• University of Exeter

Climate Change: The Science

Learn about the science of climate change, the risks it poses, and how human activity is changing our world.

26,182 enrolled on this course

Sunrise over the Earth
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Gain an introduction to climate science

If you’re taking part in the Global Citizen Get Climate Smart challenge, complete this course to earn points and receive fun rewards. Scroll down to learn more.

Climate change is one of humanity’s greatest threats. If we want to protect our planet from dangerous and unprecedented change, we must first understand the science behind climate change.

On this four-week course, you’ll explore this science, looking back across 4 billion years of Earth’s history to help you learn the difference between natural and human-induced change.

You’ll understand climate as a system before exploring how climate change is already being felt. Finally, you’ll look to the future to see what it might hold for our planet.

Explore the evidence for climate change

As you delve into the natural variations in the Earth’s climate, you’ll take a deep dive into the evidence that signals climate change. Within this, you’ll examine key predictable and unpredictable determinants of climate change.

Understand the impacts of climate change on the cryosphere, ocean, and planet

You’ll take a focused look at the cryosphere – the frozen part of the Earth’s system – to understand how it responds to climate change and what impact this might have on the planet.

Next, you’ll discover the consequences of increased carbon dioxide emissions on the chemistry of our oceans.

Global Citizen Logo We’re proud to be partnering with Global Citizen, an action platform dedicated to defending the planet. Together, we hope to educate the world about climate change, offering actionable steps you can take to ensure a green and sustainable future. Join our Get Climate Smart challenge and complete this course to earn points with Global Citizen and receive fun rewards! Ready for a challenge?
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  • Week 1

    Introduction to Climate Science

    • Welcome!

      Professor Tim Lenton and Dr Damien Mansell welcome you to the course and introduce you to some of the key principles of climate science.

    • What is climate?

      Professor Tim Lenton welcomes you to the course and introduces you to some of the key principles of climate science.

    • The climate system, feedbacks and self-regulation

      In this activity you will examine how the Earth’s climate can be conceptualised as a system. Professor Tim Lenton examines the importance of understanding our climate as a system controlled by feedbacks and natural cycles.

    • Summary and Reflect

      Test your knowledge in this week's quiz, and reflect on what you've learnt so far

  • Week 2

    Evidence for Climate Change

    • Ancient past climate change

      Professor Tim Lenton looks back at Earth's 4.5 billion year history to help us better understand natural variations in the Earth's climate

    • Recent past climate change

      In this activity you will examine the key predictable and unpredictable determinants of climate change. Also you will exemplify the use of proxy climate records with reference to climate data collected from tree ring analysis.

    • Signs of Climate Change

      What evidence do we have of the signals of climate change, including an increase in extreme weather events? Professor Mat Collins will be show you how observing our weather and climate has provided us with key indicators of change

    • Test and Reflect

      Test your knowledge and reflect on what you've learnt in week 2

  • Week 3

    Impacts of Climate Change

    • Impacts on the Cryosphere

      In this activity you will focus on the impact of climate change on the cryosphere. Dr Damien Mansell investigates how the cryosphere responds to climate change and what impact these changes might have on our planet

    • Impacts on the oceans

      Discover the scale of the impact of increased carbon dioxide emissions on the chemistry of our oceans and explore the impact on the marine environment and how this will affect human activity.

    • Summary

      Test your understanding and reflect on findings from Week 3

  • Week 4

    Looking ahead...

    • Modelling future climates

      How do we predict what the future of the climate might look like? Professor Peter Cox visits the Met Office to explain how climate models are produced

    • Welcome to the Anthropocene!

      We are entering a new chapter of Earth’s history – the Anthropocene. What do the next 1000 years hold for the Earth?

    • Course round-up

      Finish up the course with one final quiz, our last weekly feedback video and a look to how you can continue studying Climate Change with the University of Exeter.

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Describe the key principles of climate change
  • Explore past climate change
  • Identify signs of climate change
  • Explain impacts on land and ocean systems
  • Discuss future projections and modelling future scenarios

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone with a keen interest in science, nature, the environment, and/or sustainability.

You don’t need any prior knowledge of climate change or climate science to benefit from this course.

Who will you learn with?

Professor Tim Lenton is Chair in Climate Change/Earth System Science at the University of Exeter. His research focuses on understanding the behaviour of the Earth as a whole system.

Senior Lecturer at The University of Exeter specialising in Glaciology, GIS and Remote Sensing
Educator on Climate Change: Challenges and Solutions
Find me on twitter @DamienMansell

Lecturer at Leeds University researching the impacts of climate change on our world

Course producer for University of Exeter Global Systems Institute


Who developed the course?

University of Exeter

The University of Exeter is a Russell Group university. It combines world-class research with very high levels of student satisfaction.

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  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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