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Cooling Off a Warming Planet

Analyzing the Tradeoffs in Policies for Climate Change


Md Rumi Shammin
Environmental Studies
Oberlin College
John Petersen
Environmental Studies
Oberlin College
Jordan F. Suter
Economics & Environmental Studies
Oberlin College


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.


  • The scientific consensus on climate change and related uncertainties.
  • Cap-and-trade and carbon tax as policy options for controlling greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The economic and social implications of climate change policy.
  • The equity and fairness issues related to climate change policy.
  • The role of political realities and local interests in climate change policy.


Climate change; cap-and-trade; carbon tax; climate policy impact; climate policy justice; climate policy equity; environmental justice; environmental ethics; global warming; global warming policy; greenhouse gas emissions

Topical Areas

Ethics, Policy issues, Regulatory issues, Social issues, Social justice issues

Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division



Type / Methods

Analysis (Issues), Debate, Dilemma/Decision, Discussion, Role-Play



Subject Headings

Environmental Science  |   Economics  |   Atmospheric Science  |   Climatology / Meteorology  |   Earth Science  |   Natural Resource Management  |   Sociology  |   Science (General)  |  

Date Posted


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