Climate Change

Module summary

Module code: ENVI0449
Level: 6
Credits: 15
School: Engineering and Science
Department: Natural Resources Institute
Module Coordinator(s): Bruce Haggart



There is increasing public concern about the impact of human activities on the global environment and apprehension about its sustainable future. Understanding human-induced climate change (and its likely consequences for future life on Earth) is one of the greatest modern scientific challenges. However, climate has been changing throughout geological history. Investigating patterns and processes of past climate change and appreciation of the linkages and feedbacks in the natural climate system are prerequisites to our understanding of likely future human-induced changes. This course examines scientific issues at the leading edge of this fast-developing field of study, encompassing the full range of Earth history from the early Precambrian to the present day. Importantly, the course also covers modelling and prediction of future climate change.

Learning outcomes

On completing this course successfully you will be able to:

1 Demonstrate a critical awareness of the main components of the Earth's climate system and how they interact.

2 Critically evaluate the evidence for the Earth's past and present climate and show critical awareness of the uncertainties about attributing causes.

3 Demonstrate a critical understanding of anthropogenic impact on climate, its measurement and attribution.

4 Critically evaluate the predictions of future climate change prediction and their associated impacts

Indicative content

Overview of causes of climate change. Natural variability at global and regional scales. Palaeoclimates, palaeoatmospheres and palaeoceanography from the Precambrian to the Quaternary including: Precambrian climate change and the Snowball Earth Theory. Palaeozoic and Mesozoic climate change. The evolution of the atmosphere. Tertiary climate change: from greenhouse to icehouse. Quaternary climate change. Understanding the present climate system, its components and their interactions. Climate change since the beginning of instrumental measurement. Climate modelling and prediction of future climate change and their impacts.

Teaching and learning activity

The course is designed around 12 contact periods each of 3 hours' duration. Most of the course is by delivered through lectures, though there will also be directed learning and a seminar presentation / discussion. All lectures use PowerPoint presentation and are supplemented by summary structure, notes and suggested further reading via the student portal. Seminar presentations are designed to explore current research and debate in specific areas of climate change, reinforcing attempts to be at the forefront of knowledge in this dynamic subject area. In terms of QAA Geography benchmarks, the unit explores the Earth's climate as a system (3.5) and directly addresses its spatial variation (3.3) on a variety of spatial and temporal scales (3.6) and its change through time (3.7). Understanding climate change, the anthropogenic perturbation and likely future expression is one of the most important modern scientific fields of investigation. It is a fast-moving, dynamic, plural and contested area of study and by its nature is constantly changing relationships with other fields of study (3.9). It provides the basis of informed concern (3.12) about the Earth and its peoples and underpins attempts at sustainability and effective environmental management


Method of SUMMATIVE assessment: Examination
Outcomes assessed:1-4
Grading Mode (e.g. pass/ fail; %): %
Weighting % : 60%
Passmark: 40%
Word Length:n/a
Outline Details: Seen 3 hour exam

Method of SUMMATIVE assessment: Presentation
Outcomes assessed:1,2
Grading Mode (e.g. pass/ fail; %): %
Weighting % :40%
Passmark: 40%
Word Length:n/a
Outline Details: Current research seminar presentation. Subject area: past climate changes.

Nature of FORMATIVE assessment supporting student learning:
Examination: Feedback and discussion in class
Seminar presentation: Discussion and feedback on PowerPoint presentation