Climate & Sustainability Course List

One of the best ways to get involved with the Duke Climate Commitment is to explore climate and sustainability connections in your coursework. Fortunately, there is no shortage of courses from which to choose!

From graduate engineering seminars to first-year writing courses, there is something for everyone. The climate crisis demands all skill-sets to research, communicate, design, and implement solutions. Whether you want to spend time in the lab building photovoltaics, in the field analyzing organisms affected by rising seas, or in the library writing about environmental policy, there’s an engaging course with climate connections waiting for you.

As you plan and refine your Spring 2024 schedule, download the Climate & Sustainability Course List for inspiration. Head on over to DukeHub for more details on courses and to register.

Below are just a small handful of the courses contained in the list.



ECON 325S – Economic Analysis of Current Energy issues

Examination of present-day sources and end-users of energy in U.S. and selected foreign nations with attention to external cost of energy systems. Fossil fuel prospects, new and renewable energy sources and nuclear power. Opportunities for increasing energy productivity. Proposals for dealing with climate change. Course equips students to evaluate proposals and arguments from all sides of the energy debates using facts and analysis. Prerequisite: Economics 201D. 

ECS 212S – Exploring Climate Sciences: Data-driven investigations

Exploration of key concepts in climate sciences using field, computational and laboratory techniques. Focus on collecting, analyzing and interpreting climate data and observations, in order to experience how scientists conduct research to answer fundamental questions about how the climate system works. Modules vary by semester, including local and global examinations of short-term and long-term climate variability and human impacts on the climate system. Field trip to a local weather station, e.g. Duke Forest or NC ECONet, to learn how meteorological data are collected. Recommended pre/corequisite: ECS/EOS 103.

POLISCI 128 – Climate Change

This class introduces students to climate change from a political economy perspective. It reviews the main scientific facts about it and how their evolution traces back to political and economic causes. The bulk of the class is devoted to understand the consequences of climate change for domestic and international politics and to study, with the PE tools, the scope and limits of the solutions being proposed to address it. The class is purposefully interdisciplinary and will make use of academic work and data from different social and applied sciences. It is a class designed for first and second year students that could also be of interest to more advanced ones.

HISTORY 131S – Global History of Extraction

Human societies depend on harnessing the resources of the underground earth. Subterranean aquifers shaped the world’s food system. Gold deposits made currency and incited global wars. And fossil fuels now represent frontiers of planetary catastrophe, as buried carbon threatens life on earth. This course explores the often forgotten but indispensable role of the underground in making the modern world. Using the lens of ‘extraction’ – the taking of resources from beneath the earth – and drawing from historians, artists, environmentalists, geologists, journalists, and science fiction, we will develop global perspectives on the meaning and transformation of the underground from 1800 to today. 

LATAMER 341S – Perspectives on the Amazon

The Amazon has been a source of awe to outsiders at least since the first Europeans navigated the Amazon River in 1542. While early explorers searched the forest for a mythic city of gold, contemporary travelers, scientists, and concerned citizens look to the Amazon as the key to our endangered future. Focusing on a variety of textual and visual representations, we will deal with major themes in the history of the Amazon and consider the ways in which this vast and widely depicted region eludes representation, holding entirely different and contending meanings to distinct socio-cultural groups. Our sources include works by indigenous thinkers and cultural producers. 

Graduate and Professional

BIOLOGY 531S – Interplay Between Plants and Climate Change

Overview of ongoing research to understand the impact of climate change on plant growth and development and to highlight how contemporary plant research can be a solution to reducing the impact of climate change. Topics include plant growth and development, climate impact on plant life, plant stress signaling, plant immune system, natural variations in stress resilience, CRISPR de novo domestication, and plant microbiome. Recommended Prerequisites: Biology 201 or equivalent. 

VMS 520S – Eco-Media: Studies in Planetary Futures

This seminar explores film, photography, online media, museum and artistic productions about the contemporary planetary ecological crisis. Visual materials will focus on climate change, environmental activism, plastic and nuclear waste, digital rubbish, ‘cancer alleys’ and ‘cancer villages,’ pollution and toxic environments, among other topics. Course readings will introduce students to debates about the Anthropocene, post-human natures, species extinction, multi-species care, geo-engineering, and planetary futures. 

PUBPOL 754 – International Energy System

One of the main challenges for the 21st century policy-makers is how to develop and manage adequate. affordable and reliable energy services to fuel sustainable social and economic development. Thus far, in many countries energy production and use have been inefficient and unsustainable, resulting in missed development opportunities and/or serious policy failures, aggravation of international and domestic conflicts, and wasted resources and environmental damage. The course explores why these problems occur and what are the implications of the most recent shifts in global energy patterns for global economy and politics. 

ENVIRON 790-10 – Special Topics: Carbon Accounting and Certification

Carbon accounting is the foundation for setting climate targets, aligning incentives and measuring progress against those targets. The results of the analysis can help create urgency, guide decisions and determine priorities. Furthermore, when communicating progress to internal and external stakeholders, having complete and accurate carbon data becomes essential.

LAW 741 – Climate Change and Financial Markets

This course will evaluate the role, or potential roles, of finance in combatting climate change.  The course will include a high-level introduction to climate change and the impacts of financial markets and players in impacting climate change, the role of governments, and opportunities for assessing finance on its contributions to, and mitigation of, climate change.