BSc Geography with International Study / Course details

Year of entry: 2022

Course unit details:
Climate Change: Science and Society

Unit code GEOG20091
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Geography
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This unit introduces social and natural scientific approaches to understanding the phenomenon of anthropogenic climate change and its possible solutions. It begins with an overview of the physical science basis for climate change, including gradual changes over time as well as more abrupt changes and climate tipping points. It will outline the physical impacts threatened by climate change, and how human and natural systems might adapt to them. It then examines climate change mitigation strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including setting targets, transforming energy supply and demand, decarbonising different sectors, and exploring alternative low carbon pathways. It concludes with an examination of new, unconventional solutions to climate change including negative emissions technologies for removing greenhouse gases directly from the atmosphere, natural and nature-based solutions and solar geoengineering technologies for reflecting sunlight away from the Earth. The unit emphasises the importance of interdisciplinarity in understanding and responding to this complex and uncertain problem, and the special place for geography in facilitating this learning.



  • To introduce the physical science basis for gradual and abrupt climate change
  • To examine the impacts of climate change and solutions for adaptation
  • To examine mitigation solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions
  • To examine unconventional technological and nature-based solutions


Learning outcomes



Teaching and learning methods

The unit is delivered through weekly two-hour interaction lecture sessions including discussions, debates and practical exercises. The lecture sessions will be supported by weekly one-hour seminars. A high level of student participation is required from all students throughout the unit. Reading prior to the lectures is required and additional reading around the themes of the lectures is expected.

The course is supported by a dedicated Blackboard site. This offers a variety of online resources including a repository of the lecture notes used in class, a course syllabus, any other forms of course-specific materials as well as a discussion forum.


Knowledge and understanding

  • Understand the fundamental physical science of gradual and abrupt climate changes
  • Understand climate change impacts and adaptation solutions
  • Understand mitigation solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions across different sectors
  • Understand unconventional technological and nature-based solutions

Intellectual skills

  • Evaluate different adaptation solutions
  • Evaluate mitigation solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions across different sectors
  • Evaluate unconventional technological and nature-based solutions

Practical skills

  • Skills in discussion and debate
  • Experience with practical research methods, including carbon accounting, multi-criteria analysis and psychometrics
  • Synthesise research evidence for use in decision making

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Critical thinking, reflection and self-awareness
  • Taking responsibility for self-directed learning
  • Information handling skills, utilising materials from a variety of source
  • An ability to assess the merits of contrasting theories, explanations and their policy implications


Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 50%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%

Feedback methods

Feedback is provided in the following ways during this course unit:

  • extensive verbal feedback through Q&A, discussion and interactive activities within lectures and seminars;
  • verbal feedback on any course unit issue through consultation hours;
  • detailed written feedback on the coursework assignment.


Recommended reading

Blackstock, J. and Low, S. (2018): Geoengineering Our Climate: Ethics, Politics and Governance. Routledge: Oxon, UK.

Hulme, M (2019): Contemporary Climate Change Debates: A Student Primer. Routledge: Oxon, UK.

IPCC (2018): Global Warming of 1.5°C. World Meteorological Organization: Geneva, Switzerland.

Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering (2018): Greenhouse gas removal. Available at

IPCC Fifth Assessment (AR5) reports, synthesised in IPCC (2014): Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Core Writing Team, R.K. Pachauri and L.A. Meyer (eds.)]. IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland.

Key journals:

Climate Policy

Climatic Change

Ecological Economics

Environmental Research Letters

Environmental Science & Policy

Frontiers in Climate

Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

Global Environmental Change

Public Understanding of Science

Nature Climate Change

Science, Technology and Human Values

WIREs Climate Change


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 3
Independent study hours
Independent study 197

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Gareth Clay Unit coordinator

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