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Climate Change


Climate Change is widely agreed to be the most important environmental driver of economic and societal change for the 21st century. Almost all areas of policy and planning, commerce and production will take place in the context of how they affect or are affected by climate change outcomes.

The purpose of this module is to provide a broad introduction to the science of climate change, its origins and consequences. The module will present the evidence for past and recent climate change. It will introduce the most important greenhouse gases, explain their origins and action. It will consider how predictions of future changes are made; introduce the scenarios that lie beneath them and how these are translated at different spatial and temporal scales. This will lead on to potential impacts, particularly with regard to ecosystems and agriculture. The module will conclude by considering mitigation and adaptation to climate change, particularly in agricultural systems.


On completion of this module participants will be able to:

  • Critically evaluate the evidence for climate change.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of future scenarios and climate predictions.
  • Show critical awareness of potential impacts of climate change.
  • Understand how agricultural systems may adapt to climate change.
  • Evaluate risks associated with climate change.


  • Introduction to course scope and content. Interactive session exploring understanding of climate change, evidence, examples of changes (phenology), origin and role of IPCC, approaches and methodologies of climate impact studies.
  • Carbon dioxide; Its role in climate change, evidence for increases, mechanism of action, origins and fate of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, role of biotic and abiotic factors.
  • Methane, NO; Their importance as greenhouse gases, Global cooling, sulphur, aerosols. Factors that affect warming by absorbing or reflecting radiation. Origins, mechanisms.
  • Ozone. Origins of ozone, impact at stratospheric and tropospheric level. International agreements and impact. Ozone holes and UV. Ozone, crops and health.
  • Future Climate, 2050, 2080, global and regional. IPCC reports, future scenarios, timescales. Impact projections, global patterns of change. UKCIP projections.
  • Impacts 1, Sea and coastline. Components of ocean climate; temperature, salinity, circulation, heat exchange. Acidification of the oceans, seal levels, storms and coastal erosion marine ecosystems.
  • Impacts 2, Water Security; What will be the impact of climate change on the frequency of droughts and river floods? What parts of the world will be most affected? What changes have taken place already and what can that tell us about future problems?
  • Impacts 3, Agriculture and Food production. How do plants respond to increased temperature and carbon dioxide? How do changes at the individual plant level translate into crop performance? How will these interact with other changes such as water availability and ozone levels?
  • Agriculture and Food Production in the UK. What will be the main drivers for change in the future? The consequences of climate change for where and how crops are grown in the UK. The impact of extreme weather. The potential for new crops.
  • How will the demand for food production change in the future? What parts of the world’s food production system will be most affected by climate change? What will be the limiting factors? How will the drive for renewables affect food production?