CSC2600: Topics in Computer Science:

Climate Change Informatics

(Winter term 2011)


About the Course

This introductory course will explore the contribution of computer science to the challenge of climate change, including: the role of computational models in understanding earth systems, the numerical methods at the heart of these models, and the software engineering techniques by which they are built, tested and validated; challenges in management of earth system data, such as curation, provenance, meta-data description, openness and reproducibility; tools for communication of climate science to broader audiences, such as simulations, games, educational software, collective intelligence tools, and the challenges of establishing reputation and trustworthiness for web-based information sources; decision-support tools for policymaking and carbon accounting, including the challenges of data collection, visualization, and trade-off analysis; the design of green IT, such as power-aware computing, smart controllers and the development of the smart grid.

The aim is to bring a broad range of computer science graduate students together, to explore how their skills and knowledge in various areas of computer science can be applied to a societal grand challenge problem. The course will equip the students with a basic understanding of the challenges in tackling climate change, and will draw a strong link between the studentsí disciplinary background and a series of inter-disciplinary research questions. The course crosscuts most areas of computer science.

General Course Resources

Seminar Notes & Weekly Readings

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Part 1: The Science of Climate Change

Part 2: Frameworks for Thinking about Climate Change

Part 3: Knowledge Management and Decision Support

Part 4: Computing and Sustainability


  1. Participation in the course seminars, including leading the discussion on one of the weekly readings (10%)
  2. Term project: Write a proposal for a research project in climate change informatics. The proposal should describe how you would apply ideas from advanced computer science research to tackle some aspect of climate change. The proposal should include a description of the background work you are drawing on, a plan for the research itself, and details of any collaborative relationships that will be needed with experts in other disciplines.