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Climate Change: Science and Society

Module titleClimate Change: Science and Society
Module codeGEO2317
Academic year2018/9
Module staff

Dr Saffron O'Neill (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

In this module, you will develop your skills in the analysis of global climate change, using perspectives from physical and human geography, economics and politics. You will get a strong grounding in climate and society relations, economic principles, ethical dimensions and the governance and politics of climate change. You will be challenged to think about the topic’s interlinked human and physical geographic dimensions by exploring a series of topical debates about climate change. Past debates have explored the role of insurance in mitigating flood risk, the ethics of geoengineering, and the role of the media in communicating climate change, building on the research of the teaching staff.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module will:

  • analyse human-environment relations through examining how weather, hazards and long term environmental change affect society, through issues related to ongoing faculty research such as flooding, heatwaves, migration, and risk communication
  • analyse the causes and consequences of global scale changes in environment
  • analyse the interaction of consumption with greenhouse gas emissions intensity, and options to dematerialise the economy
  • explore alternative perspectives, theories and methods for investigating climate change as a social phenomenon and environmental reality, as embedded in current research on climate change risks and on emissions reduction behaviour.

The module involves in-depth workshops and class debates that seek to develop the following graduate attributes:

  • interpersonal skills through small group discussions and formalised debates in teams of two carried out over multiple weeks of preparation
  • confidence in assessing the robustness of scientific evidence and in generating and delivering verbal presentations
  • problem solving through moral reasoning and analysis of justice criteria; analysis of social strategies, resolving moral dilemmas, and policy formulation
  • articulating scientific concepts and evidence with confidence through enquiry-led research on assessed debate topic; including providing peer feedback on topics during class time
  • team management in the assessed debate topics.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Describe how the main scientific and social concepts of climate change have developed
  • 2. Outline the concepts and principles of policy analysis applied to climate change issues at various scales, from energy choices to global environmental agreements
  • 3. Illustrate the interdisciplinary nature of climate change research, policy and practice

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Adopt a cross-disciplinary perspective for the development of knowledge and understanding
  • 5. Illustrate and discuss the contested and provisional nature of knowledge and understanding
  • 6. Analyse critically data on the causes, impacts and consequences of climate change as an example of human-environment relations
  • 7. Analyse critically data on the social dimensions of climate change; including through geopolitical relations, economic dimensions, and hazards and vulnerability approaches

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. Communicate ideas, principles and theories effectively and fluently; through both written and verbal means
  • 9. Develop a sustained and reasoned argument and identify, acquire, evaluate and synthesise data from a range of sources
  • 10. Undertake independent/self-directed study/learning (including time management)

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

The module will cover:

  • Human causes and impacts of climate change
  • Decarbonising the economy and reducing climate change
  • Land use change and its links to climate change
  • Adapting to changing weather and climate risks
  • Social approaches to hazards and vulnerability to climate change
  • Climate policy and governance
  • Public engagement with climate change

Student-led debates will consider pertinent contemporary questions regarding the interdisciplinary and contested nature of climate change science, society and policy.

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching16Lectures and interactive workshops
Scheduled Learning and Teaching12Assessed class-led debates
Guided Independent Study40Reading and preparation associated with debate topics
Guided Independent Study82Reading associated with lecture materials and with revision and exam preparation


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Peer assessment of debate group presentations3 x 4 hour sessionsAllOral feedback from peers during debates

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Examination602 hours1-9Written
Group oral presentation with questions/debate4015 minutes1-10Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
ExaminationExamination1-9August Ref/Def
Group oral presentation with questions/debatePowerPoint summary of presentation1-10August Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to sit a further examination or submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Module texts include:

  • Metz, B. (2010) Controlling Climate Change. Cambridge University Press.
  • Dryzek, J., Norgaard, R. and Schlossberg, D. (eds.) (2011) Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society. Oxford University Press.
  • Hulme, M. (2009) Why we Disagree about Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • McKay, David (2009) Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air. Cambridge University Press. Available online to download at

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Two important journal resources are:

Key words search

Climate change, climate impacts, vulnerability, hazards, geopolitics, energy

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date