Climate Change Science, Communication, and Action

Climate Change Science, Communication, and Action

Course will be offered in fall 2019


Description:  Interested in working toward climate solutions? Want to learn more about how to talk to people about climate change? This course covers the basics of climate change, from science to action, and will assist you in developing a consistent climate message.

In this 6-week online course, you will start by getting to know each other and the basics of climate science and climate change impacts on our food and water supply, and human health (weeks 1-2). You will then learn about climate change communication and environmental psychology research and consider how this can inform your educational and environmental practices (weeks 3-4). Finally, you will hear about climate change adaptation and mitigation community solutions as well as examples of climate change communication in action (week 5-6). Each week will feature a discussion question and a quiz. For your final assignment, you will complete a project plan that details how you will apply course material to your practices. You will have two extra weeks after the course ends to submit your final assignment.



This course is offered in partnership with Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the Civic Ecology Lab.


Course Delivery.

  • Material. Pre-recorded video lectures, assigned readings, discussions, and quizzes.
    • You can access course lectures, readings, and discussion assignments at any time during the course, but we encourage you to keep up with the assignments for any one week. Course participants may complete assignments alone or with other students.
  • Platform. We will host this course on edX Edge, where you will find all required videos, readings, assignments, and discussions.
  • Optional Webinars. We will host optional webinars each week that will be recorded and posted for those course members who are unable to attend. Webinar calendar coming soon! 
  • Optional social media groups. We will use closed Facebook and WeChat groups as optional discussion platforms where course instructors and participants can post resources, pose questions, and “meet” others with similar interests. Participants may also choose to form their own community groups on Facebook, WeChat, or platforms like WhatsApp.

Participants: Cooperative Extension Educators, Master Volunteers, state and local government, land-trusts and other non-profits, and others interested in an introduction to climate change science and in how to communicate effectively about this important topic. Available to students in any country. Lectures and readings are in English.

Small grants available to Cornell Cooperative Extension Associations interested in facilitating local, face-to-face course groups.

Cost$50 fee. Options available to pay a higher fee to sponsor another student. Those for whom $50 would constitute a hardship may pay a lower fee, and those who have no ability to transfer funds or to pay may apply for a scholarship. You will find more details in the registration form where you will choose among payment options.

Educational approach: The course is based in three principles: (1) Learning is social: we learn effectively within a social context, thus networking and exchange of ideas among participants is crucial; (2) Learning can lead to innovation: course participants can work together building on the course materials to develop new ideas for environmental education; and (3) Learning can foster practice change: we will discuss how course ideas and new ideas emerging in this course can transfer to collective and individual climate change action. The course uses the edX edge learning management system and optional closed groups on Facebook to facilitate idea and resource exchange.


Learning Outcomes:

Through this course, you will:

  1. Increase your understanding of the basics of climate change science and communication and action strategies.
  2. Make new connections and share resources as part of an online network of motivated
  3. Enhance climate-related education and actions with youth, students, private land-owners, gardeners, master volunteers, municipal officials, colleagues, and others.

Certificates: Participants who complete the course are awarded a Cornell University certificate. Students who complete weekly assignments along with a course project will earn a Certificate of Professional Development. Weekly assignments include watching lectures, readings, discussion posts, and quizzes. The course project is creating a climate change action plan.

Format. You will learn about basic climate change science, impacts, communication strategies, and actions. You will participate in weekly online discussions, complete short quizzes, and compete a final project in which you apply what you have learned to your work (develop a climate change action plan). Plan on an average of 3-4 hours a week of work during the course. We encourage you to form a team of colleagues or friends to take the course together.

Benefits to the Learner. You will learn about climate change science, communication, and action from experts and apply this knowledge to local climate action projects. You will also have the opportunity to share your ideas and projects with other participants and learn from each other. You can use the materials for proposal writing, program development, and to enhance your career.

Course ParticipationOne of the most important benefits of online learning is the opportunity to meet and support colleagues. Please share your thoughts about course materials, your practices, your successes, and challenges you have faced when dealing with climate change issues. Visit the edX Edge discussion boards (required) and course Facebook group (optional) often and comment on your fellow participants’ posts.


