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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: Geography

GEOG41630: CLIMATE, RISK AND SOCIETY

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2021/22

Prerequisites

  • None.

Corequisites

  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.

Aims

  • This module aims to provide students with an advanced understanding of anthropogenic climate change as an issue that poses new risks to society, challenges and vulnerabilities, and to help students develop tools for apprehending, interpreting and responding to these emerging natural and socio-political threats. It provokes students to think critically about how evolving understandings of risk, resilience and vulnerability shape efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
  • Climate change risks cut across traditional physical and social scientific boundaries and require different understandings and responses at different scales. The module therefore aims to expand students’ comprehension of the diverse (natural and socio-political) processes underpinning climate change and its felt impacts in particular places and systems, and to combine that knowledge with an advanced appreciation for how geographical context, social difference and inequality shape uneven risks and resilience in the face of climate change-related destabilizations. Moreover, it prompts students to consider how particular new and pre-existing vulnerabilities, threatened environments and narratives of risk, resilience and security matter: their intrinsic significance and their importance within the broader politics of climate change responses.

Content

  • The module will combine a) an overview of core concepts needed for advanced understanding of climate impacts and vulnerabilities with b) in-depth explorations of particular geographies and issues that have been framed as ‘hotspots’ of climate risk and physical and social ‘tipping points’ for climate change and its responses. Topics for these deeper dives will vary: the module will explore in depth a small range of relevant topics, selecting between 3 and 5 from the following indicative list:
  • Rapid climate change in Arctic and Antarctic environments
  • Urban politics of climate risk and resilience
  • Climate change impacts on oceans and coasts
  • Climate finance and insurability against climate threats
  • Bio-physical and ecological tipping points
  • Changing atmospheres: climate change and natural disasters
  • Water-related impacts and conflicts
  • Climate migration
  • Climate change and the Anthropocene: from science to politics
  • High-impact, low-probability climate threats
  • Risky fossil fuels and energy transitions: ‘carbon bubbles’ and beyond
  • Changing disease vectors and public health threats
  • Security paradigms and the militarization of climate threats
  • Changing climates, business and the corporate world: vulnerabilities and responses
  • Climate change and international development

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On successful completion of the module, students are expected to understand: 
  • Climate change risk and vulnerability as issues that cut across physical and social scientific boundaries
  • Diverse challenges associated with understanding and managing climate change impacts and risks at different scales and in different realms
  • Socially and politically significant topics and debates related to climate change risk
  • A range of examples of responses to climate change risk
Subject-specific Skills:
  • On successful completion of this module students will be able to: 
  • Engage with the social and political complexities surrounding climate change 
  • Demonstrate understanding of the historical and contextual specificity of climate vulnerability
  • Describe the way climate change hotspots and tipping points operate, and the role of science and uncertainty in the making of climate responses
  • Compare and critically analyse different approaches to responding to climate change risk across multiple scales, in various realms, and in a range of settings
  • Demonstrate comprehension of both theoretical debates and empirical content through grounded examples
Key Skills:
  • On successful completion of this module students will be able to: 
  • Demonstrate expertise in the critical appraisal of multiple viewpoints and positions
  • Develop skills of written communication, including the synthesis of information and the development of a well-argued and evidenced position

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

  • Online lectures (asynchronous; recorded) will be used to impart basic facts and information necessary to fulfill the aims of this module, introducing students to wider topics for reading and to areas of debate and controversy.
  • Asynchronous recorded lectures are supported by slides, video clips, periodic online lecture Q&A sessions (synchronous), online participatory activities, and a staff-led module discussion board.
  • Online seminars (synchronous) will be used to explore areas of controversy and develop students’ ability to critically appraise and question a range of intellectual positions. They will help students develop connections between theoretical debates and evaluate their explanatory power in relation to a range of empirical contexts.
  • Throughout the various essays and reports developed by students, and through a focused analysis of specific topics or controversies in climate change risk, vulnerability and resilience, students will critically analyse different approaches to understanding and responding to climate risk and demonstrate advanced comprehension of both theoretical debates and empirical content pertinent to their topic.
  • Summative Assessment (Term 1): Critical evaluation and report on an institutional response (e.g., local or national government, international organization, corporation) to issues of climate risk and vulnerability. Students will prepare a 2500-word report. The Assessment Report will contribute 40% of their assessment for this module.
  • Summative Assessment (Term 2): Essay on a selected subtopic within a specific climate hotspot or a climate tipping point. Students will prepare a 3000-word Research Essay. The Assessment Report will contribute 50% of their assessment for this module. Students will participate in an online synchronous tutorial in Term 2 to discuss topics and research and writing strategies.
  • Summative Assessment (Term 2): Online presentation on a selected subtopic within a specific climate hotspot or a climate tipping point. Students will prepare 7-minute Power Point presentation, based on the topic of their written essay (see above ‘Summative Assessment (Term 2)’). The presentation will contribute 10% of their assessment for this module.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures (AS) 9 varies 2 hours 18
Lectures (AS) 2 varies 1.5 hours 3
Drop-in Q&A sessions online (S) 2 varies 0.5 hours 1
Seminars online (S) 3 varies 2 hours 6
Workshop online (S) 1 1 4 hours 4
Workshop online (S) 1 1 3 hours 3
Tutorials online (S) 2 2 2 hours 4
Self-directed learning and preparation for formative oral presentations 261
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Summative Assessment (Term 1) Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Critical evaluation and report 2500 words 100% Yes
Component: Summative Assessment (Term 2) Essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay on a selected subtopic 3000 words 100% Yes
Component: Summative Assessment (Term 2) Oral presentation Component Weighting: 10%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
OPresentation on a selected subtopic 7 minutes 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

Group presentation on a set of institutional responses (e.g., local or national government, international organization, corporation) to issues of climate risk, vulnerability and resilience. Groups will participate in an online tutorial (synchronous) ahead of the presentation to share and compare their findings to date and to prepare the presentation. The presentation will be given online to staff and peers. The formative presentation aligns with and feeds directly into the summatively assessed report of Term 1.


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