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Challenges of Climate Change

Moodle page for this module

UN Sustainable Development Goals:

Climate Change sustainable development goal

Module Leader

Dr Jessica Savage
Option - Second and final years
Term 1
10 x 2 hour lectures
9 weekly 2-hour seminars

Available to students from outside GSD by application


This information relates to the 2021-22 academic year

Principal Aims

To provide undergraduates from a wide range of backgrounds with an up-to-date view of the central challenges that climate change poses. This will be delivered from experts across different disciplines, (Global Sustainable Development, Economics, Law, Mathematics, Physics, Politics, Statistics, and Business Studies) and is open to students from all disciplines, from across the university. Following the course, we aim to equip students to address these challenges. The students should be able to:

a) Understand the major issues that climate change raises across a range of disciplines (science, economics, politics, engineering etc).

b) Explain the approaches to these challenges that are currently at play, or proposed, and the problems they create.

c) Appreciate the role of uncertainty in climate change, how this may be folded into actions, and how it is implemented across different fields (where it often has slightly different meanings).

d) Critically examine material relating to climate and climate change, and assess its reliability.

e) Be able to meaningfully discuss the nature of climate change with individuals from a wide range of backgrounds.

The changes to global climate being brought about by human activity present one of the greatest challenges to confront humanity, and are likely to have a profound effect over the working lives of today's students. Understanding them requires a comprehensive approach spanning multiple disciplines. The aim of this module is to equip students to begin to do this, by providing a grounding in the central scientific, economic and political issues surrounding climate change.

Principal themes of the module:

  • The underlying physical processes that govern global climate, the evidence for human-induced warming, predictions for the future, and assessment of mitigation strategy.
  • Ecological, economic and social consequences of climate change.
  • Difficulties in the way of reaching a political consensus for action to mitigate climate change; political strategies and technological mechanisms to overcome them, and to adapt to future changes.

Students taking this module will gain a solid understanding of the major challenges that climate change presents, together with knowledge enabling them to participate actively and constructively in the efforts to meet them.


This is an interdisciplinary course, which will address the major scientific, philosophical, social, economic, political and technological challenges arising from climate change (real or imagined, manmade or not). It will cover the central issues of the field with expert lecturers, who will speak at a level accessible to non-experts in the field, with the only requirements being a grasp of Science and Mathematics to GCSE level and a willingness to keep abreast of current developments.

Schedule of Lectures

Week 1 (October 4th): Introduction: Alastair Smith -- The evidence; David Mond -- The politics and the treaties.

Week 2 (October 11th): Michael Pounds -- The science of climate change, I.

Week 3 (October 18th): Michael Pounds -- The science of climate change, II.

Week 4 (October 25th): Jessica Savage -- Effects on the living world.

Week 5 (November 1st): Tim Burnet -- The economics of climate change and climate agreement

Week 6 (November 8th): Harpreet Paul -- Climate change and the law; David Mond -- Uncertainty

Week 7 (November 15th): David Elmes -- How can business respond?

Week 8 (November 22nd): Alastair Smith -- Migration; Leon Sealey-Huggins - Climate change in developing countries

Week 9 (November 29th): Simon Caney -- Climate Justice; Lecturer t.b.c. -- China's climate policies and politics

Week 10 (December 6th) : Various speakers -- Climate forum and debate

Employability Skills

Through this module, you will develop a number of different skills that are sought by employers which will support your professional development. We have highlighted this to enable you to identify and reflect on the skills you have acquired and apply them throughout your professional journey including during the recruitment processes whether this on an CV/application form or at an interview.

Analytical: Developed through critical discussion and essays involving addressing “wicked” problems through a holistic approach and integrating different disciplinary understanding and responses to the ecological, social, and economic impacts of climate change.

Written Communication: Interdisciplinary critical essay focussed on researching and analysing complex problems such as challenges of climate change.

Collaborative working: Enhanced through group presentation and debates with emphasis on the value of everyone’s contribution towards achieving a shared goal.



Other links and events

Climate change in the news

Climate 2020 - the UN on how to fulfil the promises of Paris 2015

Honorary Degree at Warwick for Christiana Figueres

Climate-related activities at Warwick