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Global Environmental Politics and Ethics


Admission requirements

  • Only students of the MSc Crisis and Security Management can take this course.


We are in the midst of unprecedented, anthropogenic climate change. Global warming is one of the most pressing global topics facing humans and nonhuman life today because of its ongoing and likely future harms to human and nonhuman life, and related issues of fairness. This course will focus on leading political and ethical issues related to global environmental challenges, especially global warming. How should international organisations, states, NGOs, and individuals address such global environmental challenges? We will consider a number of ways to conceptualise the problem of global warming and other environmental threats because they have implications for how to address the problems. The course will relate environmental challenges to central features and concepts of international relations, such as state sovereignty, international institutions, and human rights. We will consider how to evaluate the tradeoffs in global environmental governance, and who is likely to benefit and be harmed. Given that uncertainty and risk are essential elements of global environmental issues, we will examine why certain groups are put at elevated risk, including future generations, and some impoverished individuals, among others. Scholars have presented alternative proposals for how the burdens of climate change mitigation and adaptation should be distributed, which we will evaluate. Additionally, we will examine whether existing institutions and modes of governing may contribute to ameliorating, or be inadequate for addressing, environmental threats.

Course Objectives

After finalizing this course, students are able to:

  1. Identify, based on advanced knowledge and understanding, key political and ethical challenges of global warming and other environmental problems.
  2. Analyse, based on advanced knowledge and understanding, how key facets of international relations relate to global environmental challenges.
  3. Understand, based on advanced knowledge and understanding of the distinctive nature of governance in relation to crisis and security issues, the main ways leaders have tried and are trying to address these challenges, and why they have taken the various positions that they have.
  4. Understand various ways of categorising risks of global warming to and responsibilities towards different groups of people and assess proposals for how to address them.
  5. Develop critical thinking skills by improving deductive reasoning, how to analyse an argument, and how to construct a sound argument.
  6. Draw conclusions, make judgements and/or provide solutions to some aspect of global environmental challenges, based on empirical data and sound and balanced argumentation.


On the right side of programme front page of the E-guide you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Brightspace.

Mode of Instruction

The course consists of seven meetings and will be taught in a participatory, seminar style format.

Attendance is mandatory. Students are only allowed to miss one session if there are special, demonstrable personal circumstances. The Board of Examiners, in consultation with the study advisors, will decide on such an exceptional exemption of mandatory attendance.

Total study load 140 hours:

  • 21 Contact hours

  • 119 Self-study hours: reading, preparing lectures, assignments, etc.

Assessment method

Students are not obliged to hand in an assignment at the first opportunity in order to make use of the re-sit opportunity. The re-sit assignment will test the same course objectives, but will be different in terms of topics, cases or substance.

Paper, 50% of final grade
Grade cannot be compensated, a 5.50 is required to pass the course

Quizzes, 25% of final grade
Course can be compensated in case of a fail (grade < 5.50), resit not possible.

Reading Journal, 25% of final grade
Course can be compensated in case of a fail (grade < 5.50), resit not possible.

Additional, formative (non-graded) assignments are an obligatory part of the course.

The calculated grade of the assignments must be at least 5.50 in order to pass the course.
If a student passed an assignment, it is not possible to participate in a re-sit in order to obtain a higher grade. Students are only permitted to resit the 50% assignment if they have a calculated overall course lower than 5.50.

Reading list

A selection of books and articles, to be announced on Brightspace.


Register for every course and workgroup via uSis.
Registration in uSis is possible from four weeks before the start of the course. Some courses and workgroups have a limited number of participants, so register on time (before the course starts). In uSis you can access your personal schedule and view your results.

Leiden University uses Brightspace as its online learning management system. Important information about the course is posted here.
After enrolment for the course in uSis you are also enrolled in the Brightspace environment of this course.

Contact Eamon Aloyo