Climate Change: Science & Policy
Course infoSchedule
Course moduleNWI-GCSE001
Credits (ECTS)3
CategoryBA (Bachelor)
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byRadboud University; Faculty of Science; Institute for Science, Innovation and Society;
prof. dr. H.C. de Coninck
Other course modules lecturer
prof. dr. H.C. de Coninck
Other course modules lecturer
prof. dr. H.C. de Coninck
Other course modules lecturer
Contactperson for the course
prof. dr. H.C. de Coninck
Other course modules lecturer
K. de Kleijne
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2019
KW1  (02/09/2019 to 03/11/2019)
Starting block
Course mode
Registration using OSIRISYes
Course open to students from other facultiesYes
Waiting listNo
Placement procedure-
At the end of this course, you:
  • have gained basic knowledge and understanding of the most important scientific debates  around anthropogenic climate change, including the controversies
  • have knowledge of what was agreed in the Paris Agreement, and can explain the decisions in the Paris Agreement based on country (group)-positions and interests
  • can explain the differences between global warming of 1.5˚C and higher levels of warming in terms of impacts and the actions needed to reach that level of warming, and can place the 1.5˚C limit in context of the Paris Agreement and earlier international climate negotiations
  • have gained awareness of and insight in the Dutch national climate policy process and the link between international and national processes
Climate change is one of the biggest societal, political and technological challenges humanity is facing today. Yet, although the science has been clear on the need to limit global warming since decades, the emissions of greenhouse gases are still increasing. Following a long negotiation process, in 2015, the countries of the world agreed on limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees and to strive for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees, compared to pre-industrial times. However, it was not yet clear what the precise differences were between these temperature limits in terms of impacts, and whether it was still possible to reduce emissions fast enough to limit warming to 1.5˚C.
To relieve those uncertainties, the countries asked the United Nations’ scientific climate change panel, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to write the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5˚C. The report was presented to the countries in October 2018. As the countries now have the answers to their questions, it is up to them to decide on a way forward, and to decide on how to act based on that knowledge.
Despite the hallmark Paris Agreement, worldwide greenhouse gas emissions have not yet started to decline. This raises questions about how policymakers use scientific information on climate change and the impacts of global warming. Why is it so challenging to transform to a society in line with ‘Paris’? What are options to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases? What is the potential of behavioural and lifestyle change? What does climate change mean for the Netherlands, and what actions is the Dutch government taking to ensure that the Netherlands will be able to cope with the (future) impacts of climate change? 
Climate science and climate policy are the central topics in this course. We will look into the most important challenges in climate science, and the controversies. Furthermore, we will explore what the role of science is in policymaking, and the relation between international and national policy. We will use the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5˚C as a thread through the course material, and relate the different topics to the process or content of this report. We will further explore the background of the report, the content of the different chapters of the report, and place it in the context of the international and Dutch climate debate and action.
You will be introduced to the dilemmas and conflicting interests which define the relationship between climate science and climate policy. During a simulated United Nations climate change debate, you will be representing a country or a group of countries, and experience what it is like to negotiate and defend the interests of your country. In this climate debate, you will negotiate with other countries on how to act based on the latest science as presented in the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5˚C.
The coordinator of this course is one of the coordinating lead authors of the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5˚C. She is still involved as an author in the IPCC report on climate change mitigation due in 2021. She will take the students along on the journey of the preparations, writing process and negotiations of the IPCC report. Furthermore, an impressive list of quest speakers has been invited, amongst which an expert on Dutch climate policy, the head of the Dutch delegation to the Paris Agreement negotiations, and other IPCC authors.
This course will be taught in English and is also open to interested students from other faculties, for example students from the Faculty of Management who are doing the Sustainability Challenges minor.

Presumed foreknowledge
This course does not assume any prior knowledge.
Test information
  • Written exam (60%)
  • Group assignment (40%)
  • Specifics

    Study material will be provided during the course.

    Teaching formats
    Lectures: 14 hours
    Exam: 3 hours
    Exam preparation: 10 hours
    Group assignment:10 hours
    Debate & preparation: 10 hours
    Reading: 37 hours
    Total: 84 hours

    • The natural and anthropogenic influences on climate change and the most important controversies: who is right?
    • Behind the scenes: How is climate change research done? And how is an IPCC report written?
    • The key messages of IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5˚C
    • Climate policy: the implementation and the difference between adaptation and mitigation
    • The relation between climate science and climate policy: How does this work? What are the bottlenecks and what are the success stories? What are the challenges, and what scientific questions play a role? What is its role in the debate with climate sceptics?
    • Participation in the international climate negotiations

    Test information
    • Written exam (60%)
    • Group assignment (40%)

    This course does not assume any prior knowledge.

    Required materials
    The required reading material will be made available on Brightspace.

    Instructional modes
    Attendance MandatoryYes

    Attendance MandatoryYes


    Final Result
    Test weight1
    OpportunitiesBlock KW1, Block KW2