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POL S 458 A: Climate Politics

Meeting Time: 
MW 3:30pm - 5:20pm
SMI 305
Prof. Aseem Prakash
Aseem Prakash

Syllabus Description:

Climate Politics and Governance (POL S 458A)

 Aseem Prakash

Fall 2023


 Class Time:

Monday and Wednesday, 3:30-5:20 

Smith 305


Office Hours:       

By appointment, please email <>


Course Objective

Climate change is perhaps the defining challenge of our time. Because it critically affects every aspect of our life, climate governance is complex and contested. There are several ways climate policies can support economic growth and create new opportunities. But climate policies can also create winners and losers and create social conflict. This undergraduate seminar will examine important policy issues in climate governance such as mitigation and adaptation policies, climate migration, climate justice, and climate finance. We will examine how well the existing approaches and institutions are working, and what new initiatives can help us respond to the climate challenge.



Readings are either uploaded on Canvas or I have provided the article URL.


This is a Device Free Class

Research suggests that the use of electronic devices in class can be distracting for you and for your colleagues. Therefore, to enhance your learning experience, during the class you are not allowed to use phones, tablets, laptops or any Internet connectable devices. Please take notes using a pen and a note book.

Course Expectations

This course requires active student participation. You are expected to energetically and thoughtfully contribute to class discussions in the following ways.


Writing Memos

Article memos

For every session (except sessions 4 and 5), students will be assigned an article to present and critique. The discussant-presenter should prepare a two-page (single-spaced) “Article Memo” which summarizes the article, examines its strengths and weaknesses, and identifies questions it raises for future research. Please email this memo to me by Monday 9:00 am for the Monday afternoon class, and by Wednesday 9:00 am for the Wednesday afternoon class. The discussant-presenter should budget about 10 minutes for the in-class oral presentation (no power point). In the course of this quarter, you will probably be assigned to present 2 or 3 articles.

Key questions memo

I expect seminar participants to review all the assigned readings prior to the class.  Based on these readings for a given session, you will write a “Key questions” memo.  In this memo, identify two or three questions or issues that emerge from the assigned readings, along with a rationale as to why these questions are important. Your “Key Questions Memo” should be about one page (single-spaced) and reach me by Monday 9:00 am for the Monday afternoon class, and by Wednesday 9:00 am for the Wednesday afternoon class.

I have divided the course into three modules with about seven class sessions for every module.  You need to write 2 key question memos (for two different class sessions) from every module (this means, 6 key question memos in total).

Think of Module 1. Suppose you like readings from session 3. After reading the articles assigned for this session, think of two or three overarching questions that you believe emerge from these readings and should be covered during class discussions.

Please note: If you are assigned to present a specific article for session 3 (and therefore writing the article memo), you will not write a key question memo for this session.


Research Paper

Identify two countries, cities, or firms and compare how they are responding to climate change (note: you cannot write on the US, Washington state, Seattle, King County, and China). Specifically:


  • Identify two units you wish to study.
  • Briefly explain how they are similar or different (the rationale for comparing them)?
  • Specify the policies (mitigation and/or adaptation) you will be comparing.
  • Why are you focusing on these policies; what do you think they might reveal about these units' climate policies?
  • Do you expect the responses of these units will be similar or different? Why?
  • Therefore what? How do you think this study might move forward your understanding of climate policy?

Please write in regular prose and not in bullet points. The one-page outline is due November 7 and a five-page (single-spaced; excluding references and tables) research paper is due December 7. I recommend structuring your paper in sections and subsections.

We will also schedule presentations (10 minutes per student) towards the end of the quarter (no PowerPoint).



In total, you can score 100 points. To convert this into a 4-point scale, I will simply divide it by 25.

Article Memos:                    20 points (10 points per memo * 2 memos)

Key Questions Memos:       30 points (5 points per memo * 6 memos)

Class Participation:             20 points

Research Paper:                   20 points

Research Presentation:      10 points

Total: 100 points



I reserve the right to change the syllabus without prior notice.


