Climate Change and Development (2013 entry)

MSc, 1 year full time/2 years part time

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Subject overview

Climate change and sustainable energy are perhaps the most important issues of our time. The challenge is to make a worldwide transition to a low-carbon economy, while at the same time providing modern energy services to a growing population and adapting to the increasingly substantial, but often uncertain, impacts of a changing climate. To meet these challenges, society needs professionals and policy-makers who understand the complex, multidimensional scientific, socioeconomic, technological and institutional challenges associated with sustainable energy, climate change mitigation and climate adaptation.

Our climate change and energy policy degrees are designed to provide state-of-the-art training for this expanding professional market.

Sussex is renowned for its agenda-setting, interdisciplinary teaching and research in science, development, and policy studies. You will be taught by leading researchers who have played key roles advising governmental/ intergovernmental bodies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on climate change mitigation and adaptation and/or energy policy.

For the MSc in Climate Change and Development and the MSc Climate Change and Policy, you will be taught by faculty from the Department of Geography, SPRU – Science and Technology Policy Research, and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS):

  • the Department of Geography is a leading centre of geographical scholarship in the UK, with particular strengths in climate science, impacts and adaptation
  • SPRU – Science and Technology Policy Research was ranked 2nd science and policy think tank in the UK and 11th in the world (University of Pennsylvania: Global Go-To Think-Tanks Report 2012). The Sussex Energy Group is one of the largest independent social science energy policy research groups in the world

  • IDS is ranked 1st ‘Best University-Affiliated Think Tank’ in the UK and 3rd in the world (University of Pennsylvania: Global Go To Think Tanks Report 2012).

The MSc in Energy Policy for Sustainability is taught by faculty in SPRU – Science and Technology Policy Research who are part of the Sussex Energy Group. The group undertakes academically rigorous, interdisciplinary research engaging with policy-makers and practitioners. The aim of our research is to identify ways of achieving the transition to sustainable, low-carbon energy systems.

More information can be found at Sussex Climate Network.

Specialist facilities in the School of Global Studies

The University offers extensive computing facilities with a full range of data-processing and communications software. Office space is usually allocated to students taking research degrees. You will have full access to the University’s main Library and its online collection.

Specialist facilities at IDS

IDS plays a lead role in the provision, development and support of information and intermediary services that build a bridge between development research and development policy and practice. The IDS Knowledge Services include both broad-based services such as the development policy, research and practice information online gateway Eldis, and specialist services such as BRIDGE (gender), the Governance and Social Development Resource Centre (GSDRC) and the Livelihoods Connect Network. IDS Knowledge Services also work in partnerships with organisations in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. For more information, visit IDS: Knowledge Services.

The British Library for Development Studies (BLDS) is Europe’s most comprehensive research collection on economic and social change in developing countries. IDS students have full access to a wide range of online databases, CD-ROMs, e-books and e-journals in addition to the facilities at the University’s main Library.

Programme outline

You will be based in the School of Global Studies. This degree is taught jointly by IDS and the School of Global Studies.

Climate change is already affecting the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, who often lack the robust systems and capacity needed to cope. This degree equips both those new to the field and development practitioners with the key skills and knowledge to work on the implications of climate change for global and regional development.

You will acquire specialist knowledge of the causes of climate change (taught specifically for non-climate specialists), the physical and human consequences, and efforts to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate. Throughout, the emphasis is on the specific implications of climate change for poverty in developing countries, the processes of adaptation, and policy responses. You can develop a specialist thematic or regional enquiry in the dissertation.

2013 modules

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Challenges in Climate Prediction

30 credits
Spring teaching, year 1

Climate modelling has strongly shaped the climate change issue. This course provides non-climate specialist students with a comprehensive overview of the science of climate prediction, and highlights many of the crucial applications of models.

You will covers the principles of climate modelling, recent development in seasonal-decadal prediction and then consider the development of Earth System Models for multi-decadal climate change projections. As such, you will consider the interaction between the different components of the climate system and our ability to model these.

The emphasis is on those components that may invoke substantial feedbacks within the climate system. This includes clouds, aerosols and sea/land ice and the bio-geochemical cycles of greenhouse gases involved in vegetation, soils and the oceans. There is a major emphasis on the global carbon cycle. You will also consider the likelihood of rapid and abrupt climate changes associated with various 'tipping points' in the climate system, and assess recent initiatives to quantify uncertainty in climate prediction. Throughout the course, there is a clear emphasis on how climate modelling relates to the mitigation policy agenda, for example through greenhouse gas stabilisation regimes, verification of mitigation policies, and to adaptation activities. The course is designed to be accessible to students from a range of academic backgrounds.

