Skip to main content

A Commitment to Climate Change Education

From graduate programs to our extension site, UC San Diego offers ample opportunities for climate change study. These degree programs and courses are taught by some of the world's foremost authorities on climate change and prepare our students at every level to consider climate change implications in their ongoing work.


UC San Diego offers 14 undergraduate major degrees and six minor degrees related to climate change including anthropology, bioethics, climate change studies, environmental systems, mechanical engineering, public health and more.

Choose from 25 climate change-related Masters and Ph.D. program options, three one-year accelerated Masters of Advanced Studies (MAS) degrees and the Program for Interdisciplinary Environmental Research (PIER) Specialization for Ph.D. students.

See the Degree Programs

Educating One Million Climate Change Warriors

Bending the Curve: Climate Change Solutions™ is a multifaceted education project initiated by the University of California with participation by all 10 campuses of the UC system. It is also available as an open online course accessible to anyone worldwide. The Bending the Curve curriculum aims to empower a million climate champions around the globe to solve the climate change problem.

Bending the Curve

Featured Climate Change Courses by Research Area


ANTH 106. Climate and Civilization

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

ANTH 108. Indigenous Peoples, Extractive Development, and Climate Change

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?


ANAR 120. Documenting Climate Change: Past and Present

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.

ANAR 186. The Human Era: The Archaeology of the Anthropocene

The course uses a comparative perspective to examine changes in how human societies organized themselves after the end of the last Ice Age across the world and the impact that those changes had on the planet’s natural environment.

Arts and Culture

Hearing Seascapes

Lei Liang, Department of Music, co-leads “Hearing Seascapes,” an ongoing project and graduate level course that reimagines the life and sounds of varied aquatic locales such as the Arctic and tropical coral reefs.

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

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.

Atmosphere and Climate

SIO 173. Dynamics of the Atmosphere and Climate

Introduction to the dynamical principles governing the atmosphere and climate using observations, numerical models, and theory to understand atmospheric circulation, weather systems, severe storms, marine layer, Santa Ana winds, El Niño, climate variability, and other phenomena.

SIO 60: Experiences in Oceanic and Atmospheric Science

Oceanic and atmospheric sciences are introduced through a series of modules where students learn basic principles in the classroom and then have hands-on experiences demonstrating these principles. The course will include trips to the beach, the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier, and laboratories at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Biological Sciences

BIEB 182. Biology of Global Change

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.

BIEB 174. Ecosystems and Global Change

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.

Chemistry and Biochemistry

CHEM 171. Environmental Chemistry I

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.

CHEM 173. Atmospheric Chemistry

An introduction to chemical concerns in nature with emphasis on soil and water issues like agricultural productivity, biological impacts in the environment, deforestation, ocean deserts, natural and manmade disasters (fires, nuclear winter, volcanoes), and waste handling.


COMM 171. Environmental Communication

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.

WCWP 10A: The Writing Course A: Introduction to Academic Argumentation

The purpose of the Warren Writing sequence is to enable undergraduate students, through intensive practice, to read and write academic arguments in preparation for their work in various academic disciplines. It is required of all Warren College students. Includes learning outcome: Define climate justice and analyze ideologies, course texts, and social movements promoting and opposing climate justice.


ECON 131. Economics of the Environment

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.

ECON 132. Energy Economics

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.


MAE 118. Introduction to Energy and Environment

Overview of present-day primary energy sources and availability: fossil fuel, renewable, and nuclear; heat engines; energy conservation, transportation, air pollution, and climate change.

MAE 119. Introduction to Renewable Energy: Solar and Wind

Overview of present-day primary energy sources and availability: fossil fuel, renewable, and nuclear; heat engines; energy conservation, transportation, air pollution, and climate change.


MAE 148. Introduction to Autonomous Vehicles

Fundamentals of autonomous vehicles. Working in small teams, students will develop 1/8-scale autonomous cars that must perform on a simulated city track. Topics include robotics system integration, computer vision, algorithms for navigation, on-vehicle vs. off-vehicle computation, computer learning systems such as neural networks, locomotion systems, vehicle steering, dead reckoning, odometry, sensor fusion, GPS autopilot limitations, wiring, and power distribution and management.

MAE 121. Air Pollution Transport and Dispersion Modeling

Overview of air pollution and wastes and their impact. Characteristics of air pollutants. Air pollution transport. Atmospheric stability. Plume rise and dispersion. Meteorological data. Selecting the appropriate air quality model and case studies. Modeling complex terrain situations. Current air quality modeling issues. Laws and regulations to control air pollution.

Entrepreneurial Partnerships and Business

MGT 166. Business Ethics and Corporate Responsibility

Will cover ethical conduct issues for leaders from a wide array of organizations and industries including consideration of differences among global trading partners. The issues impacting corporate responsibility will be examined as will full-cycle cost analysis of products and services.

