SOAS University of London

Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP)

Climate Change Adaptation (30 credits)

30 credits

Climate Change Adaptation is a core module for the MSc in Climate Change and Development. Alongside the question of how to mitigate the impacts of climate change at a time when greenhouse gas emissions are still rising, adapting to them is vital to the prospects of development, given the potential for climate impacts to reduce or reverse poverty reduction gains across the global South.

The module comprises three parts. Part one explores what adaptation means for development, what it means conceptually and what it is starting to look like in practice, in terms of the differing trajectories of low, middle and high income countries. Part two explores the governance and architecture of adaptation, considering both how we might foster the kinds of collective action necessary for global adaptation and the current institutions and mechanisms that have emerged to pursue this goal. Part three looks at adaptation and development futures: in short, do we need to 'mainstream' adaptation thinking into development, or does robust adaptation require a more fundamental transformation of how we think of and do development? Answering this question requires us to attend to the underlying global political and economic forces which produce both climate change itself and the inequalities which ensure that some people are much more adversely affected by climate impacts than others.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • Understand and articulate clearly the implications of climate change adaptation thinking for development prospects in practice
  • Understand and be able to evaluate critically the contribution of adaptation, vulnerability and resilience theory to understandings of development in the face of climate change
  • Critically evaluate debates around the role of the prevailing global political economy in the production of climate impacts and poverty
  • Explain and assess current strategies for adaptation and development, and critically evaluate the extent to which these are likely to resolve or exacerbate the problems climate change poses for development
  • Understand and engage critically with debates around development, adaptation and transformation


We recommend students dedicate 15 - 20 hours of study time per week. This can be broken down to 15 - 20 hours per unit and 30 hours per assignment and 45 hours for exam revision.

Scope and syllabus

  1. PART I: Linking Climate Change Adaptation and Development
    1. Development as both causing and impacted by climate change
    2. The need for adaptation
    3. Conceptualising Adaptation
    4. Conceptualising Vulnerability
    5. Conceptualising  Resilience
    6. Development pathways, trajectories and climate change adaptation
    7. Conceptualising and operationalising climate resilient development
    8. The economics of climate change
    9. Economics and climate justice
  2. PART II: Governing and Implementing Adaptation and Development
    1. Adaptation governance, from the local to the global
    2. Climate change adaptation and social policy
    3. Technologies for adaptation
    4. Knowledge systems and adaptation
    5. Agrarian change and adaptation
  3. PART III: Future of Adaptation and Development  
    1. Prospects for adaptation above 2° C

Method of assessment

This module is assessed by:

  • a 500-word commentary and critical discussion on a key reading, and assessment of the commentaries of two other students (10%)
  • contribution to weekly online discussion (10%)
  • a 3000-word examined assignment (EA) (40%)
  • a two-hour written examination (40%)

Since the EA is an element of the formal examination process, please note the following:

  • The EA questions and submission date will be available on the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).
  • The EA is submitted by uploading it to the VLE.
  • The EA is marked by the module tutor and students will receive a percentage mark and feedback.
  • Answers submitted must be entirely the student’s own work and not a product of collaboration.
  • Plagiarism is a breach of regulations. To ensure compliance with the specific University of London regulations, all students are advised to read the guidelines on referencing the work of other people. For more detailed information, see the FAQ on the VLE.

Suggested reading

  • Hakon Inderberg et al eds (2014), climate change adaptation and development: transforming paradigms and practices. Oxford: Routledge
  • Schipper and Burton eds (2009), The Earthscan Reader on Adaptation to Climate Change. Oxford: earthscan
  • Pelling (2011), Adaptation to Climate Change: from Resilience to Transformation. Oxford: Routledge
  • IPCC fifth assessment report: Technical Summaries for Working Group I-III (freely available online at



Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules