SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

Environment and Climate Crisis

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 3
Taught in:
Term 2

This module offers an advanced introduction to the politics of global environmental change. It focuses on problems of environmental transformation in the context of international power relations, the expansion of capitalism, and socio-political pressures for radical change. The course is organised into three sections: (1) a grounding in prominent conceptual frameworks for studying environmental politics; (2) a dissection of significant policy debates preoccupied with environmental politics; and (3) engaging with two invited speakers drawn from the policy and civil society communities with practical experience in environmental politics. The module will run in the form of seminars where the convenors leads discussions on the weekly readings and material. The policy relevant sections are geared to give students perspectives necessary for job placements in IOs, NGOs, policy and research positions. The guest lectures will give students insight into how material learned in the earlier weeks take form in the context of environmental IOs and NGOs.   

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • Understanding of the major forces in the international relations of the environment and climate change.
  • Analysis of the points of conflict and cooperation in the environment and climate change.
  • Ability to critically evaluate the past, current and future challenges in the environment and climate change.
  • Familiarity with the existing theoretical approaches to analyse the issue.
  • Develope skills of oral and written communication.      


2 hours seminar per week

Scope and syllabus

  1. The Anthropocene and its Consequences
  2. Liberalism Environmentalism
  3. Marxism and Eco-Socialist Perspectives
  4. Economics and Environment (YK)
  5. Rules and Regulations in Environmental Politics (YK)
  6. Issue Area 1: Climate Change (YK)
  7. Issue Area 2: Biodiversity (YK)
  8. Invited Speaker 1: IO/NGO representative (YK)
  9. Invited Speaker 2: Extinction Rebellion
  10. Conclusion 

Method of assessment

Assessment is 35% coursework (one 2000 word essay), 65% unseen examination (2 hours).

Suggested reading

  • Bernstein, S., The Compromise of Liberal Environmentalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001). [An important book that critically examines the institutionalisation of a dominant liberal environmental episteme, particularly since the 1990s]
  • Betsill, M. M., Hochstetler, K., and Stevis, D. (eds.), Advances in International Environmental Politics (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). [A good, relatively up-to-date overview of debates in the field].
  • Carter, N., The Politics of the Environment: Ideas, Activism, Policy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018). [Acclaimed textbook surveys the politics of the environment, providing a comprehensive and comparative introduction to its three components: ideas, activism and policy]
  • Clapp, J. and Dauvergne, P., Paths to a Green World: The Political Economy of the Global Environment (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011). [Maps a typology of contrasting worldviews – liberals, institutionalists, bioenvironmentalists, and social greens – and applies it to the study of ecological change]
  • Dryzek, J. S., The Politics of the Earth: Environmental Discourses (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012). [A very good book. Debates the vocabularies that have emerged in relation to environmental politics, including survivalism, environmental problem solving, sustainability, and green radicalism]
  • Foster, J. B., Clark, B., and York, R., The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2010). [Argues that the source of ecological crisis lies in the paradox of wealth in capitalist society, which expands individual riches at the expense of public wealth, including the wealth of nature]
  • Katz-Rosene, R. and Paterson, M., Thinking Ecologically About the Global Political Economy (Abingdon: Routledge, 2018). [Argues that thinking from an ecological position transforms how IPE has conventionally imagined and debated key themes, such as trade, finance, and development]
  • Newell, P. and Bulkeley, H. A., Governing Climate Change (Abingdon: Routledge, 2015). [Perhaps the best introductory guide to the political economy of climate change]
  • Paterson, M. and Pā€Laberge, X., ‘Political Economies of Climate Change’, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 9 (2018), e506, 1-16. [Excellent overview piece of why and how climate change can be   addressed through approaches to political economy]


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules