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Fact Sheet:
Fact Sheet:
Number of Credits Offered: 3 Type of Program: Faculty-led
Click here for a definition of this term Area of Study: Government and International Policy
Program Description:

Climate Policy - Exploring a Global, Transdisciplinary Approach for the Future

Online, Summer 2021

Climate Policy SCHAR

Program Overview

This virtual study abroad offers an opportunity to gain a global perspective on climate change and to hear from changemakers throughout the world who are having an impact. Students in the program will have an unprecedented opportunity to hear from top climate thought leaders and visionaries, including senior policy makers, academics, cultural leaders, innovators, activists, and more. The program will allow participants to hear first-hand about the vast changes happening throughout the world and to truly understand some of the newest innovations addressing climate change today. 
George Mason University's Schar School of Policy and Government and the University of Rwanda's Center for Excellence in Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management will partner in this 3-credit virtual study abroad class.   
This course presents an opportunity for students to explore some of the most consequential policy problems facing global warming and climate change and see how regions of the world are approaching and investing in future strategies. In the Covid era, when travel is limited, this non-traditional approach to study abroad is an opportunity to broaden exposure to the international dimensions of public policymaking and cross-cultural learning. This class will provide an opportunity for students to hear global perspectives on various topics in a conference style platform and work online with an African institution and its students.  
Climate change is an issue that effects everyone on the planet, but its impact isn’t felt equally by all. Industrialized nations have historically produced the most pollution but recent manufacturing hubs in China and India have added more countries to the list of major polluters. Africa, however, pollutes the least, and yet the impact is among the worst, from desertification to water scarcity, rising sea levels, and more.  Degradation of the environment has a cost, whether damages from extreme weather, the cost of dealing with disease outbreaks,  zoonotic diseases caused by wildlife encroachment, or paying to clean up a major oil spill.  In the short term, there are also many who gain, including agrobusiness that can grow more crops through the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, manufacturers who continue to produce and sell goods without paying to clean the air and water they pollute, oil companies that continue to extract fossil fuels, consumers who prefer plastic packaging that is cheaper and more convenient, and many more.   
Climate policy must address climate change issues, but it also must find ways to deal with both those who gain and those who lose from climate change. While each nation’s government creates policy, there are international institutions, like the United Nations, World Trade Organization, World Bank, and others driving policy. At the same time, consumers are pushing businesses to enact change, and even in the absence of policy initiatives on climate, many businesses are finding it advantageous to enact their own policies to address climate, from producing more electric cars to using less packaging or changing supply chains to reduce their carbon footprint.  
Climate change continues to have a strong group of deniers, which affects government policy, business decisions, and at times, even the ability for scientists and data collectors to accurately define the risks and outline possible solutions. On the other side, climate awareness is also driving technology and innovation to find solutions. 
Learning Outcomes   
Upon completing this course, students will be familiar with a range of contemporary policy-making challenges to climate change, including their origins, implications, and possible future trajectories. They will acquire the knowledge and understanding to place these challenges within a broader historical, political, social, and economic context.   
  1. Develop an understanding of the complex agenda regarding Climate Change  
  2. Understand the key risks of climate change and how it affects different regions and population groups 
  3. Explore global perspectives on climate issues, particularly the Global North vs. Global South 
  4. Describe and compare the needs of industrialized and non-industrialized regions in addressing climate change 
  5. Analyze climate implications for various stakeholders, including policy makers, business, consumers, and others. 
  6. Compare and contrast various solutions being used today 


This program is open to all undergraduate and graduate students including students who do not attend George Mason University.


3 credits

Course Options

  • Govt 398
  •  POGO 550

Program Dates: 

