We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Faculty Handbook Archive

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2017-18. The current handbook year is 2020-21

Department: Geography


Type Open Level 3 Credits 10 Availability Not available in 2017/18 Module Cap Location Durham


  • Any Level 2 Geography Module


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To promote understanding of how, why and with what implications climate change is being addressed in a diverse range of urban contexts
  • To develop critical perspectives on the discourses, strategies and practices of governing climate change in the city advanced by international, national and urban actors
  • To examine and evaluate a range of concepts and theoretical perspectives and deploy these in order to analyse case-studies of urban responses to climate change


  • Too often, cities have been taken for granted as the backdrop against which the profound transformations of climate change will be played out. However, if we consider cities as “dense networks of interwoven sociospatial processes that are simultaneously local and global, human and physical, cultural and organic” (Swyngedouw and Heynen 2003: 899), it is clear that the very nature of urbanization is profoundly connected to climate change. Understanding how, why and with what implications urban responses to climate change are emerging therefore requires a fundamental engagement with the social, technical, political and economic constitution of the city. The module aims to explore these issues and to develop critical perspectives on the ways in which a range of actors, public and private, local to global, have sought to intervene in order to govern climate change in the city. Through the interrogation of a range of theoretical perspectives, including concepts of political economy, political ecology, governance and governmentality, the module will develop frameworks through which to examine and evaluate a range of case-studies of urban responses to climate change, drawn from cities in the global north and global south, and to consider their wider implications for the politics of climate change and for social and environmental justice.
  • Climate changed futures: cities between utopia and dystopia
  • Understanding climate impacts and urban vulnerability
  • Making the climate problem: uneven urban geographies of greenhouse gas emissions
  • Theorizing urban responses to climate change
  • Mitigating climate change and the emergence of low carbon cities
  • From adaptation to climate resilience?
  • Experiments and alternatives
  • Climate change: urban problems, urban solutions?

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On successful completion of this module students will be able to:
  • Critically evaluate urban responses to climate change in a range of diverse urban contexts
  • Demonstrate advanced level of understanding of the nature and process of ‘governance’ as it relates to cities and to climate change
  • Understand and deploy a range of concepts and theoretical perspectives for analysing how the governing of climate change takes place in diverse urban contexts
Subject-specific Skills:
  • On successful completion of this module students will be able to:
  • Analyze the geographically uneven nature of the relation between climate change and urbanization, and evaluate the consequent implications for policy responses
  • Evaluate and apply key concepts and theoretical approaches for understanding contemporary geographical concerns with the city and with environmental problems
Key Skills:
  • On successful completion of this module students will be able to:
  • Demonstrate a capacity to reflect critically and creatively on the relations between concepts and a range of real world problems and issues
  • Demonstrate the ability to synthesise information and develop an argument on contemporary issues and problems

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Core lecture content will: (a) introduce the multiple connections between climate change and urbanization, focusing on the dynamics of vulnerability, emissions production, mitigation and adaptation; (b) consider the nature and processes of governance through which responses to climate change are being developed; (c) engage various concepts and theories through which these different facets of the connections between cities, climate change and governance can be considered and analyzed; and (d) include case-study material drawn from a range of different urban contexts in the global north and global south as a means of grounding the core themes and concepts used in the course
  • A seminar will be used to provide focused reading and discussion on the core concepts and theories introduced in the module, and to provide a space for students to reflect upon their relative merits in the context of understanding the dynamics of governing climate change in the city
  • A workshop will provide a forum within which students can research, compare and debate urban responses to climate change emerging in a range of different case-studies. This may involve presentations, the staging of a debate, or a ‘world café’-type discussion, and the format will be decided upon in dialogue with the students taking the course

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 8 Approx. weekly 1.5 hours 12
Seminar 1 2 hours 2
Workshop 1 2 2
Preparation and Reading 84
Total 100

Summative Assessment

Component: Summative Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Coursework Essay Max 5 pages A4 100%

Formative Assessment:

Case-Study Evaluation Report (Max 4 pages A4). This will involve students researching an example of an urban policy, strategy, initiative or project and producing a report that provides a background to the emergence of climate change responses in that particular city and critically analyses: how the problem of climate change and its governance is framed; the roles of different actors in governing climate change; how and why particular measures have been developed and implemented; and its potential consequences. Students will be expected to deploy the theoretical and conceptual tools developed through the course in conducting this evaluation and will be free to choose the case-study that they wish to focus upon

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University