Free online climate change mitigation course

Submitted by: Ian Preston, Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Emissions from a power plant.

Climate change mitigation refers to actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Copyright: kodda / 123RF Stock Photo.

The University of Cape Town has launched a free, online course entitled Climate Change Mitigation in Developing Countries. Climate change mitigation refers to actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Climate Change Mitigation course examines how the governments of countries, such as Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, and South Africa, attempt to balance the goals of economic growth and poverty alleviation with that of reducing of greenhouse gas emissions.

The chief facilitator of the Climate Change Mitigation course, Professor Harald Walker (Director, Energy Research Centre, University of Cape Town), runs the course in collaboration with the Mitigation Action Plans & Scenarios (MAPS) Programme. MAPS is an alliance of people working together from countries in the global South. “The MAPS Programme [which developed the MAPS process] was started by UCT Energy Resource Centre, and it has focused on the global South. The course is focused on the MAPS Process. The choice of case studies [Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, and South Africa] was based on where the countries were in the climate change mitigation process, and if they were willing and able to commit resources to the MAPS Process,” said Peter Atkins, one of the course mentors.

Over six weeks, the Climate Change Mitigation course, uses the MAPS Process to examine how a long-term, evidence-based programme can contribute to balancing economic growth with poverty alleviation and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The course provides a weekly module on each of the following topics:

  • Complexity of climate change mitigation
  • Mandating co-production of knowledge
  • Mitigation action research and modelling
  • Minding the mitigation gap
  • Responding to mitigation challenges
  • Bridges to domestic and international policy

The first wave of the Climate Change Mitigation course started on 11 July 2016, but there is an ongoing opportunity to register. The course, “starts in waves six weeks apart. Enrolling in the current wave ends in August. Then the next wave starts and so on. You can enrol over the next year and will be picked up by the current wave at the time,” explained Atkins. Flexibility is built into the course, especially the online discussions, which include students from around the world.

The course is aimed at an intermediate level, indicating that “students should have some knowledge of the words and jargon in the climate change mitigation,” said Atkins. The course is aimed at, “interested and affected people in the climate change community and people who know about [climate change mitigation] and want to use it in their ongoing work or studies. The demographics of the course have [however] been quite wide, ranging from high school scholars to post-doctoral researchers,” elaborated Atkins.

The Climate Change Mitigation course is estimated to take three hours of study time a week. During the pilot version of the course it became evident that “watching the videos, reading the background materials and doing the assignments all took quite a lot of time. In response, the facilitators halved the number of written assignments, and replaced them with multiple choice questions. Students also have to review less of their peers’ assignments,” explained Atkins.

The Climate Change Mitigation course is free to register for, and participate in, through the online learning platform Coursera (all you need is an internet connection and a computer or similar online device). The reason for making the course free is that, “Research on MOOCS (Massive, Open, Online Courses) show that [the Climate Change Mitigation] course is in competition with many other free, high quality courses and people will register for a free course over a paid course,” said Atkins. There is however, a cost of $ 19 (approximately R 275) to purchase a certificate of completion, which is available if you finish the course. Financial aid is available to students who cannot afford to cover this cost.

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Ian Preston