University of London

Small Navigation Menu

Primary Menu

Global environmental change and sustainability

This module provides an overview of the major contemporary issues in global environmental change and sustainability, which has increasing relevance for environmental management and development practice in both the developed and developing world.

The module examines definitions, concepts and theories of global environmental change and sustainability. It examines the historical emergence and evolution of scientific and social science understandings of environmental change; and it examines the ways in which global environmental change is increasingly entangled with notions of sustainability.

The themes explored in this module are applied to a variety of sustainability issues, including the tasks of finding appropriate policy responses to the challenges of biodiversity loss, climate change, pollution and resource management. The module also covers the implications of global environmental change for disease and for the persistent and widening health inequalities that occur at the global scale.

Topics covered

  • Introduction to global environmental change
  • Understanding environmental change
  • Historical approaches to environmental change
  • Current approaches to environmental change
  • Contemporary patterns of global environmental change
  • Biodiversity and climate change
  • Air and water quality
  • Coastal and marine environmental change
  • Land and forest degradation
  • Urban environmental change
  • Global environmental change, population health and disease
  • The Anthropocene and sustainable development
  • Environmental change in the age of sustainable development
  • Radical approaches to global environmental change

Learning outcomes

By completing this module, you will be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of the terminology and discourse of global and environmental change and sustainability.
  • demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of the historical aspects of global environmental change and their linkages with the emerging discourse and concerns of environmentalism and concepts of sustainable development.
  • demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of the major contemporary patterns of global environmental change and their linkages with environmentalist and sustainability issues.
  • demonstrate critical understanding of the ways in which global environmental change is approached in theory and research - from both scientific and social science perspectives - including the main frameworks used to conceptualise these issues.
  • demonstrate critical understanding of the major contemporary issues in relation to global environmental change: biodiversity loss; climate change; air, water and land degradation; forest degradation; coastal, marine and oceanic change; and landscape-scale ecosystem change.
  • demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of the contemporary challenges of urban environmental change.
  • demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of the complex linkages between global environmental change and patterns of population health and disease, including strategies for promoting health in the context of global environmental change (particularly climate change and air pollution).
  • demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of the concept of the Anthropocene and its relation to sustainability, including the related concept of planetary boundaries.
  • outline critically the main features and challenges of addressing global environmental change through the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, including through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • discuss and critically assess some radical perspectives towards global environmental change and sustainability.

Assessment

  • a two-hour written examination worth 60%
  • a 3000 word critical essay worth 40%.