ESA-23306 Introduction to Global Change


Studiepunten 6.00

Individual Paper1
Practical extensively supervised18
Course coordinator(s)dr. ir. N Hofstra
Lecturer(s)prof. dr. R Leemans
prof. dr. P Kabat
prof. dr. EC van Ierland
prof. dr. C Kroeze
dr. ir. N Hofstra
dr. F Ludwig
Examiner(s)prof. dr. R Leemans
prof. dr. P Kabat
dr. ir. N Hofstra

Language of instruction:



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. These more diffuse cumulative global changes are exemplified by widespread problems, such as groundwater depletion, deforestation, and species extinction.
In this course students will be introduced into many aspects of global change from a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary perspective. Physical, biological, social and economic issues will be discussed. The main topics of the six weeks are: introduction and economics, assessments, modelling and scenarios, impacts, uncertainties 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 such as the Netherlands. The main focus of the course is on climate change as a good example of global change. Links will be made to other examples, such as decline in biodiversity, deforestation, and water and food security.
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. The course is a compulsory introductory course within the MSc Climate Studies; it will also provide interesting insights for a wide range of students from other backgrounds, such as Environmental Sciences, International Land and Water Management, Biology and International Development Studies.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- Explain and discuss the following elements of global change at an introductory level:
- drivers and processes, causes and impacts, and responses;
- feedbacks and synergies, and scale issues that all contribute to the obvious complexity of human environment interactions; 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; and - 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 about global change issues. Each week students get the opportunity to process the material learned during the lectures in seminars. The seminars are linked together, as each of them contributes to answering the question (that will also be asked at the exam): 'How many degrees 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.


The grade is based on an exam (75%) and the essay (25%). One of the questions at the exam, counting for 25% of the exam mark, represents the central question of the seminars.


The book 'Climate Change Science and Policy' by Schneider et al. (2010), available from the WUR shop. For the essay, starting papers (perspectives of the journal Science) are provided and students are expected to search for additional literature.

Verplicht voor: MCLClimate StudiesMSc1MO
Verplicht voor: WUCLCBSc Minor Climate Change: Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Society1MO