AGDK14020U Social Science Perspectives on Climate Change and Development

Volume 2024/2025

Full-degree students enrolled at the Faculty of Social Science, UCPH 

  • Master Programme in Social Data Science
  • Master Programmes in Anthropology
  • Master Programmes in Sociology
  • Master programme in Global Development
  • Master Programmes in Economics
  • Master Programe in Political Science

Climate change is perhaps the main challenge of our times. Seen in isolation, it comprises a complex phenomenon, riddled with scientific uncertainties. Yet, climate change does not stand alone. Its trajectory and effects are multiplied, diluted, enhanced and transformed by a number of simultaneous and interlocking socio-ecological crises such as those concerning biodiversity, poverty and democracy.


In this course, we examine climate change as a complex problem characterized by multiple uncertainties and trade-offs and by interlinkages with a broader set of socio-ecological crises. The course focuses on how we can make sense of the complexity, urgency and shifting forms of climate change from a social science perspective.


This course serves to illustrate that different ways of understanding, conceptualizing and measuring climate change and its impacts leads to different responses. Whereas to some, climate change is the rising concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and biodiversity reductions, to others, it is a symptom of a capitalist and extractivist global system. The remedies for climate change are fundamentally different, depending on how it is conceptualized.


The course will explore different social scientific theoretical approaches to examining and governing climate change, and the particular methodological requirements, potentials and limitations of these approaches. We will therefore focus on the ways through which different epistemic and disciplinary communities within the social sciences conceptualize climate change, the key questions they raise through this conceptualization, the methods used, and the different textual, visual and statistical representations employed.


The course aims to provide students with the skills to understand, analyze and discuss multiple, inter- and transdisciplinary perspectives on our current socio-ecological predicament. Through a series of cases, we explore ways in which variegated impacts and politics of climate change can be analyzed and represented from different social science perspectives. This ranges from statistics and spatial analysis over degrowth to discourse analyses and decolonial critiques. Through lectures and seminars, students are equipped with practical tools, such as basic understanding of geographical information systems, for understanding social science representations of select key issues concerning climate change as well as broader sustainability concerns linked to it.


While social scientific theories and approaches structure the course, insights and results from natural scientific studies of climate change and related global ecological sustainability challenges will be an integral part of the course. Each week addresses a specific theme. These will vary from year to year but will generally have a Global South and development focus and may include the following: planetary boundaries, degrowth, development agendas and climate change, carbon accounting, geographies of climate impacts, climate change and inequality, discourses of climate change, perceptions of climate change, adaptive capacity and resilience, climate litigation, etc.

Learning Outcome

After completing the course, the student should be able to:


  • Knowledge of how climate change is conceptualized by different groups
  • Knowledge on the development of social science perspectives on climate change
  • Knowledge on the links between social science perspectives on climate change and development



  • Draw robust conclusions on the basis of a variety of empirical data and methods.
  • Compare different representations of social and political dimensions of climate change.
  • Assess the validity and robustness of social science representations of climate change 



  • Reflect on how the choice of approach to study climate change impacts may lend itself to particular insights and conclusions
  • Reflect on how and if multiple conceptualizations of climate change are commensurable and/or contradictory
  • Reflect on the challenges of translating complex analytical propositions into actionable policy recommendations. 
The course runs over 6 weeks. Each week will have two topical lectures (2 hours each) and one seminar (3 hours).
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 24
  • Preparation
  • 132
  • Seminar
  • 18
  • Exam
  • 40
  • Total
  • 214
Not relevant

Will be published later

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment, 72 hours
Type of assessment details
Students will be randomly assigned to one of the five modules and will be asked to discuss this and relate it to other relevant cases.
Exam registration requirements

Active participation in no less than 80% of the seminars and assignments.

All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

If you fail an examination, you will be allowed two more attempts to pass the relevant course. The first re-examination will typically be scheduled immediately following the semester (February/August). The second re-examination will typically be scheduled in the following exam period.

In order to contact to sign up for the re-exam please contact Sanne Kunov at You must sign up no later than 14 days before the re-exam date.

Criteria for exam assesment

See 'Learning outcome'