nl en

Climate Change


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

  • Global Challenges: Sustainability

  • Earth Systems Science


Changing weather patterns all over the world show us that climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time and affects/will affect modern human life globally. For example, climate change disrupts agricultural productivity, ecosystem interactions, 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 its impacts are not equally distributed around Earth. This means that developing regional mitigation and adaptation strategies requires in-depth knowledge of the climate system and regional context. Additionally, tackling climate change requires more than technological innovation or policy-making. For example, how do you effectively communicate about climate change? And how do we as humans relate to Earth?

This course will provide students with a thorough scientific understanding of the climate system, introduce them to current debates in climate change research, and explore ideas on how to tackle this global challenge. Topics that will be discussed are:

  • The atmospheric processes that lead to different climate zones on Earth.

  • 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 basic meteorological/ atmospheric/ oceanic processes that are important to understand the impact of natural and anthropogenic climate change.

  • 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 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course will cover various aspects of climate change research through lectures, class discussions, and lab sessions. We will also engage in practical exercises and data analysis related to climate modeling, utilizing the R programming language and online tools. No prior knowledge of R is required. I also intend to incorporate a field trip into the course, but we will discuss the details of this at the start of the course.

Depending on the number of students, you will explore the local impacts of climate change on specific regions in pairs. Each week, students will apply the course concepts to their assigned region and synthesize their knowledge into a comprehensive report. To complete the report, students will be responsible for identifying and thoroughly reading a sufficient number of scientific papers related to the selected region, as well as other suitable academic sources of information.

Finally, we will delve into ideas proposed by prominent thinkers and artists regarding "solving the global challenge of climate change". This might mean watching a documentaries, hikes or shared reading sessions together outside of regular class hours – students can also do these individually when their schedule does not allow for it.

Assessment Method

  • Participation (15% weightage of final grading)

  • Weather report (10% weightage of final grading – week 3)

  • Climate data assignment (15% weightage of final grading – week 4)

  • Simulation report (15% weightage of final grading – week 6)

  • Regional climate report (25% weightage of final grading – week 8)

  • Final Exam (20% weightage of final grading – week 8)

Reading list

  • Textbook: Earth’s Climate: Past and Future by William F. Ruddiman (Third Edtion)

  • Book: The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis by Amitav Ghosh

A reader with papers will be made available at the start of class.


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