NIFK24001U Climate and Society

Volume 2024/2025

MSc Programme in Climate Change
MSc Programme in Environmental Science
MSc Programme in Forest and Nature Management


This course comprises a one-stop shopping centre for social scientific approaches to understanding and governing climate change. It provides participants with an understanding of the drivers and impacts of climate change, as well as knowledge of the multiple opportunities for accelerating mitigation and adaptation in ways that acknowledge dilemmas and trade-offs with social and other environmental concerns.

The course is centred on two key perspectives. First, that our understanding of climate change and our ability to act on it are shaped by different worldviews and beliefs in the power of markets, technology, behavioural change, and regulatory frameworks, as well as by economic and political interests. Finding sustainable and equitable responses to the climate crisis therefore requires an in-depth understanding of different worldviews, beliefs and interests, which influence both the definition of the ‘problems’ associated with climate change, as well as potential ‘solutions’. Second, that processes of mitigating and adapting to climate change are highly complex, involving concurrent changes in technologies, institutions, and behaviours. Conceptualising such socio-technical processes of change require interdisciplinary approaches.

Through the course, participants will be introduced to different social scientific approaches to understanding and examining how climate change comes to be known, analysed and governed. The course will illustrate that how we come to know and govern climate change is shaped by uneven power relations and struggles over worldviews and interests at global, national and local scales. The course also introduces students to different theoretical perspectives on climate change mitigation, conceptualising these as socio-technical change processes. This provides an understanding of the sources of stability and inertia that slow down the energy transition, but also potential intervention points for accelerating transition processes.

The course will offer students insights into several social scientific approaches to understanding and governing climate change, including discourses, knowledge politics, economics, geography, governance, transition studies, and justice. 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.

Some of the larger questions covered in the course include: How do our fundamental worldviews shape how we understand climate change and how we believe we should act on it? Why is it important to examine climate change in the broader context of socio-ecological sustainability, including in relation to environmental change, human health and wellbeing, human-made infrastructures, and social and political developments. How can we understand climate change mitigation as socio-technical change? How does knowledge production on climate shape how we act on it? What can different political economic perspectives tell us about the possibilities of mitigating climate change in ways that favour social justice and ecological sustainability? How is the climate governed in multiple different ways and at different levels of scale from the global to the local? What do different perspectives on policy tell us about effective and equitable climate change mitigation options? What are the possibilities and challenges to accelerate climate mitigation through (technical and non-technical) innovations? How can we simultaneously decarbonise multiple sectors, including electricity, food, mobility, and materials.

Learning Outcome

After completing the course, students should be able to:



- Identify fundamental worldviews as they pertain to climate change

- Summarise the history of how climate change has come to be understood and governed

- Account for a socio-technical approach to societal transition dynamics

- Describe the uneven impacts of climate change and of mitigation and adaptation action



- Identify worldviews underlying statements about climate change and proposals for governance

- Select and apply relevant social scientific tools to analyse drivers of climate change mitigation and adaptation solutions

- Analyse policy approaches to climate change mitigation based on relevant conceptual frameworks

- Compare different climate change mitigation strategies and climate change policy options with a basis in an explicit value system



- Discuss natural scientific, economic and justice aspects of climate change governance on a global, sectoral and local scale

- Evaluate the feasibility of different climate change mitigation options from a socio-technical perspective

- Assess interrelations between transition processes in different sectors

- Evaluate climate change governance proposals with a basis in an explicit value system

The learning resources consist mainly of scientific articles, reports and book chapters, which will be made available on Absalon. There will also be accompanying videos and podcasts.


MSc students and continuing education students with a relevant BSc background in natural or social sciences.
The course is based on lectures, discussions, shorter guest lectures, study group sessions where students discuss texts or other materials, small project work processes on cases and similar, and excursions.
At the start of the course, students will write and submit an individual reflection essay on their understanding of the climate crisis from a societal perspective. At the end of the course, participants are asked to revise and resubmit their essays. Approval of both essays is a prerequisite for being allowed to take the exam. And examiners may ask questions about the essay in the exam.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 100
  • Preparation
  • 150
  • Excursions
  • 10
  • Project work
  • 60
  • Study Groups
  • 50
  • Exam Preparation
  • 40
  • Total
  • 410
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

Feedback is provided in multiple ways. The course involves many class discussions with continuous feedback (oral). Oral feedback will also be given to group exercises and group presentations. In addition, general feedback will be given to the individual essays.

Type of assessment
Oral exam on basis of previous submission
Type of assessment details
20 minutes oral examination with point of departure in one of the course modules of student’s own choice followed by questions towards the individual essay and in the broader course curriculum.

Students should hand in an essay at the beginning of the course, and submitted a revised version at the end of the course in order to access the oral exam.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Internal examination

As the ordinary exam

Criteria for exam assesment

Please see the description of learning outcomes