The Ethics of Climate Change


The climate change ethics course will be looking at the problem of climate change from an ethical perspective. What should we do and how should we live in the present environmental crisis? This course will examine the demands of 'business as usual' and question the technological solutions, such as geoengineering, that are on offer. What ethical principles do we need to underlie all decisions that are made, both in the private and public domains, about coping with a warming world?

Problems of international justice and intergenerational justice will be discussed as well as examining the possibility of new ways of relating to the natural world. What can we all do to help improve our futures and the futures of our children and grandchildren, as well as the health of the whole biosphere? This course will be a foundational course in understanding the ethical problems that arise from climate change.

Programme details

Courses starts: 25 Jan 2022

Week 1:  The basic science of climate change and its history: what is climate change?

Week 2:  Ethics: what ethical principles do we need?

Week 3:  Economics: do we need to change our economic systems?

Week 4:  International justice: how can we bring about a fair world?

Week 5:  Intergenerational justice: do we have obligations to future generations

Week 6:  New technology: is new technology ethically sound?

Week 7:  Geoengineering: what ethical problems are there with engineering the environment?

Week 8: Other species: do we have duties to other species?

Week 9: The natural world: what is our relationship to the natural world in the Anthropocene?

Week 10: Individual duties: what duties do we have as individuals and members of society in a time of climate change?


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 £229.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Dr Helen Barnard

Dr. Helen Barnard has been teaching at the Department of Continuing Education for 15 years as well as a second level course in philosophy with the Open University. Her specialist interest is environmental ethics but also all other aspects of ethics.

Course aims

To introduce students to an ethical perspective on climate change.

Course Objectives:

1. To introduce students to the problems of climate change.

2. To give students a good knowledge and understanding of different ethical theories applied to the problems of climate change.

3. To give students practice in the analysis and critical assessment of arguments.

Teaching methods

Students will be asked to read a relevant text each week before class. Each week there will be an introductory lecture and then the students will have an opportunity to take part in open debate.

Learning outcomes

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

1. Have knowledge and understanding of climate change ethics.

2. Have learnt how to offer arguments for and against the positions introduced and have learnt skills in the analysis and critical assessment of arguments.

3. Have gained confidence in expressing ideas in open debate.

Assessment methods

Course work will consist of either one essay of 1500 words or two pieces of work of 750 words each, one of which may be substituted by the presentation of a paper in class.

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 per course. 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

The course is at an introductory level and no previous knowledge or experience is required.

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)