ESA-23306 Introduction to Climate Change in a Global Change Context


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Individual Paper3
Course coordinator(s)dr. ir. N Hofstra
dr. F Ludwig
Lecturer(s)dr. ir. N Hofstra
prof. dr. R Leemans
dr. F Ludwig
dr. EH van der Werf
Examiner(s)prof. dr. R Leemans
dr. ir. N Hofstra
dr. F Ludwig

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

General knowledge on the radiation balance and greenhouse effect, carbon cycle, and biodiversity


Global environmental change (or global change) entails the systemic and cumulative consequences of human activities on the Earth system. Systemic global change involves modification of global properties of the Earth system and opposes local and regional changes, which only through their cumulative effects obtain global significance. The effects of greenhouse gas emissions and the consequent climate change are an example of systemic global change. The more diffuse cumulative global changes are exemplified by widespread problems, such as groundwater depletion, deforestation, and species extinction.
In this broad and introductory course, which is compulsory for MSc students of the MSc programme Climate Studies, students will be introduced into many aspects of global change from a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary perspective and with a specific focus on climate change. Physical, biological, social and economic issues will be discussed. The main topics of the six weeks are: introduction, drivers, modelling and scenarios, impacts, assessments and policy options. Most lectures will focus on general themes that set the scene and are relevant worldwide, while some lectures will provide examples from specific regions and countries.
The course should be used by students as a frame of reference in future studies as it makes them aware of the society and policy implications of natural and socio-economic processes that are involved in these changes.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to able to:

- explain and discuss the following elements of climate change in a global environmental change context at an introductory level:

- drivers and processes, causes and impacts, and responses;

- feedbacks and synergies, and spatial and temporal scale issues that all contribute to the obvious complexity of human environment interaction and uncertainties;

- explain and discuss how the elements mentioned above are presented in assessments of global change and used in global change policy

- recognize and describe the necessity of:

- interdisciplinarity;

- different conceptual frameworks and perspectives;

- definitions of global change concepts;

- participate in public discussions with a critical academic attitude and science-based arguments.


Lectures will provide the latest expert knowledge on global change issues. Each week students get the opportunity to process the material learned during the lectures in tutorials. The tutorials are linked together, as each of them contributes to answering the question (that will also be asked at the exam): 'How many degrees of warming could we allow to avoid dangerous climate change?'. During the course each student will also write an essay. This essay will be reviewed by peers and ample feedback will be given by the lecturers.


The grade is based on:
- an examination (75%);
- an individual essay (25%).
The central question of the tutorials is asked in the examination and counts for 25% of the examination (19% of the final mark).


Articles, together with a reading guide, are available through the course website.

Compulsory for: MCLClimate StudiesMSc1MO