MIT is home to many groups and individuals who are working to better understand the science, economics, and politics of global climate change and sustainability. We are proud to represent some of their work on OCW. In honor of Earth Day, here’s a hand-picked selection of OCW’s best courses on these topics, organized around four themes: science foundations, new technology and engineering solutions, the continuum of economics-business-policy-politics, and perspectives from the humanities.
- 1.018J Ecology I: The Earth System
Fundamentals of ecology, considering Earth as an integrated dynamic system.
- 1.84J Atmospheric Chemistry
A detailed overview of chemical transformations in the Earth’s atmosphere, emphasizing the effects of human activity on air quality and climate.
- 12.007 Geobiology
The parallel evolution of life and the environment: interactions between biology and the earth system during the four billion years since life first appeared.
- 5.60 Thermodynamics & Kinetics
Prerequisite subject for climate science and energy studies.
- 12.003 Atmosphere, Ocean and Climate Dynamics
Introduces the physics governing circulation in the ocean and atmosphere, focusing on processes that control the planet’s climate.
- 12.340 Global Warming Science
Physics of the climate system and the science underpinning discussions of anthropogenic climate change.
- 12.009 Theoretical Environmental Analysis
Theoretical models connecting the physical and biological worlds, the comparison of theory to observational data, and associated mathematical methods.
- 12.842 Climate Physics and Chemistry
An overview of climate studies, including beginnings of the solar system, time scales, and climate in human history.
- 3.003 Principles of Engineering Practice
The interdisciplinary nature of 21st-century engineering projects: social, political, economic, and technological challenges, with a solar cell term project.
- 1.731 Water Resource Systems
Quantitative methods for analyzing large-scale water resources problems, including flood control, water supply, and groundwater remediation.
- 11.479J Water and Sanitation Infrastructure in Developing Countries
Technical, socio-cultural, public health, and economic factors affecting the planning and design of water and sanitation systems in developing countries.
- 2.500 Desalination and Water Purification
State-of-the-art water purification by sustainable use of desalination and filtration, with a term project on well-water purification for a village in Haiti.
- 22.081J Introduction to Sustainable Energy
Current and potential future energy systems which could meet regional and global energy needs in a sustainable manner.
- 4.42J Fundamentals of Energy in Buildings
A design-based first course in energy and thermo-sciences with applications to sustainable energy-efficient architecture and building technology.
- 2.627 Fundamentals of Photovoltaics
Understand the science, engineering implementation, and market and social forces driving this key solar energy technology.
- 7.347 Fueling Sustainability: Engineering Microbial Systems for Biofuel Production
Seminar on the conversion of plant biomass into ethanol.
- 22.033 Nuclear Systems Design Project
Senior capstone design course: a novel power plant that integrates emission-free electricity with carbon sequestration and fossil fuel displacement.
- SP.721 D-Lab I: Development
How quality of life in low-income households can be improved by adaptation of low cost and sustainable technologies.
- SP.775 D-Lab: Energy
Hands-on project-based course on small-scale sustainable energy technology in developing countries.
- 14.42 Environmental Policy and Economics
Should air and water pollution regulations be tightened or loosened? What are the costs of climate change in the U.S. and abroad?
- 14.475 Environmental Economics and Government Responses to Market Failure
Regulatory, tax, and other government responses to problems of market failure, with special emphasis on tools to evaluate environmental policies.
- 12.103 Science and Policy of Natural Hazards
The science of natural catastrophes, cause and effect and predictability, and the relationships between the science of and policy toward such hazards.
- 15.023J Global Climate Change: Economics, Science, and Policy
Scientific, economic, and ecological issues underlying the threat of global climate change, and assessment of proposed policy measures.
- 15.031J Energy Decisions, Markets, and Policies
Choices and constraints regarding sources and uses of energy by households, firms, and governments.
- 15.992 S-Lab: Laboratory for Sustainable Business
Learn how individuals, organizations, and society can undergo change at the pace needed to stave off sustainability problems.
- 11.165 Infrastructure and Energy Technology Challenges
A seminar on efforts in developing and advanced nations and regions to create, finance, and regulate infrastructure and energy technologies.
- 11.364 International Environmental Negotiation
Explores the difficulties of getting agreement on global definitions of sustainability; in particularly building international support for efforts to combat climate change.
- 11.S196 Global Freshwater Crisis
The UN predicts that by 2025, over half of the countries in the world will face water stress or shortages. What’s causing this crisis? What are some potential solutions?
- 11.941 Urban Climate Adaptation
Examines the challenges that cities will face and strategies they can use to prepare for the impacts of climate change.
- 11.941 Disaster, Vulnerability and Resilience
Factors that give rise to disaster vulnerability, and the social and political processes associated with disaster policy and planning.
- 17.181 Sustainable Development: Theory and Policy
Explores of the notion of “sustainable development,” including both industrial countries and developing states and economies in transition.
- 17.32 Environmental Politics and Policy
Environmental policymaking in the United States: why is it crisis-driven, and why do political factors seem to overwhelm sound scientific and engineering judgment?
- 17.441 International Politics and Climate Change
Interaction of international politics and climate change: conflict (insecurity due to environmental dislocations) and cooperation (international treaties).
- 21H.421 Introduction to Environmental History
Influence of climate, topography, plants, animals, and microorganisms on human history since 1500, and the reciprocal influence of people on the environment.
- 21H.207 The Energy Crisis: Past and Present
How Americans have confronted energy challenges since the end of World War II.
- 24.04J Justice | Linguistics and Philosophy
Three opposing theories of social justice—utilitarianism, libertarianism, and egalitarian liberalism—each central to contemporary politics and discourse.
- 24.03 Good Food: The Ethics and Politics of Food Choices
Explore the values (aesthetic, moral, cultural, religious, prudential, political) expressed in the choices of food people eat.
- 21W.730-3 Writing and the Environment
Survey the works of popular science writers, lesser-known geologists, biologists, and hydrologists, and famous environmentalists.
- STS.034 Science Communication: A Practical Guide
How to communicate science effectively in real-world contexts, especially for complex and challenging topics such as climate change.
Other Course Lists
- Energy Courses
An interdisciplinary list of energy-related courses on OCW.
- Environment Courses
An interdisciplinary list of environment-related courses on OCW.