Contact FutureLearn for Support
Skip main navigation
We use cookies to give you a better experience, if that’s ok you can close this message and carry on browsing. For more info read our cookies policy.
We use cookies to give you a better experience. Carry on browsing if you're happy with this, or read our cookies policy for more information.
Online course

Our Changing Climate: Past, Present and Future

Find out more about the climate of the past and how climate change can present a number of risks and opportunities.

What’s the difference between a free course and an upgraded course?

Free:

  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • No certificate

Upgraded:

  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Our Changing Climate: Past, Present and Future

Why join the course?

Since early humans first moved out of Africa, the world’s climate has had a continual impact on our history. Now, the climate itself is being shaped by civilisation.

This free online course from the University of Reading will take you on this fascinating journey through time. Over five weeks, we’ll explore how climate shapes the way we live, the food we eat, the water we drink and the cities we live in.

From the fundamental science of the atmosphere to the social, economic and political consequences of climate change, our expert archaeologists, scientists, geographers and engineers will guide you.

We’ll start with an overview of the climatic system, how it’s changed over time and how it’s predicted to change in future. Then, we’ll focus on the impact of climate change on our lives. Finally, we’ll take a look at policy - why it’s needed, what’s been done and what’s next.

Together, we’ll find out what climate change means for you and the part we play in the climate of the future. Looking back, we’ll see examples of inspiring innovation and resilience, and ask: can our ingenuity see us through the challenges that lie ahead?

You can find out more in Maria Noguer’s post for the FutureLearn blog: “2015: a pivotal year for creating a resilient society”.

Download video: standard or HD

What topics will you cover?

Week 1 Climate Change: Observing, Understanding and Modelling

Week 1 provided an overview of the climate system, how this has changed in the past and how it is predicted to change in the future. It presented an insight into the natural and man-made drivers of climate change and the impact that we are already seeing in the world around us.

Week 2 Climate Change and Water

Week 2 considered the connection between our fresh water, a rare and precious resource, and our changing climate. It looked at how climate change affects rainfall, flood risk and water supply in the context of other non-climatic drivers.

Week 3 Climate Change and Food

Week 3 explored how the production, access, cost and consumption of food are intimately connected with climate. It looked at the effects that climate change has on food and the contribution of the food system to climate change.

Week 4 Climate Change and Cities

Week 4 studied the inexorable pull of the cities, and their surprising vulnerability to extreme weather and climate events. However cities are also vibrant hubs of innovation, so the course considered community development examples.

Week 5 The Politics of Climate Change

Week 5 considered how people around the world, from the international level to the local community, are responding to the challenge of all times that is our changing climate.

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

What will you achieve?

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

  • Understand the causes of climate change in the distant past and the main drivers of climate change today.
  • Describe how climate change is impacting the world around us and the impacts that are expected in the future.
  • Assess how climate change affects our water environment.
  • Consider how our climate is affecting the production, access, cost and consumption of food.
  • Analyse how cities are affecting our climate and at the same time understand the vulnerabilities of cities to extremes of weather and climate. We will also see the role of cities as innovators.
  • Evaluate how the international climate process works and see how people are responding to the issue of climate change.

Who is the course for?

You don’t need any previous experience or qualifications to take part in this course.

Who will you learn with?

Maria Noguer

I'm a climate scientist at the University of Reading's Walker Institute, with an interest on climate policy and communication. I'm also lead educator on 'Our changing climate: past, present and future

Who developed the course?

The University of Reading has a reputation for excellence in teaching, research and enterprise.

Buy a personalised, digital and printed certificate and transcript

You can buy a Certificate of Achievement for this course — a personalised certificate and transcript in both digital and printed formats, to prove what you’ve learnt. A Statement of Participation is also available for this course.

Certificate of Achievement + transcript $74.00

Statement of Participation $54.00