Contemporary Climate Science


Over the last couple of years, climate change has become particularly prominent in the media, thanks to various high profile activists and groups, and there is now the sense that there is real momentum to do something about future catastrophic human-induced climate change.  However, climate and the science and politics of climate change is still a mystery to many people, and indeed some people continue to deny its very existence or that human activities are harmful.

This course will give you the opportunity to understand the basics of the climate system, how it has varied in the past, present and future, and how these changes have impacted upon society. 

We will begin by discussing the climate system and the greenhouse effect, before looking at past and present day climate. Measurements of climatic conditions using conventional or satellite instruments are fundamental in understanding climate, and for informing climate models – there are, however, uncertainties. We will then discuss the impacts of future climate change, as well as possible adaptation and mitigation approaches both scientific and political.

Programme details

Course begins: 18th April 2023

Week 0: Course orientation.

Week 1: Introduction to the course, people and the climate system

Week 2: The Greenhouse Effect

Week 3: Past Climate

Week 4: Current Climate and Variability

Week 5: Measurements

Week 6: Climate Models

Week 7: Impacts of Future Climate

Week 8: Adaptation vs Mitigation

Week 9: Uncertainties

Week 10: Politics and Course Summary


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Description Costs
Course Fee £238.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Dr Charlie Williams

Charles Williams is a Climate Scientist, appointed as a Research Fellow at the University of Bristol and a Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Reading.  He specialises in climate modelling, and his current research focuses on climate change during the geological past (ranging from thousands, to millions, of years ago) and whether this can tell us anything about possible future climate change.

Course aims

Provide basic understanding of the Earth's climate system, how it varies, and it's societal impacts.

Course Objectives:

  • To provide an appreciation and interest in the climate system, which controls our weather patterns.
  • To enable students to understand how climate has varied in the past, present and future, from both natural and human causes.
  • To provide necessary background to speak knowledgeably about climate change.

Teaching methods

Students will have access to a pre-recorded lecture each week and will be asked to read one or two relevant selections each week before the weekly live session. Live sessions will provide an opportunity to ask questions and for class discussion on the topic.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

1. Identify reasons for variations in climate across the globe and in time

2. Analyse and describe the current climate system, and how it might change in the future

3. Discuss issues relating to climate change, such as political agendas and adaptation/mitigation approaches

Assessment methods

Set in Week 3: Multiple choice quiz on the Greenhouse Effect

Set in Week 7: Worksheet on the past & present climate

Set in Week 10: Essay on "The Challenges of Climate Science" with options of sub-topics (Uncertainties in Science, Sceptics debate, Challenges of Climate Change in Politics). 1500 word limit

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)