions are ‘transportation’). Discussion of future changes — electric vehicles, transit options, passenger rail, or more Zoom?  “Infrastructure” improvements mean concrete, which has a very high CO2 release rate, and asphalt which off-gasses CO2.

Week 7.  Read Suzuki Chapter 4, Jahren Chapter 15, and review Nicholas Chapter 10.  Local solutions.  Northfield CAP and Comprehensive Plan (speaker).  How may Northfield become a more livable and low carbon city?  Discuss the need to increase walkability and have better transit options (bus or train service?).  How to increase renewable energy and improve the local electric grid as more electricity is needed, as well as growing more food locally.

Week 8.  Read Suzuki Chapters 6,7, and Epilogue, Nicholas Chapter 13 and Conclusion, Jahren Appendices I, II, III, also handouts.  Where do we go from here?  Every little change adds up, so small changes are also important—make them!  Do we really need to go nuclear?  Is natural gas a “transition fuel”?  Discuss changes each student may make as a result of the class.