Human Dimensions of Global Warming

Lesson 9: Sustainability

To close our unit on responses to climate change, we're going to look broadly at the concept of sustainable development. It's a term you probably hear regularly in discussions about addressing our global challenges, and perhaps you're already quite familiar with the UN's sustainable development goals - it's become a widespread framework from which we think about all the things we're trying to do to improve quality of life the world over. Are the SDGs perfect? No. One of your readings will argue pretty heavily against the framework entirely. On balance, I think they're a huge step in the right direction because it has provided this universal language in which we can speak about these issues.
Cartoon of the Copenhagen Climate Summit suggesting that efforts to reduce climate change might make the world a better place based on a 'hoax'
What are we fighting for?
Credit: Cartoon by Joel Pett run in USA Today right before the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009.

What will we learn?

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • understand the UN's sustainable development goals and the historical context under which they emerged;
  • consider the relative merits and drawbacks of different economic models;
  • articulate various definitions of 'development';
  • find possible problematic aspects to the UN's sustainable development goals and the concept of sustainable development more broadly.

What is due for this Lesson?

This lesson will take us one week to complete. Please refer to the Calendar in Canvas for specific time frames and due dates. Specific directions for the assignments below can be found within this lesson.

Complete the following steps to complete Lesson 9:

  • Work through the lesson content on this website.
  • Read the required reading assignments.
  • Take the Lesson 9 content quiz.
  • Write your Write to Learn response.


If you have questions, please feel free to post them to the Ask a Question about the Lesson forum. While you are there, feel free to post your own responses if you, too, are able to help a classmate.