Skip to main content
questions, ask us

Communicating Climate Change

Annotated resources for teaching climate change from interdisciplinary perspectives. Contributions are welcomed by the sponsor, NSF EPSCoR, and initial contributors Dr. Y. Houy, UNLV Honors College, and Dr. P. Starkweather, UNLV School of Life Science.

The Brundtland Commission Report (1987 report)

The Brundtland Commission Report (1987 report)

This influential 1987 report by the United Nations-sponsored World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), is also known under the title "Our Common Future." It helped define the influential concept "sustainable development" in which economic growth and attaining social and economic justice is seen as inseparable from living in a healthful environment.

The Earth Charter (website)

Inspired by the Brundtland Report’s approach to sustainable development, “The Earth Charter” was drafted over the course of a decade as a global civil society initiative. It is often used as a “soft” legal document that, like the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” is not legally binding but influences “hard,” or legally binding, laws.

From the preamble: “We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.”

Sustainable Development—a critical review (1991 article)

Following the Brundtland Report’s definition of sustainable development (SD) Sharachachandra Lélé criticized how SD has been interpreted overly broadly by others for political and economic purposes, and called for clarity of purpose in SD: focusing on ecological sustainability as a way toward economic growth and social and economic equality. His critique and reasoning continues to be relevant for understanding how the concept of sustainability is used by different stakeholders to further different economic and political agendas.

Summary “Over the past few years, ‘Sustainable Development’ (SD) has emerged as the latest development catchphrase. A wide range of nongovernmental as well as governmental organizations have embraced it as the new paradigm of development. A review of the literature that has sprung up around the concept of SD indicates, however, a lack of consistency in its interpretation. More important, while the all-encompassing nature of the concept gives it political strength, its current formulation by the mainstream of SD thinking contains significant weaknesses. These include an incomplete perception of the problems of poverty and environmental degradation, and confusion about the role of economic growth and about the concepts of sustainability and participation. How these weaknesses can lead to inadequacies and contradictions in policy making is demonstrated in the context of international trade, agriculture, and forestry. It is suggested that if SD is to have a fundamental impact, politically expedient fuzziness will have to be given up in favor of intellectual clarity and rigor.”

Lele, S., (1991), "Sustainable Development: A critical review", World Development. vol. 19, no.6, pp.607-621.

A pdf of the full article is available at under “Complete Publications.”

Ecological Footprint Analysis (website)

Ecological Footprint (EF) is a measurement of human demand on natural resources. As a data-driven metric, Ecological Footprint Analysis (EFA) measures nature’s capacity to provide sustenance and absorb waste, and compares this to the rate of use of this biocapacity. Such data helps measure how close nations or populations are to sustainable living.

A full description of this concept and the effort to make EF accounting as ubiquitous as GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is available at Global Footprint Network

The calculation methodology is available at

Rees, William E. (October 1992). "Ecological footprints and appropriated carrying capacity: what urban economics leaves out". Environment and Urbanisation 4 (2): 121–130. doi:10.1177/095624789200400212.

Wackernagel, M. (1994) (PDF). Ecological Footprint and Appropriated Carrying Capacity: A Tool for Planning Toward Sustainability (PhD thesis). Vancouver, Canada: School of Community and Regional Planning. The University of British Columbia. OCLC 41839429.

The Tragedy of the Commons (1968 article)

The Tragedy of the Commons (1968 article)

The concept of the tragedy of the commons by Garrett Hardin, can be used to understand why rational actors do not work toward environmental sustainability. Since the 1960s this concept by has been used to understand why rational actors pollute and overuse resources—by using resources that belong to everyone, the individual profits without paying the price of the resources directly: “…the tragedy of the commons reappears in problems of pollution. The rational man finds that his share of the cost of the wastes he discharges into the commons is less than the cost of purifying his wastes before releasing them. Since this is true for everyone, we are locked into a system of ‘fouling our own nest,’ so long as we behave only as independent, rational, free enterprisers.”

”Hardin, G. (1968). "The Tragedy of the Commons." Science, 162, 1243-1248.The full article is available at: this a 8 minute interview, Garrett Hardin talks about the global implications of the tragedy of the commons: In the following short animated video, the concept of tragedy of the commons and its implication for the environment is briefly, and entertainingly, explained:

Ecosystem Services

Given the problem of “the tragedy of the commons” in which the environment “commons” ends up being overused and polluted, some economist are arguing that the benefits of “services” that the natural environment brings to populations need to be calculated in monetary terms using the concept of “ecosystems services.” Such calculations are crucial as natural resources become depleted or degraded. Ecosystem services are explained at:

Sustainability and Climate Models for the Intermountain West--An Annotated Bibliography (November, 2011)

This resource on climate models and sustainability in the Intermountain West, a region that includes the states of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah, is a collaborative effort between the UNLV Libraries ( and Brookings Mountain West (

The selected citations include academic, government, and non-profit information that highlight ongoing research on climate models and sustainability efforts in the region. The websites, government studies, independent reports, scholarly articles, and media reports reflect the diversity and complexity of climate change and sustainability issues in a region that contains widely varying ecosystems. The Intermountain West, with its deserts, basins, mountains, metropolitan centers, and rural areas is a microcosm of our nation’s terrain, with the obvious and notable exception of a coastal region. Although, as studies show, the Intermountain West is not immune to climate shifts originating in nearby coastal areas.

Buehler, Marianne A. and Brown, William E. Jr., "Sustainability and climate models for the Intermountain West: An annotated bibliography" (2011).

© University of Nevada Las Vegas