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Climate Change


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

  • Global Challenges: Sustainability

  • Earth System Science


The recent IPPC reports tell us again that climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time and affects (/will affect) modern human life globally. Rapid climate change disrupts agricultural productivity and water resources by putting natural systems under stress. Moreover, the increased occurrence of extreme events such as droughts, floods, and wildfires, which are attributed to climate change, take many lives and cost billions of dollars worldwide.

Understanding the physical processes that drive the climate system is crucial to design effective policies to combat climate change. Especially given that the impacts of climate change can vary from region to region as they are dependent on local aspects of the earth system. This means that developing regional mitigation and adaptation strategies requires an in-depth knowledge of the climate system and what influences it.

This course provides students with a thorough scientific understanding of the climate system and introduces them to the latest insights and debates in climate change research by covering:

  • The main drivers of natural climate variability and the methods to study past and current climate change.

  • The impacts of natural climate variability over the past 11000 years.

  • The evidence and effects of anthropogenic forcings of the climate system.

  • The role of climate models and climate projections in climate change research.

  • The impacts of climate change on local environments and human systems.

Course Objectives


  • Students can critically reflect on the scientific literature regarding climate change and on the methods that are used to study the climate system, such as models and paleo data.

  • Students can perform simple data analyses on climate data to assess the regional impacts of climate change and can synthesize this information in a report or presentation.


  • Students can explain the physics of climate change and the relations and feedbacks between different components of the Earth system that influence the climate system.

  • Students can describe drivers of natural climate variability and explain how recent human activity forces the climate system.

  • Students can describe the regional impacts of climate change such as floods, droughts, heat waves and hurricanes.

  • Students understand and can formulate research questions in current climate change research.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2022-2023 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course will consist of lectures and class discussions on topics in climate change research such as ENSO and General Circulation Models. In some sessions we will conduct simple (climate) modeling exercises or data analyses using the R programming language and other online tools (no prior knowledge of R is necessary).

Depending on the number of students, paired students will delve into the local impacts of climate change for a specific region. Every week, students will apply the course topics to their assigned region and synthesized this knowledge into a report. For the report, students will be responsible for identifying, and reading thoroughly a sufficient number of scientific papers dealing with the selected region next to other suitable academic sources of information.

Assessment Method

  • Attendance and in-class participation (10% weightage of final grading)

  • Climate data assignment (15% weightage of final grading)

  • Regional climate report (35% weightage of final grading)

  • Report presentation (15% weightage of final grading)

  • Final Exam (25% weightage of final grading)

Reading list

A list of readings will be made available online in due time. Readings refer to IPPC report chapters, (text)book chapters, journal articles, technical documents.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Joeri Reinders, email TBA