Core subject: The Politics of Environment and Climate

Course content

In 1962 Rachel Carson, marine biologist, warned of the Silent Spring caused by pesticides on biodiversity. By 2003 Karen Litfin, holistic political scientist, argued that the emergence of planetary politics was a direct result of the fact that, by the late twentieth century, humanity had become a geophysical force affecting all of the earth’s systems. In 2010 James Lovelock, globally respected environmental thinker and independent scientist, concluded that humans were too stupid to prevent climate change from radically impacting on their lives over the coming decades. Despite the public acknowledgement of environmental damage and climate change at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, almost 30 years has passed without any real change in thinking about holistic politics of the environment. The combined consequences of a 30c rise in average temperature, global population over 10 billion, increasing inequality, spread of endemic conflict, and global politics trapped in 19th C. thinking demand a better understanding of the planetary politics of environmental and climate change.


In nine intensive weeks, the masters’ core course will introduce, inform, and equip students for understanding and analysing the politics of the environment and climate change for the 21st century. The course begins by introducing the history, philosophy, and ideology of green, environmental, and ecological thinking over the past 60 years. The course will then provide the analytical, scientific, and political foundations for understanding the environment and climate change through three weeks of ground training in theory and method, environmental science, and planetary politics. This foundation includes theories and methods of environmental politics; understanding the science of consumption, pollution, biodiversity, and climate change; and the holism and synergies of planetary politics. The next four weeks examine the scales of environmental and climate politics through the exploration of global, EU, state-based, and local climate governance. Each of these four weeks will consider a variety of both traditional and critical theories of climate governance, as well as case-studies in scale-based climate change politics. The final week reflects on the ways of bringing about change in the climate of environmental politics, as developed throughout the course.




No. of 3-hour sessions

Wk. 1: Introduction

- History, Philosophy, Ideology



- From Silent Spring to Green History

- Ecological paradigms

- Green ideology

1. Introduction

2. Green History


Learning Activity: What is political about the environment and climate change?


Wk. 2: Theory and Method

- Theories of environmental politics

- Methods of analysing environmental politics



- Worldviews: market liberals, institutionalists, bioenvironmentalists, deep greens
- Reductionism vs. holism

- Research Methods


3. Theory



4. Method

Learning Activity: Theorising and analysing practically – walkabout.

Wk. 3: Environmental Science

- Consumption

- Pollution

- Biodiversity

- Climate Change



- Ecological Footprint

- Daily-Adjusted Life Years

- Species Diversity and Populations

- Mean Surface Temperature and CO2 ppm


5. Breaking the Boundaries


6. Extinction and Deep Adaptation

Learning Activity: measuring the environment – visit to EEA / Ministry of Environment.

Wk. 4: Planetary Politics

- Holism

- Intergenerational

- Glocal

- North-South

- Precaution


- holistic analysis

- intergenerational change

- local-global linkages

- North-South hegemony

- precautionary principle


7. Planetary Politics


8. Planetary Synergies

Learning Activity: thinking like a planet – synergistic analyses.

Wk. 5: Global Climate Governance

- UN system



- traditional vs. critical theories (pt. 1)

- IR theories, IPE theories, collective action theories

9. International Relations

10. Global Governance

Learning Activity: where is the globality of climate change governance?

Wk. 6: EU Climate Governance

- Principles

- Policies


- traditional vs. critical theories (pt. 2)

- neofunctionalism, intergovernmentalism, MLG


11. Within the EU

12. EU in the world

Learning Activity: where is the regionality of climate change governance?

Wk. 7: State-based Climate Governance

- Overdeveloped states

- Underdeveloped states

- Sustainable states


- traditional vs. critical theories (pt. 3)

- actor-network theory, STS, socio-technical systems theory

13. Denmark (overdeveloped counties)

14. Sustainable countries

Learning Activity: where is the statehood of climate change governance?

Wk. 8: Local Climate Governance

- Local/municipal/city governance

- Civil society and NGOs


- traditional vs. critical theories (pt. 4)

- social movement theory, theories on co-creation and citizen participation

15. Local governance J

16. Social movements and organisations

Learning Activity: where is the locality of climate change governance?

Wk. 9 Change Now

- Understanding change

- Bringing about change



- traditional vs. critical theories (pt. 5)

- socio-psychological theories on environmental behaviour,


17. No change

18. Making change

Learning Activity: bringing about change in the climate of environmental politics.




Core subject in the core-subject line in The Politics of Environment, Climate and Sustainability. Only accessible to students who are admitted to the core-subject line.


NB! All exams (both ordinary and re-exams) will take place at the end of the autumn semester only, as the course is not offered in the spring


Learning outcome

[1] Knowledge and understanding of the discipline of political science

The masters’ core course in the ‘Politics of the Environment and Climate Change’ enables students to know and understand the politics of the environment and climate change.

Masters’ students studying this course will become knowledgeable with both traditional and critical explanations for environmental and climate change in order to understand how and why the discipline of political science has to engage in deep adaptation.


