The Climate Justice Seminar

Three Degrees Warmer has developed curriculum for a multidisciplinary graduate-level seminar in climate justice. The Climate Justice Seminar is a working module of climate justice education that leverages the university as a resource for communities adapting to climate change. The Climate Justice Seminar follows Three Degrees Warmer’s five-part framework for climate justice, and aims to be replicable at other universities worldwide.

The Climate Justice Seminar, taught at UW Law School by Three Degrees Warmer Directors and guest faculty, is open to 25 graduate and professional students from across the University of Washington by application. The course examines predicted climate futures in locations around the globe where climate change is likely to harm disadvantaged populations, with the goal of understanding the limitations and strengths of the international and domestic legal and political systems available to alleviate these impacts.


The 2012 Climate Justice Seminar  students developed a series of four climate adaptation scenarios set in southeast Florida, where four counties outside of Miami formed a bipartisan compact to work together to address the impacts of sea level rise, salt-water inundation, and drinking water contamination on the region. Over 30 million citizen live in the area.


The 2011 Climate Justice Seminar coordinated efforts of UW students representing 10 different departments. The students authored an initial study investigating federal policy changes designed to streamline relocation in rural Alaskan villages. The paper is titled “Initial Assessment of Lead Agency Candidates to Support Alaska Native Villages Requiring Relocation to Survive Climate Harms.”


The 2010 Climate Justice Seminar brought together graduate students and faculty from 15 departments to work on climate justice issues affecting high-Andes communities in Ecuador experiencing rapid glacial melt.

Seminar students worked in multidisciplinary teams to analyze anticipated climate impacts on Ecuador’s health, food & water, security, equity, and justice. Students packaged their analysis in an alternative National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) format, signaling the need for NAPA plans to more systemically incorporate metrics of human rights and justice. (NAPAs provide a process for Least Developed Countries to assess and communicate adaptation priorities to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.)

For a sample chapter that includes downscaled climate information for Ecuador, see the chapter titled “Alternative NAPA: Food and Climate Considerations for Ecuador.

Young llama herdsmen follow their flock high in the Andes. © Benjamin Drummond

The Seminar’s twenty-five graduate and professional students represented the School for Marine Affairs, The Evans School for Public Policy, atmospheric sciences, occupational and health sciences, public health, engineering, urban planning, anthropology, philosophy, law, and geography. The teaching faculty and fellows hand picked the students from a well-qualified pool of strong applicants. The teaching faculty included  David Battisti (atmospheric sciences), Stephen Gardiner (philosophy), and Gregory Hicks (law). Jeni Krencicki Barcelos and Jen Marlow (Three Degrees Warmer Directors) along with Brandon Derman (Ph.D. candidate in geography and Three Degrees Warmer Fellow) served as the Seminar’s three teaching fellows.