ESA-23306 Introduction to Global Change


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Individual Paper1
Practical extensively supervised14
Project learning6
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
prof. dr. LG Hein
dr. ir. N Hofstra
Examiner(s)prof. dr. R Leemans
prof. dr. P Kabat

Language of instruction:



Students will learn how scientific research can contribute to a better understanding of the causes, processes and consequences of Global Change (e.g. climate change, decline in biodiversity, deforestation, and water and food security) and their possible solutions (adaptation and mitigation). The course will enhance the understanding of the complex interactions between natural processes and human activities and stress why and how the Earth system in the current era, often labeled the Anthropocene, is dominated by humans. The assessment interface between science, society and policy making will also be presented and discussed. Ample attention will be paid to national and international global change research programmes: Diversitas, IGBP, IHDP, WCRP and ESSP. The course is based on a multi- and trans-disciplinary perspective to enhance the integration of knowledge of both natural and social sciences.
This course thus aims at understanding, analyzing and quantifying the interacting socio-economic and biophysical driving forces, processes (including interactions and feedbacks) and responses to global change, all acting in their specific domain and at a specific scale level. This understanding will be applied by using a global integrated assessment model. Students will also engage in a problem-oriented assessment of relevant topics by means of different case studies from various regions in the world, varying from continental to local scales.
The course 'Introduction to Global Change' is a compulsory introduction course within the MSc Earth System Science (Climate Studies), but may also be relevant for other students, who have an interest in environmental sciences, pollution of soil, water and air, biology, forestry, land use or economics.

Learning outcomes:

After the course the participant should:
- understand the functioning of the Earth system, the main causes and effects of global change and possible solutions;
- be aware of the uncertainties in projections for the future;
- be able to judge policy implications of global change research;
- have insight in the drivers of global change and especially drivers of land use and cover change;
- be able to describe and analyze quantitatively the spatially explicit drivers of global change;
- be able to interpret and use global change models;
- be able to assess the role of land use cover change in global change;
- have insight in current Global Change research activities and assessments.


Lectures (and a few guest-lectures) will provide the latest expert knowledge about global change issues. Hands-on experience will be provided by analyzing the structure and scenarios results of the integrated assessment model IMAGE. Group work and individual paper will focus on preparing a comprehensive but policy-relevant assessment of a specific global change problem.


Grade based on written exam and assessment of group work and individual paper.


A course guide and a series of scientific articles.

Compulsory for: MMAMeteorology and Air QualityMScC: Climate Change1MO
MCLClimate StudiesMSc1MO
Compulsory for: WUCLCBSc Minor Climate Change: Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Society1MO