Climate Science & Politics

Course content

Climate science has long been in the center of political debates. But what does it mean when climate science ought to inform politics? Should scientists play a role in public discussions on climate change? How can scientists successfully do so?  And can science and politics meaningfully be separated from one another? These are the key questions the course seeks to answer.

This course explores the general issues of science, politics, knowledge and expertise in the context of climate change. The objective of the course is to engage students with the latest theories, frameworks and methods for addressing critical questions of science based policymaking. Although science is important to the political response to climate change, the relationship is not clear. The course will explore this relationship and consider how climate science best contributes and supports political agency and collaborative action on the climate agenda.


Bachelor student (2012 programme curriculum): 10 ECTS

Bachelor student (2017 programme curriculum): 7.5 ECTS

Master student: 7.5 ECTS

Learning outcome


The course provides introductory understanding of the relationships between climate science and politics and of the critical - and contested - role of scientific knowledge and expertise in political decision-making processes. The course gives a brief understanding of the physical science behind the official IPCC recommendations, and introduces several theoretical and interdisciplinary approaches from the academic fields of political science, sociology and psychology. The course will address how climate experts and scientific advisors are influencing policymaking processes. Moreover, we will discuss the debates of science-based policymaking in different political contexts and explore how and why climate science plays different roles in different political cultures.



On completion of this course, students will be able to describe how climate science informs and influences policymaking and  account for different views on the relationship between climate science and climate politics. Moreover, students will be able to understand and reflect on the major debates over climate science found in the academic literature, reports, policy documents and the media. 



Student will be able to adopt and defend different theoretical positions and models drawing upon the literature and empirical cases presented during the course. Students will know how to apply theoretical knowledge of science-based policymaking to specific and relevant cases and be able to make informed and analytical evaluations of science based policies.

The elective consists of 14 2-hour sessions with focus on active learning through student participation and work in groups. The course combines lectures and seminar style discussions in small groups. Two to three lectures will be conducted by external lecturers or practitioners working in the interface between science and politics. This will give the students different view points and a practical understanding of the issues discussed during the course.

Preliminary reading list:


Bjurstrom A, Polk M (2011a) Climate change and interdisciplinarity: a co-citation analysis of IPCC Third Assessment Report. Scientometrics, vol. 87, pp. 525–550


Collins, Harry M.; Evans, Robert (2007). Rethinking Expertise. Chicago: University of Chicago Press


Demeritt, D. (2001). The construction of global warming and the politics of science. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 91(2), 307-337.


Forsyth T., (2012) Politicizing Environmental Science Does Not Mean Denying Climate Science Nor Endorsing It Without Question, Global Environmental Politics, vol. 12(2), pp. 18-23.


Funtowicz, S. O., and J. R. Ravetz (1993). Science for the Post-Normal Age, Futures, vol. 25(7), pp. 739–755.


Hulme, M. (2009) Why we disagree about climate change: understanding controversy, inaction and opportunity Cambridge University Press, Cambridge


IPCC (2014): ClimateChange2014Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to theFifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change


Jasanoff S (2007) Designs on Nature: Science and Democracy in Europe and the United States Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press


Wynne, Brian (1992): ’Misunderstood Misunderstanding: Social Identities and Public Uptake of Science’. Public Understanding of Science 1: 281-304.


Pielke, RA (2005), Misdefining "climate change": consequences for science and action. Environ. Sci. Policy, vol. 8(6), pp, 548-561


Rudiak-Gould,P. (2013) ‘We have seen it with our own eyes’: why we disagree about climate change visibility Weather, Climate & Society 5(2), 120-132


Sarewitz D (2011): Does climate change knowledge really matter? WIREs Climate Change, vol. 2(4), pp. 475-481


Skoglund A and T. Jensen (2013). The Professionalization of Ethics in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – from Servant of Science to Ethical Master?, Sustainable Development, vol. 21, pp. 122–130


Slovic, P. (1999). ”Trust, emotion, sex, politics, and science: Surveying the risk-assessment battlefield”, Risk analysis, vol. 19(4), pp. 689–701.


Tol R (2011) Regulating knowledge monopolies: the case of the IPCC. Climate Change, vol. 108(4), pp. 827–839

- Interest in philosophy of science
- Interest in climate politics

Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)


Students will receive both oral and written feedback on their portfolio assignments. Part of the course is to learn about the scientific peer review processes, and to make an anonymous peer review. For this assignment, the students will receive and give feedback to each other.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Portfolio exam
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28