Environmental Geoscience BSc

Climates: Past and Future EARTH4074

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course teaches the fundamental concepts needed to understand how Earth's climate system works, including forcings, responses, feedbacks and the greenhouse effect, and explores how palaeoclimatic proxies and models are used to reconstruct past climates and project future change.


Four classes per week for 3 weeks (2 hr lecture and 1 hr lab per class).

Excluded Courses

EARTH4021 - Palaeoclimatology


Written Exam (50%)

Essay (50%) 

Main Assessment In: December

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses


Course Aims

The course aims to:

■ Provide knowledge and critical analytical skills to test the rigour of mainstream reports and commentary on climate change;

■ Synthesize scientific palaeoclimate research and data and use it to contextualise and derive possible solutions to modern and future climate change problems 

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ Explain the forces at work at the Earth's surface that contribute to make up Earth's major climate and weather systems.

■ Compare and contrast key climate events and trends over the past 65 million years to contextualise modern climate change.

■ Evaluate the rates and timescales over which internal and external forces cause climate change with the aid of positive and negative feedback mechanisms.

■ Discuss the most commonly used palaeoclimate archives and proxies available for terrestrial and marine palaeoclimate reconstructions and evaluate their efficacy and limitations.

■ Analyse the use of palaeoclimatology in to calibrate global climate models and discuss how climate sensitivity uses specific past climate events to contextualise anthropogenic forcing.

■ Work as a team to tackle various climate change problems by locating, analysing, and synthesizing information from a variety of sources.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.