Core subject: The Politics of Environment and Climate

Course content

This course introduces students to the study of environmental and climate politics in the age of the Anthropocene. Geologists contend that the Anthropocene represents a new phase in planetary history where humans have become the driving force behind changes in the earth system. What does this mean for the study of environmental and climate politics and policymaking? Many scholars contend that disciplinary approaches alone are insufficient for understanding the complexity of environmental problems and identifying sustainable solutions. Rather, they call for interdisciplinary thinking about human-nature relations, complexity and interconnectedness, and normative questions about what kind of future we want. In this course, students will explore ‘Green Politics’ as distinct way of approaching the study of environmental and climate politics, noting that Green Politics is not a singular ideology or coherent theory. Rather, Green Politics represents a diverse set of interdisciplinary concepts and perspectives that allow for new ways of thinking about the world we live in and the ecological challenges we face. The aim is to equip students with the theoretical, conceptual, and methodological tools to incorporate Green Politics thinking into their analyses of environmental and climate politics and to reflect on how Green Politics perspectives complement and/or challenge disciplinary political science approaches to environmental problems.

Indicative Topics:

  • The environment as a political issue
  • Green philosophy, worldviews, and discourses
  • Ecological thought
  • Human-nature relations
  • Environmental science and the politics of knowledge
  • Planetary perspectives
  • Complexity and systems thinking
  • Environmental justice
  • The more-than-human
  • Environmental governance
  • Disciplinary approaches to environmental and climate politics

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


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


Notice: It is only possible to enroll for one course having a 3-day compulsory written take-home assignment exam due to coincident exam periods.

Learning outcome


Students will be able to:

  • Give an account of Green politics and disciplinary approaches to environmental and climate politics. 
  • Identify the various factors that shape environmental and climate politics.
  • Describe environmental and climate problems and policy efforts at different levels.



Students will be able to:

  • Differentiate between disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to analyzing environmental and climate politics.
  • Apply theoretical concepts to discussions of environmental and climate politics.



Students will be able to:

  • Critically evaluate different explanations for the causes of environmental and climate change and efforts to address these issues.
  • Communicate and explain complex arguments about environmental and climate politics.

Classes will be interactive with group work, discussion, and lecture-style elements. We will actively engage with a variety of texts.