MGT 167. Social Entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurs create innovative solutions to solve challenging social and environmental issues affecting the world around them. In this course, students will learn how to apply entrepreneurial business and innovative skills to effectively tackle global issues impacting society such as environmental degradation, rural health care availability, educational improvements in economically disadvantaged regions of the world, famine in an era of obesity, and clean water development.

Ethnic Studies and Social Justice

ETHN 103. Environmental Racism

This course will examine the concept of environmental racism, the empirical evidence of its widespread existence, and the efforts by government, residents, workers, and activists to combat it. We will examine those forces that create environmental injustices in order to understand its causes as well as its consequences.

ETHN 136. The Science and Critical Analysis of Environmental Justice

Introduction to the scientific basis and critical analysis of environmental justice, with an emphasis on case studies, activism, and community engagement. This course will prepare students to critique and develop scientific models, research designs, and measurements consistent with environmental justice.

Food, Agriculture and Aquaculture

ANAR 146. Feeding the World

What should we eat and how should we farm to guide a sustainable future? This course will examine what humans evolved to eat and how we began to first cultivate the foods we rely on today. After a survey of traditional farming methods around the world, we will examine how farming systems have changed since the Green Revolution and its successes and failures. The final part of class will focus on the last twenty years, when humans began to modify plant life at the genetic level.

GPPA 483. Food Security

The course will introduce students to the world food economy and its drivers. The first part of the course will consider the forces governing food prices and supply. The second part uses quantitative assessment of policy changes. The third part frames future constraints to food security.

Geosciences and Geology

SIO 10. The Earth

An introduction to structure of the Earth and the processes that form and modify it. Emphasizes material that is useful for understanding geological events as reported in the news and for making intelligent decisions regarding the future of our environment.

ESYS 102. The Solid and Fluid Earth

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.


SIO 116. Climate Change and Global Health: Understanding the Mechanisms

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.

GLBH 147. Global Health and the Environment

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.


SIO 30. The Oceans

Presents modern ideas and descriptions of the physical, chemical, biological, and geological aspects of oceanography, and considers the interactions between these aspects. Intended for students interested in the oceans, but who do not necessarily intend to become professional scientists.

SIO 143. Ocean Acidification

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.

Philosophy, Ethics and Religion

PHIL 148. Philosophy and the Environment

Investigation of ethical and epistemological questions concerning our relationship to the environment. Topics may include the value of nature, biodiversity, policy and science, and responsibility to future generations.

ANTH 111. Religion and Ecology: How Religion Matters in the Anthropocene

This course will study the role that religion has played, and possibly will play, in the Anthropocene, with religion construed broadly and comparatively. Topics include use of religion and ritual to regulate the ecology, religious conceptions of the relation between humanity and nature, how religion shapes ethical stances toward the nonhuman, religious ideas of ownership or stewardship of nonhuman resources, and the role of apocalyptic narratives in shaping reaction to climate change.

Polar Regions

SIO 115. Ice and the Climate System

This course examines the Earth’s cryosphere, including glaciers, ice sheets, ice caps, sea ice, lake ice, river ice, snow, and permafrost. We cover the important role of the cryosphere in the climate systems and its response to climate change.

SIO 121. Biology of the Cryosphere

The cryosphere comprises sea ice, glaciers, snow, and other frozen environments. Changing rapidly in the face of global climate change, these environments host unique and highly adapted ecosystems that play an important role in the global earth system. In this course we will explore the physiology and ecology of organisms in the cryosphere and peripheral habitats. A special emphasis will be placed on sea ice as a habitat archetype, but glacier, snow, and permafrost will also be covered.

Policy and Political Science

POLI 110M. Green Political Thought

Leading theories of environmental justice, ethics, and politics since 1960. Thinkers such as Dauvergne, Dobson, Dryzek, Eckersley, Latour, Plumwood, and Simon on ecosystems, climate change, sustainability, preservation, human welfare, nonhuman animals, place, feminism, state, market, and green political movements.

POLI 162. Environmental Policy

This course will explore contemporary environmental issues such as global warming, endangered species, and land use. Students will be asked to analyze various policy options and to write case analyses.


PHYS 12. Energy and the Environment

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.

SIO 117. The Physical Basis of Global Warming

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.

Psychology and Sociology

PSYC 185. Psychology of Climate Crisis

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?

SIO 25. Climate Change and Society

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.

Urban Planning

USP 170. Sustainable Planning

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.

USP 171GS. International Sustainable Development

Sustainable development is a broad concept that encompasses efforts to promote environmentally sound approaches to economic, social, and physical development. This course provides a critical, transdisciplinary overview of emergent theories and practices of sustainability in an international comparative context.