[2] Practical competence in employment-related activities in political science

The masters’ core course in the ‘Politics of the Environment and Climate Change’ enables students to become competent in employment-related activities including (i) analytical, scientific, and political foundations; (ii) scales of global, EU, state-based, and local climate governance; and (iii) bringing about change in the climate of environmental politics.


[3] Intellectual and transferable skills in political and social sciences

The masters’ elective course in ‘Politics of the Environment and Climate Change’ helps masters-level students develop critical thinking, creativity and innovation, collaboration, and communication skills through group-based Active Learning activities.

This masters-level Active Learning core course requires Preparation, Participation, and Positive attitude:
Preparation means that the course uses Active Learning pedagogy with a constructive alignment between learning goals, learning activities, and assessment. Students will participate in weekly learning activities designed to ensure constructive alignment and must prepare accordingly.
Participation means that students will be participating in course-long learning activities and draft assignment writing activities.
Positive attitude means that students will constructively participate in the weekly group learning activities which form the core of the course.
Masters’ students who do not wish to learn through a constructive alignment of learning goals, learning activities, and assessment should not take this course.

Bäckstrand, Karin, and Annica Kronsell (eds.) (2017) Rethinking the Green State: Environmental governance towards climate and sustainability transitions (Routledge).


Bulkeley, Harriet and Peter Newell (2010) Governing Climate Change (Routledge).


Carter, Neil (2018) The Politics of the Environment: Ideas, Activism, Policy (CUP).


Chasek, Pamela, David Downie, Janet Brown (2016) Global Environmental Politics, 7th edn. (Westview Press).


Christoff, Peter, and Robyn Eckersley (2013) Globalization and the Environment (Rowman and Littlefield).


Clapp, Jennifer, and Peter Dauvergne (2011) Paths to a Green World: The Political Economy of the Global Environment, 2nd edn. (MIT Press).


Conca, Ken, and Geoffrey Dabelko (eds.) (2014) Green Planet Blues: Critical Perspectives on Global Environmental Politics, 5th edn. (Westview Press).


Connelly, James, Graham Smith, David Benson and Clare Saunders (2012) Politics and the Environment: From Theory to Practice, 3rd edn. (Routledge).


Corry, Olaf, and Hayley Stevenson (eds.) (2017) Traditions and Trends in Global Environmental Politics: International Relations and the Earth (Routledge).


Crow, Deserai, and Maxwell Boyko (eds.) (2014) Culture, Politics and Climate Change: How Information Shapes our Common Future (Routledge).


DeSombre, Elizabeth (2017) Global Environmental Institutions (Routledge).


Hajer, Maarten (1995) The Politics of Environmental Discourse: Ecological Modernization and the Policy Process (Clarendon).


Harris, Paul (ed.) (2015) Routledge Handbook of Global Environmental Politics (Routledge).


Hoff, Jens, Quentin Gausset & Simon W. Lex (eds.) (2019) The Role of Non-state Actors in the Green Transition: Building a Sustainable Future. (Routledge; forthcoming).


Hoff, Jens, and Quentin Gausset (eds.) (2015) Community Governance and Citizen-Driven Initiatives in Climate Change Mitigation (Routledge).


Hulme, Mike (2009) Why We Disagree About Climate Change. Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity (CUP).


Kingsnorth, Paul (2017) Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist (Faber& Faber).


Klein, Naomi (2015) This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (Simon and Schuster).


Litfin, Karen (2013) Ecovillages: Lessons for Sustainable Community (Polity).


Litfin, Karen (ed.) (1998) The Greening of Sovereignty in World Politics (MIT Press).


Lovelock, James (2010) The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning (Basic Books).


Lovelock, James (2016) A Rough Ride to the Future (Overlook Press).


Maslin, Mark (2014) Climate Change: A Very Short Introduction, 3rd edn. (OUP).


Mol, Arthur, David Sonnenfeld, and Gert Spaargaren (eds.) (2009) The Ecological Modernization Reader (Routledge).


Morton, Timothy (2017) Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence (University of Columbia Press).


Ponting, Clive (2007) A New Green History of the World: The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilizations (Penguin).


Roberts, Timmons, and Bradley Parks (2007) Climate of Injustice, Global Inequality, North-South Politics, and Climate Policy (MIT Press).


Rockstrom, John (2015) Big World, Small Planet: Abundance Within Planetary Boundaries (Yale University Press).


Saunders, Clare (2013) Environmental Networks and Social Movement Theory (Bloomsbury).


Stern, Nicholas (2015) Why are We Waiting? The Logic, Urgency, and Promise of Tackling Climate Change (MIT Press).


Stevenson, Hayley (2017) Global Environmental Politics: Problems, Policy and Practice (CUP).

BA level in political science, international relations, or similar competence, and an interest in understanding the politics of the environment and climate change.

Type of assessment
Written assignment
Free written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
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
  • 56
  • English
  • 56


Course number
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 semester

Department of Political Science, Study Council
Contracting department
  • Department of Political Science
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinator
  • Jens Villiam Hoff   (2-6c6a426b6875306d7730666d)

Michelle Betsill

Saved on the 29-04-2021

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