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John Petersen
Associate Professor
Environmental Studies
Oberlin College
Cooling Off a Warming Planet: Analyzing the Tradeoffs in Policies for Climate Change

This role-playing case on climate change policy is designed to engage student groups in parallel discussions on policy instruments and packages for controlling greenhouse gas emissions. Specifically, student groups discuss cap-and-trade and carbon tax policies for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Each group has four students representing one of the following characters: climate scientist, economist, political sociologist, and the staff expert on science related policy.  Students study the policies from a holistic perspective and explore related social, economic and environmental issues.  In the end, each group drafts a statement for the senator that includes choices and recommendations based on these different views. This case is appropriate for introductory environmental studies and environmental economics courses once students have been introduced to the basic technical and scientific information on climate change.

First in Flight, Last in Wetlands Preservation? 

Developed for an introductory environmental studies course, this case study explores the ecological, economic, and legislative issues associated with land development and wetland loss. Students role-play the points of view of four different stakeholders and then write a report that provides specific recommendations for the mayor of a city considering an expansion of the metropolitan airport that will result in the loss of wetlands. Biodiversity is a topic that students typically associate with tropical regions of the world. A strength of this case is that it brings this topic home by connecting biodiversity with tradeoffs involved in local economic development, with the functional value of wetlands, and with the controversy surrounding wetland "mitigation" as a means of achieving the national "no net wetland loss" policy goal.