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Unit information: Environmental Risks, Management and Policy in 2020/21

Unit name Environmental Risks, Management and Policy
Unit code GEOG30015
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Jo House
Open unit status Not open

None. This course is suitable to both physical and human geographers.



School/department School of Geographical Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science


This is an interdisciplinary unit, aiming to equip students to assess, combine and apply evidence from both physical and social sciences in responding to real world problems of the risks of environmental change. This will include detection of environmental risks and attribution to different drivers; management of risk through adaptation and mitigation including disaster risk management; and formation and application of environmental policy from national through to international scales. Responding to environmental risks represent a complex mix between natural science and the social sciences, requiring the combination of evidence of the physical hazard causes and consequences, the effects of socio-economic conditions on vulnerability to change, as well as the legal, economic political and institutional responses.

The course is a mixture of practical skills (such as assessing risk under deep uncertainty and writing a policy briefing) and taught material. It includes guest lectures from practitioners in government and other agencies (e.g. UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), UK Environment Agency).

The aims and learning outcomes will be demonstrated and achieved through exploring different environmental change topics such as climate change and flood disaster risk management.

The following transferable skills are developed in this Unit:

  • Analytical skills and problem solving;
  • Critical evaluation of literary sources;
  • Synthesis of scientific evidence;
  • Communication to a non-expert audience.

Intended learning outcomes

On completion of this Unit students should be able to:

  1. interpret and apply methods for assessing evidence, uncertainty and risk for various environmental change issues;
  2. outline and evaluate risk assessment methods under present day conditions and future changes;
  3. identify and discuss approaches to mitigation, adaptation and risk transfer for various environmental change issues;
  4. assess the role of national and international policy and management practices in environmental risk mitigation and adaptation;
  5. identify key scientific information that is of relevance to policy or practice;
  6. identify policies and practices for which scientific evidence is of relevance;
  7. develop skills to synthesise and communicate scientific information and policy context in an effective and appropriate written manner to a non-scientific audience.

Teaching details

The unit will be taught through a blended combination of online and, if possible, in-person teaching, including

  • online resources
  • synchronous group workshops, seminars, tutorials and/or office hours
  • asynchronous individual activities and guided reading for students to work through at their own pace
  • practicals; students who either begin or continue their studies in an online mode may be required to complete practical work, or alternative activities, in person, either during the academic year 2020/21 or subsequently, in order to meet the intended learning outcomes for the unit, prepare them for subsequent units or to satisfy accreditation requirements.

Assessment Details

Climate Policy Briefing Report, 4 pages (40%) [ILOs 3-7]

Practical Report on risk assessment, 2 pages (20%) [ILOs 1-2]

Disaster Emergency Briefing Report (with related practical session), 4 pages (40%) [ILOs 1-7]

Reading and References

Recommended Reading

  • IPCC (2014) Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA. [Read the summary as a guide to find relevant information]
  • IPCC (2014) Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change, Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA. [Read the summary as a guide to find relevant information. Focus on chapter 11 AFOLU for assignment.]
  • IPCC (2012), Summary for Policymakers. In: Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation Rep., Cambridge, UK, and New York, NY, USA.
  • Committee on Climate Change (2017) UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017,
  • Keith, D. W.: When is it appropriate to combine expert judgments?, Clim. Change, 33, 139-143, 1996.

Plus other references as provided by course tutors.