This course features lecturers from Cornell Institute for Climate Change Solutions, the Civic Ecology Lab, Cornell Department of Communication, and Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Mike Hoffmann
Executive Director
Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions
Anne Armstrong
MS/PhD Student
Department of Natural Resources
Allison Chatrchyan
Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions
Marianne Krasny
Civic Ecology Lab, Department of Natural Resources
Jonathon Schuldt
Associate Professor
Department of Communication
Danielle Eiseman
Post-Doctoral Researcher
Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions
Lori Brewer
Senior Extension Associate
Cornell Cooperative Extension


Course Outline

Week 1: Climate Change Science (September 11-September 17)

What is climate change? What evidence do we have that it is happening? What are some key climate change impacts? Week 1 provides an overview to basic climate change science and impacts.

Topics: Course introduction, Climate Change 101, Climate Change Evidence, Climate Change and Public Health, Climate Change and Water, Climate Change and Food

Week 2: Climate Change Impacts (September 18-September 24)

Week 2 provides an overview of climate change communication and environmental psychology research that helps us understand how people think about climate change and gives us tools for better communicating about the issue.

Topics: Public Opinion and Climate Change (US), Global Climate Change Attitudes, Climate Change and Risk Perception, Climate Change and Identity, Trusted Messengers

Week 3: Climate Change Communication, Part 1 (September 25-October 1).

Week 3 will provide an overview of what people in the US and around the world think about climate change. Lectures draw on research from communication and social psychology to provide explanations for climate change polarization in the US.

Topics: Climate change risk perception, attitudes, barriers to action

Week 4: Climate Change Communication, Part 2 (October 2-October 8)

Week 4 will introduce concepts like trusted messengers and framing that can aid us in communicating with specific audiences. Discussion this week will require participants to reflect on how to employ these concepts in building partnereships and connecting with different stakeholder or audience groups.

Topics: Trusted messengers, framing, message crafting


Week 5: Climate Smart Planning and Project Work (October 9-October 15)

Week 5 introduces the broad categories of climate change action and emphasizes the important role of local communities in fighting climate change.

Topics: Mitigation, adaptation, climate smart communities, gardening in a warming world

Week 6: Climate Smart Planning and Project Work (October 16-October 22)

Week 6 will build on themes from Week 5 by taking a more in depth look at climate change actions communities are taking around the world. There will not be as much required content in this week to leave participants time to work on their final projects.

Topics: Examples of international action, former MOOC student action plans

During the week of November 5, participants will have the opportunity to sign up for virtual feedback sessions with instructors. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Course email  When you email us, please always start the subject of your email with “Climate Change Course” so that we can find your message.
  2. Why do you have four types of enrollment for different fees? Nearly all students pay the $50 fee. Some course participants are able to pay more and sponsor a student who is unable to pay. Only students who are not able to take the course because of the fee use the options of  paying a smaller fee or taking the course for free. We are committed to creating equal access to the course materials and to instructor feedback regardless of a student’s ability to pay.
  3. If I pay $100, can I link with the student I sponsor? No, we keep who pays and who doesn’t pay anonymous. However, you will be able to connect with students from many different countries through the course discussion board and social media.
  4. Can I sponsor more than one student? Yes, we would be grateful for your support of other students, especially in developing countries, who otherwise cannot afford paying for this course.
  5. How long is the course? This is a 7-week course, and it requires about 4 hours of work per week. All required learning materials are offered asynchronously. Only optional webinars are synchronous, and they are recorded in case if you prefer to watch at another time.
  6. Can I submit the final project in my native language? We strongly encourage you to submit all assignments in English so that instructors and other students can give you feedback. We also accept and give feedback on assignments submitted in Chinese and Spanish.
  7. How will I receive course certificates? You will receive your PDF course certificate within one month after the end of the course — only if you fulfilled the course requirements.
  8. What social media are used in this course? We use an optional Facebook group and WeChat group where students and instructors share ideas and resources. Students gain a great deal from exchanging ideas and resources and “meeting” fellow students and instructors on social media. However, participating in social media is not required to earn a certificate. Only course participants can be part of this Facebook group. Do NOT invite your friends or colleagues to this group. You can participate in both the Facebook and WeChat group (WeChat is mostly in Chinese).
  9. Which languages are used in the course? We use English. Some materials (video lecture subtitles, and some lecture summaries) are posted in Chinese and Spanish.
  10. Can I share course materials with my colleagues and friends? You are NOT allowed to share, copy, distribute, or forward any readings from this course. They are only for your own learning. All readings in this course are copyright protected, and nobody is permitted to share them outside this course. Course syllabus cannot be shared. You are welcome to share your learning experiences and course projects with your colleagues and friends.
This project is supported in part by Smith-Lever Act Capacity Funds provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture