Program Details

Global Climate Change and Society (GCCS) is a REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) funded by the National Science Foundation. GCCS places scientific research within its larger social context, using experience in and reflection upon ongoing scientific research to create a learning and research community among students across the physical and social sciences and humanities.

Directed by a philosopher, a planetary physicist, and a policy scientist, GCCS is a cooperative program between academia (the University of Colorado) and government laboratories in the Boulder area (NCAR, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, NOAA, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and CIRES, the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences).

Students participants in the first two summers have come from a wide range of liberal arts colleges and universities, including Amherst College, the University of Chicago, the University of Puget Sound, Valparaiso University, Rutgers University, the University of California at Santa Cruz, the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, Tufts University, Wheaton College, Willamette University, Haverford College, Amherst College, Carleton College, Stanford University, and the University of Washington.

Program Goals

GCCS seeks to introduce a group of 12 undergraduates to the constellation of perspectives surrounding the question of global climate change. Students will gather and evaluate scientific data and investigate the social, political, psychological, economic, and philosophical issues surrounding the interpretation and use of these data for addressing contemporary controversies over global climate change.

This is an intensive program, involving lectures on physics, philosophy, and public policy, written reports, and evening seminars. GCCS consists of approximately equal measures of physical science, social science, and philosophy/humanities.
The program consists of three parts:

A) Students receive an intensive introduction key concepts in atmospheric science, philosophy, and policy science.

B) Beginning in week 2, and continuing into week 8, students will serve as half-time (20 hours/week) interns, assisting in various types of research related to global climate change at NCAR, NOAA, NIST, CIRES, and CU. Research projects may include work with data from climate models, global datasets, and field experiments with scientists at NCAR's Advanced Studies Program or its Environmental and Societal Impacts Group. Other projects are tied to research in the physical sciences, the policy sciences, or the humanities with researchers at CU, NOAA, and UCARís Digitial Library in Earth Science Education (DLESE). Still other students study the nature of interdisciplinarity, the philosophy of science policy, science and technology studies, or the relation of science and politics, ethics, metaphysics, or aesthetics (with climate change as the case study).

C) In week 8 interns complete a short essay drawing their own conclusions concerning the relevance of global climate change research to societal needs. The program concludes with a public conference where students present their work.
Program outcomes include papers published in scientific, public policy, and philosophic journals and presentations at national conferences.

The 2002 GCCS Calendar gives a complete schedule of activities from the 2002 program.

GCCS is a research project into the nature and pertinence of knowledge in the 21st century. We will be asking questions about the nature of our educational institutions, which embody modernist assumptions concerning the production of knowledge. This is the core question of our program, to be kept in mind as we pursue our various projects.