University of Massachusetts at Boston
Political Science Department

Politics & the Environment

PolSci G260
Spring 2005

Revisions to Syllabus (as of 5/6 - check regularly for additions)

Co-Instructors: John Duff, (emphasis on mechanics of politics, institutions & law)
Office hours: TBA
Peter Taylor, (emphasis on critical thinking, especially about science)
Office hours: 10.30-11.15 before class, W-2-143-09 (more or less above the classroom), or by arrangement
The new instructors will adhere as closely as they can to the course requirements and will minimize use of new readings, but the topics and readings will not necessarily match the dates listed in the syllabus. Consult this site for details and handouts.
Writing Portfolio: On or before Monday 9th. MAY, submit a folder or binder that contains all in-class writing, paper drafts, teacher and peer comments, and revised papers for this course. Please date all you work and arrange it in chronological order. If you submitted an assignment and did not get it back, please print a new copy and include this.

We will compare the material in the portfolio with the recorded grades and let you know by email when portfolios can be collected from the Pol. Sci. department office (W-5-078).

If you require an extension on any assignments or the portfolio you MUST make your request in writing (or email) BEFORE Monday 9th and specify when you will submit your work (to W-5-078). Out of fairness to other students who submit their work on time, your grade on previously ungraded assignments in the portfolio will drop 3 points out of 100 per day after the 9th.

Monday, March 28, no class

Wednesday, March 30, Jim Ward (short class, followed by memorial service)

Friday, April 1, JD & PT introduce themselves & their emphases
Monday, April 4, JD

Wednesday, April 6, PT
Friday, April 8, JD Monday, April 11, PT Wednesday, April 13, PT Friday, April 15, JD

Monday, April 18, holiday

Wednesday, April 20, PT Friday, April 22, JD

Monday, April 25, PT Wednesday, April 27, JD

Friday, April 29, JD

Monday, May 2, PT Wednesday, May 4, PT Friday, May 6, JD

Monday, May 9, JD/PT
Wednesday, May 11, JD

For Friday Apr 1 (JD)

Questions regarding reading assignments to date: Questions leading to Assignment #5, i.e. paper addressing the question:

Preparation for April 6th class

Overview of PBL
Problem-based learning (PBL) begins best from scenario in which the problems are not well defined.
Students brainstorm so as to identify range of problems related to the scenario and choose which of these they want to investigate and report back on. Their problem-definitions may evolve as they investigate and exchange findings with other students.
The teacher facilitates brainstorming, coaches the students in their individual or small-group tasks, and serves as resource person by providing contacts and reading suggestions when asked.

The scenario will be handed out in class on April 6.

1. Identify and make notes on the different arguments and evidence covered in Gelbspan and Lynas for the proposition that an increase in temperature on average across the globe will be associated with an increase in frequency in extreme climatic events.
2. Identify and make notes on the different counter-arguments and evidence covered in Gelbspan and Lynas.
3. Identify and make notes on one case covered in Gelbspan and Lynas that describes how political authorities (at any level-not necessarily a national level) responded to an extreme climatic event.
If you cannot find answers in what you have read, look ahead in the books (or use the index), or do some searches on the internet. (Make sure to write down the source & URL for anything you find on the internet.)

A reminder that for those who have not yet submitted Assignments #5, Assignment M, Top 10 list and editorial response, should do so as soon as possible and no later than Monday May 9.

Recall that
Assignment M was:
a 2-3 page paper applying your understanding of climate change, the environment and politics to an issue reported in the media some time in the last four months. Identify the questions that the media is addressing regarding climate change and highlight the link between the science and politics.

The "Top 10" assignment should be in the form of:

a list of the Top Ten Reasons Americans Should Care About Climate Change

The editorial response assignment should be submitted in the form of

A two page paper contesting (or supporting) the argument made by John Marburger (outlined below) that a change in US policy is not warranted by science:

From February 18, 2005 Friday

Bush's Science Advisor, Congressman Clash Over Computer Models;
Where the administration sees ambiguity, Democratic Representative Waxman sees political motivation.

by M.L. Baker,

Representative Henry Waxman accused the administration of invoking scientific uncertainty to discredit evidence counter to its policies. John Marburger, science advisor to the president, responded that the computer models used to make predictions about climate change and public health were both ambiguous and prone to group-think errors by scientists.

The clash came during addresses to science journalists in a meeting preceding a large scientific conference sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C. Health and climate are complex, influenced by thousands of inter-related factors. To predict how current practices predict the future, scientists develop computer models. Given past data, current trends and sets of mathematical relationships, these tools make educated guesses about the future.

Computer models are used to inform many public health and environmental policies by forecasting, for example, how different vaccination programs might slow the spread of disease, how pollution levels might affect the climate, or even how educational policies might change birth and death rates. But because of lack of computational power and information, models cannot encompass all the complexities of the real world. Most models of climate change, for example, cannot model individual clouds and so estimate cloud coverage over larger regions. And different assumptions built into the model can dramatically affect the results.

"In fact, there is ambiguity," Marburger said, adding that models can be used to generate bad information.
In an accusation reminiscent of those launched against the Bush administration, he said that scientists can be misled by their own assumptions and need to be challenged.

"Large coalitions can develop opinions not supported by evidence," Marburger said.