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Unit information: Climate Change and International Security in 2015/16

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Unit name Climate Change and International Security
Unit code POLIM0004
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Ashley Dodsworth
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This module will explore the implications of climate change for international security, assessing how the destructive transformation of the earth’s resources and environment will impact the current world order. The course will cover the key areas of economic security, energy security and territorial security, as well as the role of climate change in driving conflict and global migration. Students will also explore the international efforts to limit the effects of and adapt to climate change, from international summits and negotiations to specific policies such as emission trading, and assess whether these measures will be enough to secure human life.

The aims of the unit are:

  • to explain the different ways in which climate change threatens international security
  • to explore the measures different actors have taken to try and mitigate this
  • to enable students to develop their skills in critical thinking and writing

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the threat of global climate change and its causes
  • Critically assess the ways in which climate change may create and drive conflict
  • Explain how climate change may affect economic, territorial and energy security as well as the issue of climate migration
  • Critically evaluate the international measures that have been taken to limit and adapt to climate change and suggest strategies for future action

Teaching details

Ten two-hour seminars

Assessment Details

Formative- essay plan of maximum 1000 words

Students will develop maximum 1000 word plan and outline of their approach to their chosen essay question. All essay questions will be designed to allow evaluation of student performance in relation to Intended Learning Outcomes 1-4 as detailed below. Essay questions will go through a process of internal review and external examiner review prior to their release to students. Assessment of the two page essay plan as formative assessment will allow, in advance of the submission of the summative essay, for developmental feedback to be provided to students on key aspects such as: approach to the question; degree of relevant content; range of reading; integration of evidence and argument. More generally, the formative assessment will allow for provision of indicative feedback from the unit owner on the extent to which the essay plan indicates that the aims and intended learning outcomes are likely to be met in the essay, and suggestions for improvement on all of the above. Written feedback will be provided, with the option of further follow-up discussions with the Unit Owner during office hours or by appointment.

Summative - 4000 word essay (100% of the mark)

The summative essay will allow for assessment of students’ ability to meet the Intended Learning Outcomes 1-4, detailed below, by requiring them to develop an in-depth essay argument over a length of 4000 words that draws upon relevant readings, materials and debates covered in the unit. The essay questions will be designed so as to require: demonstration of a thorough knowledge of the threat of global climate change and its causes; critical assessment of the extent to which climate change may create and drive conflict; explanation, by reference to an integration of relevant evidence and case studies, how climate change may impact economic, territorial and energy security as well as driving climate migration; evaluation of international measures taken to limit and adapt to climate change as a substantive component of the essay argument.

Reading and References

Kate O’Neill, The Environment and International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009)

Stephen Gardiner, Simon Caney and Dale Jamison (eds.) Climate Ethics: Essential Readings (Oxford:

Oxford University Press, 2010)

David Ciplet and J. Timmons Roberts, Power in a warming world (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015)

John Volger, Climate Change in World Politics (London: Palgrave Macmillian, 2015)

Simon Dalby, Security and Environmental Change (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009)

David Cromwell and Mark Levene (eds.) Surviving Climate Change: The Struggle to Avert Global

Catastrophe (London: Pluto Press, 2009)