The Politics of Climate Change

Module titleThe Politics of Climate Change
Module codePOL3154
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Professor Duncan Russel (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module aims to introduce you to the political and governance challenges presented by climate change. In taking this module you will learn that producing effective climate policy is an inherently complex activity because of: the politicisation of climate science; issues surrounding intra and intergenerational equity; the interconnectedness of climate change and sustainable development; the cross-sectoral and multi-actor dynamics of climate issues; and the interaction between different governance scales. For successful completion of the module you will need to have a strong background in politics, international relations or human geography.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to help you examine why the issue of climate change is so difficult to address. While being rooted in concepts from political science, it aims to provide you with a platform through which the climate change problematique can be analysed from different disciplinary and theoretical perspectives. Through a mixture of role play, discussions, seminar presentations and group work your learning will be organised key aspects of climate change governance, namely: politicalisation of science, the political economy of climate change, fairness in international negotiations’ and evaluating climate policy.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. understand the role and perspectives of different actors involved in climate policy.
  • 2. demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of the complexities of addressing climate change across different policy sectors and governance scales;
  • 3. evaluate critically policy initiatives to tackle climate change;
  • 4. identify examples of climate policy good practice and produce a critical evaluation of the lessons that can be drawn;
  • 5. recognise the difficulties in reaching a meaningful global agreement on climate change

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. think critically, analyse debates and present coherent arguments on politics;
  • 7. evaluate the effectiveness of policy;
  • 8. understand in-depth the reasons for and barriers to policy intervention;
  • 9. critically apply theories of political science and international relations to real-life political situations

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 10. effectively communicate complex topics in a coherent and well structured manner;
  • 11. reflect critically on learning outcomes

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

1. The politicisation of climate science

2. The political economy of climate change

3. Climate policy evaluation

4. Communicating climate change

5. International climate policy

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and teaching activity22Weekly 2 hour seminars over 11 weeks
Guided Independent study78Reading and seminar preparation
Guided Independent study50Course work preparation and writing


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Case study plan500 words1-3In writing and oral
Sample learning diary for first 3 seminars of the course600 words1-10, 11In writing and oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Case Study602500 words1-10Written
Learning Diary301500 words1-10, 11Written
Group presentation as part of a role play1010 mins per person1-10Written and oral


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Case Study2500 Case Study1-10August/September assessment period
Learning diary1500 word literature review outlining the key governance challenges posed by climate change1-10August/September assessment period
Group presentation10 minute viva on international climate governance1-10In summer term


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

IBoykoff, M. (Ed) (2010) The Politics of Climate Change: A Survey. Routledge: London.

Brandstedt, E. and Bergrian, A (2013) Climate Rights: Feasible or not? Environmental Politics. Vol.22, issue 3, pp394-409

Giddens, A. (2009) The Politics of Climate Change. Polity Press, Cambridge. Pp 1-28

Jordan, A., & Huitema, D. (2014). Innovations in climate policy: the politics of invention, diffusion, and evaluation. Environmental Politics, 23(5), 715-734

O’Riordan T. (2001) Climate Change. In Timothy O’Riordan (ed) Environmental Science for Environmental Management, pp. 170-185. Pearson Education, Harlow:

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources


Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

climate change, politics, climate negotiations, environmental policy, policy evaluation

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date