Climate Change and Energy Policy

30 credits
Spring teaching, year 1

This course introduces you to the key concepts, theories, issues, challenges and debates within climate change and energy policy, together with the main social science approaches to this multifaceted subject. Primary emphasis will be given to economic concepts and techniques, but the course will also include insights from innovation studies and political science. The focus throughout will be the opportunities, challenges and constraints associated with making the transition to a low carbon energy system.

Key themes will include the physical characteristics of fossil and renewable energy resources, the process of transition and change in energy systems, the synergies and tensions between sustainability and other policy objectives, and both the rationales for and the limits to public policy intervention. Substantive issues to be covered include: energy flows, technologies, trends and options; perspectives on energy security; resource depletion and `peak oil'; energy market liberalisation; the regulation of network industries; innovation in energy systems; carbon/energy taxation and green fiscal reform; carbon emissions trading at the national and international level; policy support for renewable energy; the economics of energy efficiency; the `rebound effect' from energy efficiency improvements; and energy use and carbon mitigation in the transport sector. Most of the discussion and examples will relate to OECD countries, but one lecture will cover energy policy in developing countries. Relevant analytical techniques such as cost benefit analysis, decomposition analysis and energy modelling will also be briefly introduced. Assessment will be based upon student presentations, essays and briefings, together with participation in group exercises.

Climate Resilient Development

30 credits
Spring teaching, year 1

The course analyses the overlaps between disasters, climate change and poverty, focusing on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction approaches and their contribution to achieving climate resilient development. This course introduces you to key concepts underpinning climate resilient development, including vulnerability, risk, uncertainty, and resilience, as well as the role of climate and disasters science in informing policy and practice. Lectures will balance theoretical debates with issues in international policy, particularly the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and practical case study examples from development policy and practice.

Topics include: downscaling global climate data and dealing with uncertainty; impact modelling and sectoral planning approaches; seasonal forecasts and early warning; conceptual insights: vulnerability, risk, uncertainty and resilience; climate resilient development and international policy; community-based adaptation and national adaptation planning; climate change, migration and conflict; disaster risk reduction; mainstreaming and organisational change; adaptation delivery instruments; economics of adaptation and adaptation finance; and low carbon climate resilient development.

Dissertation (Climate Change and Development)

45 credits
Summer teaching, year 1

This course provides you with the opportunity to complete under expert supervision a 15,000-word dissertation on a topic of your choosing relevant to the programme themes. You will be embark on the preparation of your dissertation following the Research Methods course and submission of the Research Proposal/Plan (RSP). You will undertake a desk-based or original empirical study, enabling you to pursue in-depth research in an aspect of climate change and development or policy.

Dissertation with Placement (Climate Change & Dev)

45 credits
Summer teaching, year 1

Ideas in Development and Climate Change

30 credits
Autumn teaching, year 1

This course introduces you to the history of main ideas and themes within development and links these to climate change issues and debates. In the first half of the course, development concepts are introduced through an examination of different disciplinary perspectives on development studies, including anthropological perspectives, human development, political science, poverty and inequality, rights-based approaches, and globalisation.

In the second half of the course, you are introduced to the main themes around climate change and development, including the IPCC and UNFCCC, disaster risk reduction, adaptation to climate change, mitigation and low carbon development.

Presented by a range of senior research Fellows from IDS, the course aims to address theoretical and methodological perspectives on development, relating these to the challenges of policy and practice in the context of a changing climate. Each lecture will be followed up by a seminar in which you work further on the topics, relating development issues to climate change challenges with a tutor drawn from the IDS climate change fellows.

Low Carbon Development

30 credits
Spring teaching, year 1

This course considers the implications of climate change mitigation policy and the transition to a low carbon development for developing countries. You will engage with critical debates in relation to climate change and economic development, including tensions and commonalities between developed and developing economies. These are definitive of the contemporary international policy debate and on-going negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol.

Topics covered will include: climate change scenario generation; greenhouse gas emission and stabilisation targets; technology and technology transfer; renewable energy, CCS and geo-engineering; low carbon pathways and transitions; carbon offsetting; energy models; carbon markets, CDM and post Copenhagen international market instruments; and forestry and REDD.

