MA International Relations (Standard)

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
The Politics of Global Climate Change

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI71141
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Content: Brief overview of the syllabus/topics. 

  1. Introduction 
  2. The origins of climate change: carboniferous capitalism, global inequalities, daily life and culture
  3. Responses to climate change: global cooperation, national policy, key conflicts
  4. Exploring national variation in climate change: underlying dynanmics
  5. How have different countries responded given their different circumstances?
  6. Business pressures in different countries
  7. International strategies of different countries
  8. Multilevel dynamics in different countries
  9. Variations in daily life
  10. NGOs and social movement campaigns


The course unit aims to:

  1. Explore the politics of climate change, at multiple scales and through a range of perspectives.
  2. Develop students' research skills.
  3. Develop students' capacities for collaborative work and group learning.

Teaching and learning methods

Unless conditions change radically, it is envisaged that the course will proceed through face-to-face weekly seminars. These will combine regular discussion of academic texts, with group work in small groups, each focused on a specific country, to analyse the theme in detail in that country and discuss differences across countries.

Knowledge and understanding

Understand the key perspectives on climate change politics, and have detailed empirical knowledge of the patterns of climate change governance.

Intellectual skills

Understand the importance of conceptual framing for how the politics of climate change are shaped.

Practical skills

Develop further their research and argumentation skills through the development of a group presentation and a research paper.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Participate in the research for and presentation of a substantial group project.

Assessment methods

Research paper submitted in week 12 of semester

2100  70

Class participation

N/A 5

Group work preparation. This will consist of posts to the BB discussion board by small groups on a weekly basis, from week 4 onwards. 

N/A 25  

Recommended reading

  • Willis, Rebecca (2020) Too Hot to Handle? The Democratic Challenge of Climate Change. Bristol: Bristol University Press.
  • Evans, Kate (2006) Funny Weather: Everything You Didn;t Want to Know About Climate Change But Probably Should Find Out. London: Myriad Press. This is an excellent cartoon book. It is in the library but an e-book is available for around US$4.99 which is extremely good value. You will get as good an introduction from this as from any dry academic text. 
  • Dessler, Andrew and Edward Parson (2010) The Science and Politics of Global Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Newell, Peter, and Matthew Paterson (2010) Climate Capitalism: Global Warming and the Transformation of the Global Economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 130

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Robert Watt Unit coordinator

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