ASTK15412U COURSE: Climate Change adaptation - building resilience in cities

Volume 2015/2016


Bachelorlevel: 10 ECTS

Masterlevel: 7,5 ECTS


Climate change is no longer an abstract phenomenon but has become a part of the reality, which we as societies, organisations and individuals have to deal with. Climate change constitutes a serious threat against private and public property, infrastructure such as transportation systems, utilities and supplies, and ultimate against human lives. Many bigger cities have experienced extreme climate events within the last 5-10 years. These events have initiated and speeded up both academic research as well as concrete plans for climate change adaptation. Such organization as the Rockefeller Foundation in the USA and ICLEI, a global organisation of local communities working on sustainability, have been at the forefront in attempts at transforming knowledge in the area into workable strategies on the ground; strategies that involve a wide range of actors from the public as well as from the private and voluntary sector.

     On this background the purpose of this course is:

  • To investigate the theories and concepts that have been developed in relation to climate change adaptation, such as resilience and response capacity.

  • To look at how such concepts can be used in order to analyse and understand the concrete strategies and work on climate change adaption in bigger cities; concretely the cases of New York and Copenhagen

The two cases studies will imply independent work by the students in terms of analyzing aspects of the climate change adaptation plans of either of the two cities, possibly involving interviewing civil servants, businesses, NGO’s and other stakeholders. If possible a one-week study tour to New York will be arranged. For students not being able to participate in such tour other assignments will be arranged.                  


Learning Outcome

After successful completion of the course students should be able to:


  • Describe how climate change may impact bigger cities, and the plans that certain cities have devised in order to counter this problem

  • To account for the theories and concepts used in order to understand the rationality of such plans

  • To use these theories and concepts in the analysis of concrete cases of climate change adaptation in bigger cities

  • Critically assess the explanatory value and reach of the theories used, especially in relation to the case(s) worked with.

This is an very tentative reading list.  A full list will be provided in fall 2015.


Adger, N. et al. (2005) Successful adaptation to climate change across scales. Global Environmental Change, 15, 2, 77-86.

Adger, N. et al. (2009) Are there social limits to adaptation to climate change? Climate Change, 93, 335-354

Hastrup, K. (2009) The Question of Resilience. Social Responses to Climate Change. Copenhagen: The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters.

Reid, T. et al. (2010) Earth system science for global sustainability: grand challenges, Science, 330 (6606).

Smith, B. & Wandel,, J. (2006) Adaptation, adaptive capacity and vulnerability. Global Environmental Change, 16, 3, 282-292

Tomkins, E. & Adger, N. (2005) Defining response capacity to enhance climate change policy. Environmental Sciences and Policy, 8, 562-571.

Yohe, G.W. (2001) Mitigative capacity – the mirror

It will be a huge advantage for the participating student to hold a bachelor (BA) degree in a social science discipline. No prior knowledge of climate change politics is required. However, an interest in the field and active participation in class is important.
Professor Jens Hoff is responsible for planning and teaching the course and examination of the students. Teaching will take place once a week; normally a 2-hour session. The study of either of the two cases (New York or Copenhagen) will involve independent work by the student out of class; doing for example interviews with involved stakeholders. The course will involve 1-2 workshops allowing the students to present their case study, and work intensively with their case.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assesment
  • 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