Research Methods and Professional Skills (Geog)

15 credits
Spring teaching, year 1

The Science of Climate Change

30 credits
Autumn teaching, year 1

This course introduces you to the physical science basis of climate change, recognising that the audience is comprised substantially of non-climate specialists.

The course provides you with an overview of how the global climate system operates. This includes explanation of the different components of the climate system and how they interact; the radiation budget and the concept of radiative forcing which is the main driver of climate change; the composition of the atmosphere, how heat is transferred around the planet through the general circulation of the atmosphere and ocean; how the concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is regulated by bio-geochemical cycles on land and ocean. You then consider the natural and human influences on the radiation budget over recent millennia and how we can attribute observed climate changes to these. You conclude by evaluating projections of the future climate and associated uncertainty.

There is strong emphasis on how climate influences society and livelihoods, for exemplify through extreme climate and weather events. Throughout, you will gain an understanding of the methods and tools used in studying climate, notably climate datasets and climate models. You will document the history of climate change science, and exemplify the structures which steer science including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).The course is specifically designed to be accessible for students from a range of academic and professional backgrounds.

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Entry requirements

UK entrance requirements

A first- or upper second-class undergraduate honours degree in either a social or natural science. Professional work in a developing country or in development-related work is highly desirable and a factor in selection. Applications must be accompanied by a detailed, two page personal statement and a full CV.

Overseas entrance requirements

Please refer to column A on the Overseas qualifications.

If you have any questions about your qualifications after consulting our overseas qualifications table, contact the University.

Visas and immigration

Find out more about Visas and immigration.

English language requirements

IELTS 7.0, with not less than 6.5 in each section. Internet TOEFL with 95 overall, with at least 22 in Listening, 23 in Reading, 23 in Speaking and 24 in Writing.

For more information, refer to English language requirements.

For more information about the admissions process at Sussex

For pre-application enquiries:

Student Recruitment Services
T +44 (0)1273 876787

For post-application enquiries:

Postgraduate Admissions,
University of Sussex,
Sussex House, Falmer,
Brighton BN1 9RH, UK
T +44 (0)1273 877773
F +44 (0)1273 678545

Fees and funding


Home UK/EU students: £13,5001
Channel Island and Isle of Man students: £13,5002
Overseas students: £13,5003

1 The fee shown is for the academic year 2013.
2 The fee shown is for the academic year 2013.
3 The fee shown is for the academic year 2013.

To find out about your fee status, living expenses and other costs, visit further financial information.


The funding sources listed below are for the subject area you are viewing and may not apply to all degrees listed within it. Please check the description of the individual funding source to make sure it is relevant to your chosen degree.

To find out more about funding and part-time work, visit further financial information.

We are in the process of updating funding sources for postgraduate study in the academic year 2013/14. For general information, refer to Funding.

For more information on scholarships go to the Scholarships web pages.

Faculty interests

Professor Richard Black Global migration in response to climate change.

Dr Rob Byrne Low-carbon development, renewable energy, socio-technical transitions.

Dr Rose Cairns Discourse analysis and Q methodology on climate-policy-related issues, geo-engineering, governance of technological approaches to climate change.

Terry Cannon Rural livelihoods, disaster vulnerability and climate change adaptation.

Dr Adrian Ely Innovation, sustainability, development, climate change and agriculture.

Dr Mick Frogley Quaternary palaeoecology, and climatic history of lake basins.

Dr Blane Harvey Technologies for learning and knowledge sharing in the global South.

Dr Sabine Hielscher Community innovation in sustainable energy.

Dr Florian Kern Governance of system innovation, energy innovation policy.

Dr Dominic Kniveton Climate systems, and hydrological cycle in Southern Africa.

Dr Markku Lehtonen Role of expert knowledge in energy and environmental policy; transport, biofuels, and sustainability; deliberative decision-making on nuclear energy.

Professor Gordon MacKerron Energy policy of carbon emission reductions and security of supply, nuclear power economics and policy, economic regulation in the energy industries.

Francis McGowan Policy making in the European Union, European government/industry relations.

Professor Erik Millstone Public and environmental health protection policies, risk assessment and management by national and international regulatory bodies, obesity policy.

Dr Julian Murton Permafrost; physical modelling, and Quaternary environments in Arctic Canada and UK.