  • Neil Carter (2018) The Politics of the Environment: Ideas, Activism, Policy, 3rd edition (Cambridge University Press).
  • Noel Castree, Mike Hulme and James D. Proctor, eds., 2018. Companion to Environmental Studies. London: Routledge
  • Javeline, D. 2014. The most important topic political scientists are not studying: adapting to climate change. Perspectives on Politics12(2), 420-434. [15 pp]
  • Dressler, A. and E. Parsons. (2020). Global Climate Change: A new type of environmental problem, in The Science and Politics of Global Climate Change: A guide to the debate, 3e. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-34.
  • Hickman, T., Partzsch, L., Pattberg, P., and Weiland, S. 2018. Introduction: A political science perspective on the Anthropocene, in The Anthropocene Debate and Political Science (T. Hickmann, L. Partzsch, P. Pattberg, and S. Weiland, eds.), London: Routledge, pp. 1-12.
  • Biermann, F. 2021. The future of ‘environmental’ policy in the Anthropocene: Time for a paradigm shift. Environmental Politics30(1-2), pp.61-80.
  • Lövbrand, E., Mobjörk, M. and Söder, R. 2020. The Anthropocene and the geo-political imagination: Re-writing Earth as political space. Earth System Governance, 4, p.100051
  • Tønder, L. (2020). Power in the Anthropocene. In Om magt I den antropocaene tidsalder: en introduktion. (English translation)
  • Newell, P. ‘What is Green Politics?’ in Global Green Politics (2019). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-48
  • Clapp, J. and Dauvergne, P. 2011. Peril or Prosperity? Mapping Worldviews of Global Environmental Change, in Paths to a Green World: The Political Economy of the Global Environment, pp. 1-18
  • John  Dryzek, ‘Making Sense of Earth’s Politics: A discourse approach’, in The Politics of the Earth, 4th edition (2021), pp. 1-24.
  • Arts, B. and Buizer, M., 2009. Forests, discourses, institutions: A discursive-institutional analysis of global forest governance. Forest policy and economics11(5-6), pp.340-347.
  • Bäckstrand, Karin & Eva Lövbrand (2019) The road to Paris: Contending climate governance discourses in the post-Copenhagen era. Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning 21(5): 519-532
  • Vanhulst, J. and Beling, A.E., 2014. Buen vivir: Emergent discourse within or beyond sustainable development? Ecological Economics, 101, pp.54-63.
  • Kate Raworth, A Doughnut for the Anthropocene: humanity's compass in the 21st century, The Lancet: Planetary Health, 1(2): E48-E49.
  • Pulver S. et al. 2022. Introduction: Foundations for Socio-Environmental Research. In Foundations of Socio-Environmental Research: Legacy readings and commentaries (W.R Burnside, S. Pulver, K.J. Fiorella, M.L. Avolino, and S.M. Alexander, eds.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-12
  • Reo, N. and Parker, A., 2013. Re-thinking colonialism to prepare for the impacts of rapid environmental change. Climatic Change120(3): 671-682.
  • Carl Folke et al., ‘Our future in the Anthropocene biosphere’, Ambio 50: 834–869 (2021)
  • Lövbrand, E. 2014. ‘Knowledge and the Environment,’ in Advances in International Environmental Politics (M. Betsill, K. Hochstetler, and D. Stevis, eds.), pp. 161-184.
  • Pielke Jr, R.A., 2007. The honest broker: making sense of science in policy and politics. Cambridge University Press., pp. 1-7.
  • Marion Suiseeya, K.R., O’connell, M.G., Leoso, E., Defoe, M.S.B.N., Anderson, A., Bang, M., Beckman, P., Boyer, A.M., Dunn, J., Gilbert, J. and Hester, J., 2022. Waking from Paralysis: Revitalizing Conceptions of Climate Knowledge and Justice for More Effective Climate Action. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science700(1), pp.166-182.
  • Karen Litfin, ‘Planetary Politics', in John Agnew, Katharyne Mitchell, Gerard Toal (eds.) A Companion to Political Geography (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003), pp. 470-482
  • Franchini, M.A. and Inoue, C.Y.A., 2020. Socio-environmentalism. In International Relations from the Global South: Worlds of Difference (A. Tickner and K. Smith, eds.), London: Routledge: pp. 296-314.
  • Gupta, J., Van Der Leeuw, K. and De Moel, H., 2007. Climate change: a ‘glocal’problem requiring ‘glocal’action. Environmental Sciences4(3), pp.139-148.
  • Shangrila Joshi, 'North–South relations: colonialism, empire and international order', in Paul Harris (ed.) Routledge Handbook of Global Environmental Politics, 2e (Routledge, 2022), pp. 309-321
  • Abson DJ, Fischer J, Leventon J et al (2016) Leverage points for sustainability transformation: institutions, people, knowledge. Ambio 46(1): 30–39. [10 pp]
  • O’Brien, K., 2018. Is the 1.5 C target possible? Exploring the three spheres of transformation. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability31, pp.153-160. [8 pp]
  • Milkoreit, M., Hodbod, J., Baggio, J., Benessaiah, K., Calderón-Contreras, R., Donges, J.F., Mathias, J.D., Rocha, J.C., Schoon, M. and Werners, S.E., 2018. Defining tipping points for social-ecological systems scholarship—an interdisciplinary literature review. Environmental Research Letters13(3), p.033005. [12 pp]
  • Menton, M., Larrea, C., Latorre, S., Martinez-Alier, J., Peck, M., Temper, L. and Walter, M., 2020. Environmental justice and the SDGs: From synergies to gaps and contradictions. Sustainability Science15, pp.1621-1636
  • Gereke, M. and Brühl, T., 2019. Unpacking the unequal representation of Northern and Southern NGOs in international climate change politics. Third World Quarterly40(5), pp.870-889
  • Martinez-Alier, J., Temper, L., Del Bene, D. and Scheidel, A., 2016. Is there a global environmental justice movement?. The Journal of Peasant Studies43(3), pp.731-755.
  • McGregor, D., Whitaker, S., and Sritharan, M. 2020. Indigenous Environmental Justice and Sustainability. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 43: 35-40
  • Deborah McGregor. 2009. Honouring Our Relations: An Anishnaabe Perspective on Environmental Justice. In Speaking for Ourselves: Environmental Justice in Canada (J. Agyeman, P. Cole, R. Haluza-Delay, and P. O’Riley, eds.). Vancouver: UBC Press, pp. 27-41
  • Jane Bennet. 2005. In Parliament with Things. In Radical Democracy: Between abundance and lack (L. Tønder and L. Thomassen, eds.), Machester: Manchester University Press, pp. 133-148
  • Romand Coles (2016) Visionary Pragmatism: Radical and Ecological Democracy in Neoliberal Times (Duke University Press), ch. 3 pp. 115-160
  • Bruno Latour (2018) Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime (Polity Press)
  • Lars Tønder (2017) ‘Five Theses for Political Theory in the Anthropocene’, Theory & Event 20(1): 129-136
  • Scoones, I., Stirling, A., Abrol, D., Atela, J., Charli-Joseph, L., Eakin, H., Ely, A., Olsson, P., Pereira, L., Priya, R. and van Zwanenberg, P., 2020. Transformations to sustainability: combining structural, systemic and enabling approaches. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability42, pp.65-75.
  • O’Brien, K. and Sygna, L., 2013. Responding to climate change: the three spheres of transformation. Proceedings of transformation in a changing climate, pp. 16-23. [8 pp]
  • Bernstein, S. and Hoffmann, M., 2018. The politics of decarbonization and the catalytic impact of subnational climate experiments. Policy Sciences51(2), pp.189-211.
  • Stevenson, Hayley (2018) ‘Multilateral Diplomacy – Sustainable Development, Global Environmental Politics, pp. 107-138.
  • Keohane, Robert O. & Victor, David G. (2016) Cooperation and discord in global climate policy, Nature Climate Change, 6, 570–575.
  • J. Sowers, S. VanDeveer and E. Weinthal, eds. 2021. Oxford Handbook of Comparative Environmental Politics, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Helge Jörgens, Christoph Knill, and Yves Steinebach, eds. (2023). Routledge Handbook of Environmental Policy. London: Routledge.
  • Gabrielson, T., Hall, C., Meyer, J.M. and Schlosberg, D., 2016. Introducing environmental political theory. In The Oxford handbook of environmental political theory, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 1-12.

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

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Type of assessment details
Three-day compulsory written take-home assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship

- In the semester where the course takes place: Three-day compulsory written take-home assignment

- In subsequent semesters: Free written assignment


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


Notice: It is only possible to enroll for one course having a 3-day compulsory written take-home assignment exam due to coincident exam periods.


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
  • 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
  • Michele Merrill Betsill   (9-7435696c7b7a70737347706d7a35727c356b72)
Saved on the 06-05-2024

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