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Welcome to CALS 505 – Leading Change in the Context of Climate Change (June 19th – Aug 27, 2023)

Recent reports show that climate change is costing us more than ever before. Not just in economic terms, but also in the loss of life, culture, biodiversity and well-being for every living being.

Although organizations like the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication tell us that perceptions about climate change are shifting, action has been slow to materialize and the uptake by governments at all levels is only incremental and not transformative. It’s not that we don’t know what to do. Technological breakthroughs are skyrocketing and governments have acknowledged the climate emergency but, as the former head of the IPCC stated, “It is now up to governments” to implement the critical and necessary changes.

The problem is that unpacking the nature and the timing of what needs to change is challenging. What is considered transformative or incremental is very much in the eyes of the beholder. We live and work in a complex, dynamic world where the rate of change accelerates daily, making long-term and holistic planning difficult. Many leadership methods and tools that may have once worked to inspire and inform change are no longer effective or appropriate. A just transition in the context of climate change requires us to rethink how we lead change: what success would look like, how we empower people to make that happen, what barriers stand in our way, and what we need to learn individually and collectively to anticipate and navigate the challenges ahead.

This course unpacks some key concepts, obstacles to and practises of, change leadership for climate action, and explores examples of new ways of leading through complexity to create a carbon-resilient future.

As the field of research and practice in climate leadership is relatively new, course materials and activities combine the review of scholarly research with insights from climate leaders currently working across sectors, in an attempt to provide access to the most recent thought leadership and learning (e.g., regeneratative sustainability, circular, non-carbon dependent economies, equity driven decision making).

Over ten weeks, students will work through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous activities that include interactive online lectures, reading, watching, and listening to media resources, participating in online discussions, writing blog posts and completing three assignments.

Key topics that will be covered include:

  • The problem – why climate leadership matters. An exploration of the challenges and opportunities specific to leading change for climate action.
  • The vision – what we need instead. A creative approach to identifying the key elements of leadership needed for effective climate action.
  • The approach – how we make change happen. An exploration of new and emerging leadership models for a just transition.
  • The resources – what we need in our toolkit. A review of the effective change tools, from behavioural economics to strategic foresight.
  • The plan – how to lead real climate action. A project-based assignment to integrate learning and develop a detailed plan for how to lead a change initiative for climate action in a specific community or organization

I’m looking forward to sharing this journey with you!

Denise Withers

Stay Connected

  • To each other via the course blog and your own WordPress blogs – be sure to set up your Feedly. See here for instructions. You will need to add the OPML files to your Feedly for each course.
  • #RRUMACAL on twitter;
  • Instructor email addresses can be found in Moodle, non-students are welcome to use the Contact Form.