The Science of Climate Change (837F8)

30 credits, Level 7 (Masters)

Autumn teaching

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

The module 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 module is specifically designed to be accessible for students from a range of academic and professional backgrounds.


39%: Lecture
7%: Practical (Laboratory)
54%: Seminar (Class, Seminar)


100%: Written assessment (Essay)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 300 hours of work. This breaks down into about 49 hours of contact time and about 251 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2024/25. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to feedback, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let you know of any material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.