Spring 2021 - REM 350 D100

Sustainable Energy and Materials Management (4)

Class Number: 5912

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:


  • Exam Times + Location:

    Feb 12, 2021
    10:30 AM – 12:20 PM

    Mar 19, 2021
    10:30 AM – 12:20 PM

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



Takes an interdisciplinary approach to sustainable management of society's energy and materials flows. Topics range from thermodynamics and estimates of global resources to market-based policies and governance Institutions. Peak oil, renewable energy and carbon capture and storage are also discussed. The role for green consumerism in light of climate challenge are highlighted.


Lecture delivery: Asynchronous. Lectures will be held online via ZOOM Wed-11:30-12:20 and Fri-10:30-12:20 for optional live attendance. Lectures will be recorded and posted on CANVAS for later viewing. Attendance at synchronous lectures is NOT required.
Tutorial: Synchronous, possibly one asynchronous tutorial to help overseas students.

The course takes an interdisciplinary approach to providing students from diverse backgrounds with an understanding of:
· how humans are disrupting the planet’s energy and material flows;
· our thermodynamic, geological and biological options for reducing this disruption;
· the environmental, economic and social implications of pursuing these options; and
· helpful institutional and governmental changes at local, national, and global levels.

At an introductory level, the course includes sequential study of: (1) causes and effects of greenhouse gas emissions, (2) thermodynamic and other methods for assessing human-environment sustainability, (3) global distribution of energy resources, (4) technologies for preventing or correcting disruptions to the carbon cycle caused by our energy systems, (5) methods for calculating the cost of alternative technologies for energy efficiency, energy supply and energy demand, (6) strategies for overcoming human cognitive biases and asymmetries in socio-economic power that create political, policy and diplomatic challenges for addressing the global collective action problem of reducing, preventing and extracting atmospheric GHGs.


Some of the questions explored in the course
Can current or even substantially higher human-related flows of energy and materials be sustainable?
Are peak oil or peak phosphorous useful concepts?
Are energy efficiency investments profitable?
Will renewables soon be a cheaper source of energy than fossil fuels?
How do we define behavioral change for sustainability and what is the potential?
How do we compare between renewables, nuclear and carbon capture & storage?
Must energy systems be decentralized and small scale to be sustainable?
How do we evaluate alternative policies for sustainability?
What institutions and policy processes are needed for rapidly scaling-up renewables?
Is carbon neutrality a useful target and are offsets a useful policy contribution?
How do we assess geo-engineering as an option for addressing the climate change risk?
How can we achieve the necessary global effort against the climate risk?
What mechanisms within and between nations can rapidly provide energy access to 2 billion people?
What is economic growth, and can it be sustained indefinitely?
How can research into human cognition help with sustainable energy policy design?
What role, if any, for civil activism in advancing sustainability?


  • First mid-term (February 12, 2021) * 25%
  • Second mid-term (March 19, 2021) * 25%
  • Final exam ** 35%
  • Tutorial participation 15%


* Synchronous mid-term exams (Feb 12 and Mar 19, 10:30-12:20)
** Synchronous final exam held during the exam period.



While there will be additional reading material, the course is largely based upon a new book by the instructor: The Citizen’s Guide for Climate Success: Overcoming Myths that Hinder Progress. The book is free online at Open Access on Cambridge Core at doi.org/10.1017/9781108783453.

Additional reading materials and lecture slides available at: https://rem-main.rem.sfu.ca:5001/sharing/fbsharing-y4dArGN2.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in spring 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).