July 11- August 8, 2021 


Class Times
The bulk of the course content will take place over the first two weekends in August. There will be some required work due before with an orientation scheduled for Sunday, July 11. The program will conclude on Sunday, Aug 8. Please note, the following program is a draft and subject to change according to scheduling.
This virtual study abroad program will include a mix of: 
  • Visits via zoom with well-known climate visionaries who are leading transformative initiatives throughout the world, for them to discuss their work and Q&A with students 
  • Debriefing sessions after each virtual visit to discuss the initiative and broaden the scope to look at related issues and other programs 
  • Cultural exchanges with small groups of young climate activists, innovators, entrepreneurs, and others. 
  • An interactive project with students from the University of Rwanda. 
Class Times 
The bulk of the course content will take place over the last two weekends in July. There will be some required work due before with an orientation scheduled for Sunday, July 11. The program will conclude on  
Sunday, Aug 8. Please note, the following program is a draft and subject to change according to scheduling. 
What 2 asynchronous sessions before we meet for the first time on Sunday, July 11. 
Asynchronous Session 1: Introduction and the State of the Planet 
What is the state of the planet, where is climate change felt most, where is it felt the least, who pollutes most, who pollutes the least, and an overview of climate and industry, policy, and science? 
Asynchronous Session 2: How Did We Get Here? The History of COP  
In session 1, you learned about the state of the planet and how we got here, but this session looks at efforts to solve the issue, in particular the COP sessions, from COP1 and the Berlin Mandate in 1995, to the famous COP21 that saw the Paris Agreement in 2015, and the more recent COP sessions with the US, the world's second biggest polluter, absent or taking a very reduced role, and the world's biggest polluter, China, expanding its influence. Has COP moved the needle or is it just another talk shop where leaders make promises only to be broken later. 
Sunday, July 11, 2021 
Session 3: Orientation 
Please watch session 4 before we meet on July 24. 
Asynchronous Session 4: Data, Science, and Defining Climate Change 
To solve a problem, the issue needs to be understood, defined, and hopefully agreed upon by major stakeholders, but how can a problem be solved when there are stakeholders denying the problem, even at the highest levels? The science is clear, but it’s also complex, and differences in data and numbers leave room for nay-sayers to exploit. What is being done in data collection and science? How can it withstand influence from politics and the needs of those who profit from environmental destruction? 
Saturday, July 24, 2021 
Session 5: Creating a Green Economy, Renewables, Technology, and Leapfrogging Ahead 
Critics claim moving away from fossil fuels will hurt the economy, but that view is often disputed by activists, who say green technology offers tremendous opportunities. Fossil fuel is not unlimited, and it may be that countries that hasten the change will benefit the most. Industry will need to play a role in climate change, and some of those decisions are already being made at the top, but consumers also have influence. Negative press and boycotts can force companies to change, but consumer preferences for more climate-friendly products can also be a positive influence in encouraging companies to offer alternatives, such as electric cars or organic cleaning products.  Technology offers solutions to so many climate issues, from renewable energy to cleaning up environmental waste. Wind, solar, and hydro are increasing their share of energy production. Some solutions, like geothermal, are also on the horizon. One of the key impediments, particularly for solar and wind, has been storage, but again, technology is finding solutions and bringing down the cost. In the future, what will the grid look like? Will it be a patchwork of different technologies or will off-grid solutions increase market share? For developing nations, technology offers tremendous leapfrogging opportunities. As they increase energy production, their lack of energy infrastructure for coal, oil and gas, makes it easier to leapfrog ahead with a focus on renewables as the main source of energy 
Session 6: Healthy Planet = Healthy Populations 
Climate change has impacted health around the world, from life-threatening air pollution in China, to zoonotic diseases increasing due to environmental destruction, and contamination of drinking water. Industry pollutes the air and water, and often destroys land through deforestation and expansion into previously unused land. Policy and government regulation are supposed to limit that destruction, but it often falls far short. While Flint, Michigan is well known for the policy failures that left tens of thousands at risk of lead poisoning from tainted water, but similar issues are seen around the world. Diseases like COVID and Ebola are thought to have been due to environmental encroachment. These issues are often reported as flare-ups and isolated events rather than results of systemic issues. How can we change the paradigm so that policy makers and business leaders consistently work towards healthy populations? 
Sunday, July 25, 2021 
Session 7: Security and Climate Justice 
The news is constantly showing climate shocks, from wildfires to floods, droughts, and more powerful hurricanes and cyclones. These disasters have a high cost in terms of human life and damage to property, but the threat reaches far beyond the disaster's location. It also deeply impacts security, as climate issues put at risk the elements needed for life -- access to fresh water, food production and fishing, habitable land, and more. As these essentials become more limited, conflicts for access will increase. Cross-border conflicts are already happening, such as the brewing conflict between Ethiopia and Egypt over the Nile, but internal disputes are also rising between regions of a country, rural and urban populations, rich and poor, and other privileged and disadvantaged groups and ethnicities. How should access to limited resources be distributed? Environmental destruction has winners and losers, and often these are not in the same countries or even regions. How can this be more equitable? And how can disputes over shortages be solved? Addressing conflict between countries is clearly the mandate of the UN, but what about internal conflicts and inequalities? Are the UN, WTO, and others doing enough, or simply doing the bidding of nations paying the highest fees to those organizations? 
Session 8: Cultural Exchange: Activists and Advocates 
Four young activists and advocates from around the world, with representation of activists working on critical issues, such as climate and poverty, climate and wildlife, climate and rainforests, climate and security, etc. 
Saturday, July 31, 2021 
Session 9: Feeding a Healthy Planet 
Agriculture feeds the world, but it can also be a major contributor towards pollution. The consumption of meat has more than doubled in the past 50 years. The increase in livestock production has greatly contributed towards water and air pollution, as well as antibiotic-resistant diseases. Meat is a highly inefficient means of feeding populations as raising livestock requires using a disproportionate percentage of land to produce feed. In the US, 67% of crops calories are used as livestock feed, and only 27% are consumed directly by humans. But raising crops also has environmental impacts, particularly from chemicals used in fertilizers and pesticides as well as land and water use. Recently, several meat substitutes have entered the market, but critics question the health benefits and specialty replacements aren't the answer to feeding the world. 
Session 10: The Global South and the Nexus of Climate and Development 
The biggest polluters are the nations that manufacture the most. For many years, these were in the global north, but in recent years, China and India have had astronomical growth in manufacturing, and as a result, in polluting. Manufacturing creates jobs and drives real and sustainable development. The US and Europe were able to develop while polluting. As the Global South tries to catch up, should they be held to a different standard? For Africa, the continent that pollutes the least, yet where the effects of climate change are perhaps felt the most, what should be the balance between development for the continent and climate change restrictions for the planet? 
Sunday, August 1, 2021  
Session 11: Towards Zero Waste 
The world generates at least 3.5 million tons of plastics and solid waste a day, which is ten times more than a century ago. The huge accumulation of plastic garbage in the oceans has caused The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or Plastic Island, which is two times the size of Texas or France. The drive to reduce, re-use and recycle has gotten a lot of attention, but it hasn't resulted in a real reduction in waste. Reducing carbon footprints and lowering climate impact are admirable objectives, but they only work if there is critical mass. How do countries move towards less waste? Should there be disincentives, such as a fine or clean-up charge for polluters? Will policy solutions and laws change behavior or do we need to find ways to first change public perceptions and then institute policy to change behavior? 
Session 12: Cultural Exchange: Entrepreneurs and Innovators 
Four young entrepreneurs and innovators with solutions to climate change challenges will join us for this interactive session. 
Sunday, August 8, 2021 
Session 13: Looking Towards the Future 
We've learned about various issues, solutions, and stakeholders. What's next? How do we move forward? The problem is so big and so widespread, how will we even know if we have moved forward, if solutions are working? The current climate destruction happened over time. It will take time to solve. What are the metrics of success? What are the metrics for success from the viewpoints of science, policy, and business? 
Session 14: Group Presentations and Closing Remarks 
In our final session, we will listen to the group presentations and instructors’ closing remarks.  
Farewell Event TBD: Visit to the Embassy of Rwanda (TBD in compliance with CDC recommendations) 
* Dates and itinerary subject to change. The Global Education Office reserves the right to make changes to a program in light of currency fluctuations, changing security and safety conditions, and/or any other unforeseen circumstances.

