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School of Environment, Education and Development

Student in The Atrium at The University of Manchester
BA Geography

Study a course tailored to you at the university ranked fourth in the UK for Geography (Guardian University Guide).

BA Geography

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
Climate Change and carbon Cycling

Unit code GEOG30182
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Geography
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Climate change is often quoted as the major challenge facing the world’s population in the 21st Century.  Climate change has the potential to affect us all in a variety of ways and current projections suggest that by 2100 there is likely to be a global average surface warming of up to 4°C, depending on current and future carbon emissions.   The cycling of carbon between the atmosphere, biosphere and oceans is a key concept in climate change and is a dynamic area of ongoing, and sometimes debated, research.

The coupling between climate change and carbon cycling is explored in this unit and will begin with an overview of the topic by introducing the concepts of weather, climate and climate change.  It will then explore the mechanisms of climate change before assessing the role of climate change and carbon in various carbon stores.  Finally, the module will conclude with an assessment of future climate change scenarios and role carbon plays.  This unit will emphasise the value of multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary approaches to tackling the problems of climate change.



  • ·         To introduce the concepts of weather, climate and climate change

    ·         To provide a sound understanding of the role of key components of the climate system, and how climate has changed through time

    ·         To introduce the discipline of carbon biogeochemistry and its links to climate change

    ·         To investigate the use of models in understanding environmental change

    ·         To investigate the role of carbon in a range of climate change issues such as mitigation strategies

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course unit, you should have gained:

·         The ability to critically evaluate current hypotheses for modern climate change

·         An appreciation of the complexity of the carbon-climate system

·         A knowledge of the latest climate change  information available at global, regional and local levels

·         An understanding of policy aspects of climate change including mitigation and adaptation methods





Two hour session

1 hour session



Key concepts: weather, climate and climate change

Using climate data

Project introduced


Drivers of change: Past and Present

Skepticism and science communication   



Impact of climate change on carbon in: Atmosphere

Atmospheric practical



Impact of climate change on carbon in: Oceans

Ocean chemistry practical



Impact of climate change on carbon in: Terrestrial biosphere

Terrestrial carbon practical



Study week




Impact of climate change on carbon in:

Soils and black carbon

Soils data practical and coursework surgery



Interactions and feedbacks: increasing the complexity

Feedbacks practical

Project due in (33%)

Easter Break





Study week (TBC)




Future climate scenarios

Catastrophic climate events

Teaching and learning methods

The course is delivered through a series of 2-hour flexible sessions and 1-hour practical sessions. Across all the teaching a range of methods will be used including lecture-style sessions with student interaction, seminars, practical sessions and discussion exercises.   The sessions will be supported by online material, directed reading, and practical assignments.


Students are expected to read widely to support these classes and undertake the support activities indicated for each class. Learning will be supported via the course Blackboard site.  There is a strong element of working with MS Excel as part of the practical sessions and for the coursework.  

Transferable skills and personal qualities

During this unit, you will be encouraged to develop the following abilities and skills:

·         Skills in data collation, evaluation and synthesis  from multiple sources

·         Ability to communicate technical information to a range of audiences

·         Use the internet critically as an information source

·         Solve numerical problems 

Assessment methods

The course will be assessed on the basis of:

·         Mid-course formative revision quizzes

·         An individual coursework project (33%) in the form of a Parliamentary style briefing note on UK CO2 emissions for submission in Week 8.

·         A 2-hour exam (67%) comprising two essay questions.


Feedback methods

Feedback will be provided in the following ways during this course unit:

  • Verbal feedback through Q&A and activities during lecture sessions
  • Verbal feedback on an course unit issue through consultation hours
  • Detailed written feedback on coursework assignment 

Recommended reading

Key Journals:

Nature; Science; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; Nature Climate Change; Global Biogeochemical Cycles; Biogeochemistry; Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics; Climatic Change; Climate Research; Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society; Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences; Geophysical Research Letters


The course also draws on the IPCC (2007, 2013) Working Group 1, 2 & 3 Reports (available at

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 20
Practical classes & workshops 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 168

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Gareth Clay Unit coordinator

Additional notes


Comprises of Lectures and Seminars. Please refer to course content information for further details.

Lecture: TBC
Seminar: TBC

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