Religious Accommodation

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for the accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request accommodation, is available at Faculty Syllabus Guidelines and Resources. Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form available at


Class Schedule



Session 1

Wednesday, September 28

Syllabus and course expectations 

  1. Different approaches to reducing aviation emissions: reviewing the structure-agency debate in climate policy., NICOLE

  1. Did Your Handbag Help Destroy the Rainforest?

  1. Texas Is the Country’s Clean Energy Leader, Almost in Spite of Itself. EMILY

  1. Think You’re Making Good Climate Choices? Take This Mini-Quiz (NO PRESENTER)


Session 2

Monday, October 3


  1. Can we save the planet by shrinking the economy? SHERN

  1. In the wake of a wildfire, who gets to rebuild? MALLIH

  1. Climate Strikes: What They Accomplish and How They Could Have More Impact

  1. A New York power line divided environmentalists. Here’s what it says about the larger climate fight. LINDSAY

  1. Wildfire Smoke is Erasing progress on Clean Air.


Session 3

Wednesday, October 5

Perspective and approaches

10. On the divergent American reactions to terrorism and climate change. Canvas. OWEN

11. Climate change and the Syrian civil war revisited. Canvas NOLAN

  1. Tree planting 'has mind-blowing potential' to tackle climate crisis MATTHEW D

 13. The ‘Green Energy’ That Might Be Ruining the Planet. THOMAS

  1. The Activists Who Embrace Nuclear Power QI


Session 4

Monday, October 10 (NO MEMOS)

Global Energy Transition

Guest Speaker: Scott Montgomery

Zoom link (NOT linked through Canvas):;!...$

15. Green Upheaval New Geopolitics of Energy. Canvas

  1. The energy debate over "green colonialism" in Africa. Canvas

 17. World Energy Outlook 2021: Executive Summary


Session 5

Wednesday, October 12 (NO MEMOS)

Climate Anxiety

Guest Speaker: Dr. Robert Berley

Zoom link (NOT linked through Canvas): []
 18. Apocalypse When? (Not) thinking or talking about climate change. Canvas


19. Resources for working with Climate emotions - A collaboration between Gen Dread and The All We Can Save Project.

  1. Recognizing Eco-Anxiety - What It Is and Ways You Might Be Affected. Canvas


Session 6

Monday, October 17

Challenges in climate mitigation

21. Cool dudes: The denial of climate change among conservative White males in the United States. Canvas CAROLINA

22. Advancing bipartisan decarbonization policies: lessons from state-level successes and failures. Canvas EMMA

23. Do Windy Areas have more Wind Turbines: An Empirical Analysis of Wind Installed Capacity in Native Tribal Nations. Canvas TALEAH

24, My Native Alaskan Community Needs the Willow Oil Project LUCAS

25. Varieties of Just Transition: Climate Policy and Coal Communities in South Africa. Canvas SARAH


Session 7

Wednesday, October 19

Barriers to climate response

26. How climate change could spark the next home mortgage disaster ADITI

 27. African nations’ dash for gas exposes division at the UN and ‘hypocrisy’ in Europe NICOLAS

28. Carbon leakages through trade LAUREN

 29. Palm Oil Was Supposed to Help Save the Planet. Instead It Unleashed a Catastrophe. ALEXA

 30. The Battle of Thacker Pass: Electric cars require a lot of lithium. A showdown in Nevada shows that getting it won’t be easy. MARY

________________________ Module  2 _______________________

Session 8

Monday, October 24

New issues

31. Solar geoengineering as part of an overall strategy for meeting the 1.5 C Paris target. Canvas HENRY

32. What to Do About Pig Poop? North Carolina Fights a Rising Tide. Canvas MADDIE

33. Legal Experts Define a New Global Crime: ‘Ecocide YACOV

34. Justice or overreach?: As crucial test looms, Big Greens are under fire JENNIFER

35. Industrial Agriculture, an Extraction Industry Like Fossil Fuels, a Growing Driver of Climate Change ELLA


Session 9

Wednesday, October 26

Consumer responsibility

36. Consumers' preferences for carbon labels and the underlying reasoning. A mixed methods approach in 6 European countries TALIA

37.  Consumer Readiness to Reduce Meat Consumption for the Purpose of Environmental Sustainability: Insights from Norway MIA

38. Carbon labels in tourism: persuasive communication? Canvas LACEY

 39. Consumer behavior and climate change: consumers need considerable assistance ISABEL



Session 10

Monday, October 31


 40. The politics of climate change adaptation CAROLINA

41. High mountain communities and climate change: adaptation, traditional ecological knowledge, and institutions. MALLIH  Canvas

42.  Farmworkers at Risk MATT C

43. In the waterlogged Netherlands, climate change is considered neither a hypothetical nor a drag on the economy. Instead, it’s an opportunity. EMILY


Session 11

Wednesday, November 2

Incorporating adaptation in the policy process

 44. Exploring the Adaptation-Mitigation Relationship: Does Information on the Costs of Adapting to Climate Change Influence Support for Mitigation? Canvas LINDSAY