Program Cost

Summer 2021: $2,612.25

Included: Tuition for 3 credits

Program Payments

Students on MasonGEO programs must pay the advertised program cost in order to participate. This cost will be made in three payments (Deposit + First Payment + Final Payment). Students using financial aid can provide additional paperwork in lieu of deposit and final balance payments.

Application Deposit: A non-refundable program deposit $200 must be received by the application deadline. This fee is paid online through the MasonAbroad application system and is included in the program fee.

First Payment: The First Payment of $1,000 is due May 10. This is made through your MasonAbroad application.

Final Payment: The final balance payment is due by June 20. This is the difference of your Program Cost minus the $200 you've already paid (Deposit). Students who are using financial aid will need to contact the Financial Aid Office upon applying for the program.

Financial Aid and VA Benefits: Students who intend to use financial aid or their VA benefits to fund their program fees (partially or in full) must reach out to the Financial Aid Office directly. If you are using VA Benefits please contact your program administrator to request the "Intent to Use VA Benefits Form."

* Students must be enrolled at least half-time for federal loans and the majority of grant funds. Please refer to the Financial Aid Website for a definition of half-time for undergraduate and graduate students:

Withdrawal and Refund Policy: All participants are bound by the Mason GEO Withdrawal and Refund Policy.

Payment Instructions

For more information on payments, financial aid, and information for non-Mason students:


GEO offers a number of need- and merit-based scholarships. All Mason students are welcome to apply:

Application Deadline:

June 1st

Application requirements:*

Program Deposit: $200 for all applicants.

Course Selection Questionnaire: You will choose the course(s) you would like to be receive credit for on this program. Check the "Academics" tab to see what courses are offered on this program. If you need help selecting your course, check with your academic advisor.

Passport Status Questionnaire: You do not need a passport to complete this questionnaire or the application. However, if you do not have a valid passport, you should begin applying for one now. The Global Education Office offers Passport Grants to help.

Signature Documents: Read and electronically "sign" the documents regarding the acknowledgement of risk, the pre-departure orientation, and your financial responsibility.Application requirements:* 

Additional requirements for non-Mason applicants:

Official transcript: To be mailed or emailed to the Global Education Office at George Mason University.

Non-degree Contract Course/Admission Form: Please complete the form and upload it into the questionnaire.

* Additional application requirements may apply to individual programs. Once you open your application, you will see all application requirements.

Application instructions:

Academic Directors

  Carol Pineau
Name Carol Pineau

Academic Director

  Gebreselassie Tesfamichael
Name The Honorable Gebreselassie Tesfamichael

Program Administrator

  Michal McElwain Malur
Name Michal Malur
Title Director of the Schar School of Policy and Government

Dates / Deadlines:
Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Summer (Online) 2021 07/01/2021 ** Rolling Admission 07/11/2021 08/08/2021

** Indicates rolling admission application process. Applicants will be immediately notified of acceptance into this program and be able to complete post-decision materials prior to the term's application deadline.