APS 313 Global Change

Level 3
Semester 2A
Credits 10
Pre/Co Requisites -
Recommended Requisites -
Teaching Staff Professor Colin Osborne, Dr Tom Webb, Dr Beth Dyson
Co-ordinator Professor Colin Osborne


The aims of this course will be to:

  •  Provide a framework for understanding the co-evolution of the Earth system and photosynthetic   organisms over the past 3 billion years.
  •  Reveal how the photosynthetic biota exerts major feedbacks on planetary scale processes that regulate the global environment.
  •  Raise awareness of current controversies in this field of science.
  •  Review the evidence for current anthropogenic global environmental change in the light of lessons from the past.
  • Consider the actions required to avert the imminent planetary emergency facing humanity.


The module will provide a framework for understanding the evolution of the Earth system and its photosynthetic biota over the past 3 billion years before assessing the threats posed by anthropogenic climate change. The emphasis here is on how the past provides a worrying guide to the future. It will address the following major turning points in Earth history: the origins of photosynthesis, snowball Earth, how land plants affect the geochemical cycles of oxygen and carbon dioxide, and the origins of grassy biomes and agricultural systems that feed the world. It finishes by reviewing wide ranging lines of evidence for current global environmental change and assesses cutting edge science dealing with the nature of the threat posed by on-going anthropogenic increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases.

Delivery Method: 16 lectures and 1 student-led 2 hour workshop session

Assessment Method: Examination

Assessment Weighting: 100% Examination

JISC Submission: None

Feedback: Students can receive feedback on performance in examinations by arranging a meeting with their personal tutor.

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