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Module DXX-2006:
Climate Change

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Graham Bird

Overall aims and purpose

The module looks at climate change from three viewpoints: 1) how climate has changed in past and how we determine this, 2) how it is predicted to change in future and how we model this, and 3) what impacts those future changes may have on society. The module aims to place the contemporary climate change debate in a longer-term scientific context and explore debates around the causes and consequences of historic and contemporary climate change. Particular focus will be placed on the interactions between people and the environment at a range of geographical and temporal scales.

Course content

  1. Major concepts: climate and environmental change and 'global warming'.
  2. Temporal and spatial patterns of historical climate change. Hot House and Ice House climates, glacial/interglacial cycles, Quaternary climate change (Last Glacial Maximum, Younger Dryas Hypsithermal, Medieval Warm Period, Little Ice Age).
  3. Drivers of climate change at a range of temporal scales.
  4. Use of environmental proxies. The course will cover the use of a range of environmental proxies for reconstructing past climate at a range of temporal and spatial scales. This will include the use of dendrochronological records, palaeo-atmospheric chemistry (ice-cores), speleotherms, varved sedimentary deposits, documentary records, primary climate observations.
  5. The contemporary climate change debate. Depiction in the popular media, causes, magnitude. Evidence presented in the peer-reviewed, scientific literature.
  6. Future predictions of climate change. IPCC, GCMs.
  7. Adaption to climate change. Focus on both attempts to address potential causes (CO2 and 'greenhouse gas' releases, Kyoto Protocol, Copenhagen Summit, carbon capture, renewable energy, energy efficiency, carbon credits, offsetting) and impacts (impacts of climatic change upon weather and the environment, changing frequency and magnitude of extreme events).
  8. Socio-economic impacts of climate change.

Assessment Criteria


Grades C- to B+: Clear understanding and thorough knowledge of the concept of climate change, with evidence of reading and knowledge of recent developments in the subject . Multidisciplinary issues emphasised, and thoroughly described with a clear appreciation of concepts of spatial and temporal scales. Balanced review of natural and anthropogenic processes. Thorough quantification and critical evaluation of case studies. High standard of presentation.


Grades A- to A**: Clear understanding, wide and thorough knowledge of the concept of climate change. Evidence of substantial reading, and knowledge of recent developments in the understanding of historical and future climate change at a range of spatial and temporal scales. Clear awareness of multidisciplinary issues with greater social, cultural and economic emphasis. Detailed quantification and explanation of derivations. Critical evaluation with well reasoned opinion. Elegant and flowing presentation, with flair for subject.


Grades D- to D+: Adequate knowledge of the concept of climate change. A basic multidisciplinary approach of issues. Presentation of appropriate examples to illustrate the spatial and temporal variability in climate change and the evidence that highlights this, the predictions for future trends in climate and the suggested socio-environmental implications. Structured, accurate and relevant description. Some quantification and basic level of critical evaluation expected.

Learning outcomes

  1. Outline major patterns of past global and regional climate change at a range of temporal scales.

  2. Describe the major regional and global trends in predicted future climate.

  3. Present an evidenced argument in relation to a key topic associated with climate change.

  4. Outline the impacts of predicted climate change and the proposed approaches to mitigation or adaptation.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight

Students answer two essay questions: one seen question and one unseen from a choice of six.

ESSAY Individual essay 40

Presentations to be held on either 20/11/18 or 23/11/18 depending upon timetabled.


Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study

Private and guided self-study


10*2 hour lectures

Practical classes and workshops

1*2 hour computer practical


1*3 hour presentation session


1*3 hour debate session

Study group

Preparing for group debate exercise (hours) and for the group presentation assessment (20 hours)


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting

Subject specific skills

  • Recognize and apply appropriate theories and concepts from a range of disciplines.
  • Consider issues from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives.
  • Awareness of the concepts of spatial and temporal scale in understanding processes and relationships.
  • Appreciation of the reciprocal nature of human-environmental relationships.


Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: