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Climate and Society: past, present and future


Module description

Climate change is one of the biggest threats to the environment that society is currently facing. It is a multifaceted issue, and will not only impact on the natural environment, but also affect a range of economic sectors and policy areas. In this module we discuss in depth the science behind climate change and the myriad ways in which society is affected by and responding to these changes.

We start with a focus on climate change science, through introducing and discussing climate change mechanisms and processes from the (geological) past and the present, and will analyse how climate is expected to change in the near future as a result of continued human actions. During a short field trip you will put your learning into practice and explore how climate change has shaped and is currently shaping the landscape. We then focus on how society is being impacted by ongoing and future climate change, and how adaptation and mitigation strategies are being developed.

Indicative syllabus

  • Quaternary climate change and the Milankovitch theory
  • Abrupt climate transitions during the last glacial/interglacial transition
  • Drivers of past and current climate change
  • Emission scenarios and plausible future climate change
  • Overview of future climate change projections
  • Field trip
  • Societal impacts of climate change - research-led teaching
  • Climate change and politics
  • Climate change and the media

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • understand the main mechanisms driving natural and anthropogenic climate change
  • appreciate the spatial and temporal expression of future climate change
  • explore key impacts of future climate change on human society
  • appreciate the various ways in which society is responding to climate change
  • apply process-based understanding of the natural world to multiple time periods
  • interpret and discuss climate data such as forecasts of future climate change under a range of possible future scenarios
  • analyse ways in which climate change will impact society and identify what mechanisms there are for adaptation or mitigation of the expected effects.