45. Outdoor Recreation and Climate Adaptation PEYTON

46. Lessons from New York: What makes a community turn against climate adaptation? OWEN

47. The Jersey shore would rather fight flooding with walls than retreat NOLAN


Paper outline is due

Session 12

Monday, November 7

Droughts and climate change

48. Wall Street Eyes Billions in Colorado’s Water MATTHEW D

49. In southeastern Arizona, farms drill a half-mile deep while families pay the price QI


50. Drought and water policy in Australia: Challenges for the future illustrated by the issues associated with water trading and climate change adaptation in the Murray–Darling Basin. Canvas THOMAS

 51. First solar canal project is a win for water, energy, air and climate in California EMMA


Session 13

Wednesday, November 9

Climate migration

 52. Climate change as a migration driver from rural and urban Mexico. Canvas. TALEAH

53. Breaking a Vicious Circle of Climate Change in Zimbabwe LUCAS

54. Welcoming climate refugees to the United States: Do attitudes depend on refugee origins, numbers, or permanence? Canvas. SARAH

55. Willingness to Help Climate Migrants: A Survey Experiment in the Korail Slum of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Canvas SHERN


___________________ ______________________Module 3___________________________________________

Session 14

Monday, November 14

 Gender and climate change

56. Effects of gender on climate change knowledge and concern in the American public. Canvas. NICOLAS

57. Virtue and vulnerability: Discourses on women, gender and climate change.  Canvas LAUREN

58. Is adaptation to climate change gender neutral? Lessons from communities dependent on livestock and forests in northern Mali. Canvas ALEXA

59. The Role of Gender and Caste in Climate Adaptation Strategies in Nepal EMILY


Session 15

Wednesday, November 16

Climate justice

 60. Three Faces of Climate Justice. Canvas MARY

61. A Power Struggle Over Cobalt Rattles the Clean Energy Revolution HENRY

62. Can California’s Cap and Trade Actually Address Environmental Justice? ADITI

63. Is carbon offsetting the solution? (Or part of the problem?) MADDIE

64. Urban Heatwaves Are Worse For Low-Income Neighborhoods JENNIFER


Session 16

Monday, November 21

Climate finance and insurance

 65. Wildfires Hasten Another Climate Crisis: Homeowners Who Can’t Get Insurance YACOV

66. A broke, and broken, flood insurance program ELLA

67. Signaling climate resilience to municipal bond markets: does membership in adaptation‑focused voluntary clubs affect  bond rating? Canvas TALIA

68. Federal Report Warns of Financial Havoc From Climate Change MIA

69. A Managed decline for Oil-Dependent Regions: How sovereign wealth funds can support a just transition to clean energy. LACEY


Session 17

Wednesday, November 23

Business dimension

70. Performative and political: Corporate constructions of climate change risk ISABELL

71. Milton Friedman Versus Jeff Bezos on Climate Leadership CAROLINA

72. An ESG Reckoning Is Coming ADITI

73. The impact of climate change on the pattern of demand for bottled water and non-alcoholic beverages. MATT C Canvas

 74. The Power to Stay: Climate, Cocoa, and the Politics of Displacement. PEYTON Canvas


Session 18

Monday, November 28

In-class presentations

Ataee Mallih 
Baker Emily 
Bartholomew Lindsay 
Chalfant Matt 
Dearmondmacleod Owen 
Degarlais Nolan 
Dollinger Matthew 

Session 19

Wednesday, November 30

In-class presentations

Dubeau Thomas
Ge Qi
Groshart Peyton
Hirshblond Emma
Ives Taleah
Kleyn Lucas
Lai Sarah

Session 20

Monday, December 5

In-class presentations

 Lim Shern 
Lombroia Nicholas 
Lozier Lauren
Malone Alexa 
Menon Aditi 
Nguyen Mary
O'Reilly Maddie


Research Paper is due

Session 21

Wednesday, December 7

In-class presentations

Oppliger Jennifer 
Paley Yacov
Persson Ella 
Pettitt Talia
Rendahl Mia 
Robertson Lacey 
Schou Isabella 
Valdez, Carolina      


Catalog Description: 
Examines important issues and policies in climate politics such as mitigation and adaptation, climate migration, climate justice, and climate finance. Assesses the effectiveness of existing policy approaches and institutions. Explores initiatives to respond to the climate challenge.
GE Requirements: 
Social Sciences (SSc)
Last updated: 
September 16, 2022 - 10:01pm