NIGK13012U Human Adaptation to Climate Change and Variability

Volume 2013/2014
MSc Programme in Climate Change, Impacts, Mitigation, Adaptation

This course investigates how human societies adapt to climate change and variability. It will be organized in four themes: (1) A brief introduction to the main concepts and theories in current adaptation research. (2) Case studies from Denmark/Europe with an emphasis on how local municipalities and national institutions address the challenges associated with climate change. (3) Case studies from other parts of the world with an emphasis on how individuals, households, local communities and national institutions adapt to climate change and variability. (4) Case studies on how mega-cities address climate change.

Learning Outcome

The aim of the course is to give a good understanding of human adaptation to climate change across a range of spatial and temporal scales. After completing the course the student should be able to:



  • Describe the basic concepts of adaptation, vulnerability, resilience and adaptive capacity
  • Describe how communities, cities and nations across the world have adapted to climate change
  • Describe basis constraints and possibilities to the adaptive capacity of human beings
  • Reflect on the ethical aspects of global climate change justice and burden sharing in international climate policy


  • Identify relevant approaches to isolate or understand climate change as a driver of socioeconomic change
  • Select relevant methods to understand adaptation to climate change at a variety of spatial and temporal scales
  • Identify obstacles to local adaptation and global climate change agreements
  • Compare adaptation across cultural and social settings and develop generic insights based on such comparisons
  • Present and discuss, in oral and written form,  complex issues involving both natural, technical and social science, as well as ethical, elements


  • Incorporate various scientific disciplines when considering scientific and political analysis of adaptation to climate change issues
  • Assess and understand the importance of social, cultural and political aspects of climate change adaptation
  • Evaluate the different policy instruments available to facilitate adaptation to climate change at a range of spatial scales from villages to mega-cities to nations states
  • Explain the relevance and limitations of adaptation to climate change at a range of spatial scales
  • Assess the beneficial/negative aspects of (current) climate change adaptation at a range of spatial scales
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Seminar
  • 14
  • Exam
  • 157
  • Guidance
  • 14
  • Lectures
  • 21
  • Total
  • 206
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 min.
Written assignment, 1 week
The oral examination takes its point of departure in a written essay (which may be written individually or by a group). The subject of the essay will be announced one week before the submission date.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
One internal examiner
Criteria for exam assesment

The students will be assessed on the basis of their ability to give a clear account of both the contents of the essay and the course literature, and of their capacity to discuss the issues brought up during the oral examination, and in particular connect the natural, technical and social science components of climate change adaptation.