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Climate Change


Admission requirements

Required courses:

  • Global Challenges: Sustainability

  • Earth System Science


Climate change is one of, perhaps the most pressing issue modern human life is inevitably confronted with, globally. The course introduces students to the key issues that surround the climate change debate, both the physical and human dimensions of climate change, and reaches out to the wider social and political context as this has important bearings upon both the scientific debate and policy responses, which frames options to master the global challenge of climate change. Topics covered in this course will be:

  • The climate system and climatic characteristics

  • Main factors contributing to natural climate change, methods to know about current and past climate change

  • Climate change over the past 11000 years: sources of evidence, impact on human civilizations, feedbacks

  • Anthropogenic forcings of the climate system: observations, evidence, and effects

  • Projected impact of climate change on the environment and human societies

  • The battle for solutions: Mitigation, adaptation, social systems, politics, ethics.

Course Objectives

By focusing on evaluating original climate data and scientific journal articles students develop skills and competence in critically evaluating data (statistical analyses, plotting skills), scientific arguments, and arguments brought up by different political and economic interest groups practiced giving a insightful presentation. Furthermore, the follow-up assignment trains students in writing up a review of the current state of knowledge concerning a specific issue associated with climate change.

Students will learn what is driving climate change across a range of temporal and spatial scales, and how drivers of climate change interact with other earth cycles and human societies: * Students can describe the interconnectedness of and feedbacks between the main controls of climate change, environmental earth processes and human systems * Students can distinguish long-term and short-term perspectives on natural climate change * Students can critically reflect on projected impacts of climate change on the environment and human societies * Students can lay out ethical and political issues associated with climate change.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2021-2022 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course will centre around lecturing, reading, and discussing scientific sources to further the understanding of the past to recent history, drivers and effects as well as projections of future climate change. Some sessions will be focusing on the more in-depth discussion of a specific topic, which may include to read student reports (assignment) in advance and follow student presentations on a specific topic.

Depending on the number of students, paired students will delve into a topic of interest by means of editing a report-style paper that is related to climate change. For the report, students will be responsible for identifying, and reading thoroughly a sufficient number of scientific papers dealing with the selected topic next to other suitable academic sources of information. Each paper shall be based on an annotated bibliography (one or two paragraphs long per paper/source). Student review papers are due in week 3 to 4, and being basic to an in-class presentation followed by a structured discussion.

Assessment Method

  • Assessment 1: Attendance and in-class participation (15% of final grade)

  • Assessment 2: Mid-term Exam (20% of final grade)

  • Assessment 3: Final Exam (25% of final grade)

  • Assessment 4: Peer review of the draft of the term-paper/report (10% of final grade)

  • Assessment 5: Term-paper/report (30% of final grade)

Reading list



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. Chris Daly,