Dr Lars Otto Naess Social and institutional dimensions of adaptation to climate change.

Dr Andrew Newsham Local knowledge and participation in conservation and development.

Dr David Ockwell Low-carbon technology transfer to developing countries, energy policy, communication and behaviour change.

Dr Ana Pueyo Climate change, low-carbon development, techonology transfer.

Dr Pedram Rowhani Climate change and food security, land cover change, GIS.

Dr Adrian Smith Civil society and technology, environmental policy process.

Dr Steve Sorrell Energy and climate policy, emissions trading, energy efficiency, economics, transport modelling and policy.

Dr Thomas Tanner The policy and practice of adaptation to climate change.

Professor Martin Todd The impact of climate change on hydrological and ecological systems, atmospheric aerosols.

Dr Yi Wang Climate science: terrestrial ecosystems, global bio-geochemical cycles; climate change; ocean-land-atmosphere interaction; tropical convection.

Professor Jim Watson Energy policy; energy and development; sustainability, technology innovation.

Dr Rebecca White Low-carbon food systems.

Careers and profiles

There is a rapidly expanding market for climate professionals. This course prepares you for employment in a wide range of government, non-government and academic organisations as well as private companies in the areas of climate change, development and energy policy. This MSc is designed to provide state-of-the-art training for professionals in these fields.

Our graduates have been very successful in finding employment after completion of their courses. Among others, our MSc alumni work with international organisations and agencies including the United Nations Environment Programme, UN Development Programme, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, The World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Inter-American Development Bank; various NGOs including International Federation of the Red Cross, Renewable World, African Wildlife Foundation, Action Against Hunger International; national government ministries and development agencies including UK Department of Energy and Climate Change, DfID, GiZ; national environment agencies across the world; as well as a wide range of private-sector organisations (including energy utilities, renewables sector, re-insurance and construction companies, consultancy companies) and public-sector organisations (universities and not-for-profit organisations including think tanks such as ODI or Green Jobs Alliance).

Nella's student perspective

Nella Canales-Trujillo

‘I chose the MSc in Climate Change and Development because I wanted to study a course on climate change with an awareness of development issues at its core.

‘The sense of community and the many opportunities to interact with staff and students make this course really special and the fact that it is run jointly by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and Sussex means that you have a big academic network to draw on.’

Nella Canales-Trujillo
MSc in Climate Change and Development

Gloria's career perspective

Gloria Cheche

‘Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of the MSc in Climate Change and Development at Sussex is the chance it offers its students to benefit from the expertise at Sussex, at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS)  and at SPRU – Science and Technology Policy Research. As a result, this course gave me a thorough overview of the subject while particularly encouraging me to question where climate change and development meet..

‘What really made the course were the other students and their varied global perspectives. They were not simply trying to learn about either climate change or development, but together we jointly questioned the very tenets of what climate change and development is, and what it could be. This interaction created an environment where you could really explore and expand your interests and curiosities in the field.’ 

Gloria Cheche
World Bank

Martin's faculty perspective

Professor Martin Todd

‘There can be few areas of science that directly inform policy to the extent that climate science does today. When I started my climate research career more than 20 years ago, climate science was a minority interest and climate change only a peripheral issue. Now it is at the forefront of the scientific, social, economic and political agendas and has a prominent media profile.

'Since climate change has moved out of the research labs and onto the front page, I felt I wanted to look outwards also. Coming to Sussex has enabled me to work with leading groups that work directly on developing policy on the shift from fossil fuels to low-carbon energy and on the impact of climate change on people in the developing world. It has highlighted the magnitude of the challenge society faces and the necessity for the multidisciplinary approach we are developing at Sussex.’

Professor Martin Todd
Chair in Climate Change

For more information, visit Careers and alumni.

School and contacts

School of Global Studies

The School of Global Studies aims to provide one of the UK's premier venues for understanding how the world is changing. It offers a broad range of perspectives on global issues, and staff and students are actively engaged with a wide range of international and local partners, contributing a distinctive perspective on global affairs.

Professor Martin Todd,
School of Global Studies,
University of Sussex, Falmer,
Brighton BN1 9SJ, UK
T +44 (0)1273 873723
Sussex Climate Change Network

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Visit Discover Postgraduate study to book your place.

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We run weekly guided campus tours every Wednesday afternoon, year round. Book a place online at Visit us and Open Days.

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