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Credited Courses

UNU Intensive Core Courses

Global Change and Resilience (GCR)

2 credits

Course Description

Large-scale changes, resulting mainly from human activities, are affecting the global environment to an unprecedented extent and threatening the sustainability of ecosystems that are essential to our survival and well-being. The Global Change and Resilience course explores sustainable development and the interaction among its constituent components (environment, society and economy) in four key areas; Water, Agriculture, Extreme events and Biodiversity. Problems associated with a lack of water, food and loss of biodiversity are induced, to a large extent, by our inability to meet the increasing needs arising from population and economic growth in a sustainable manner. Attempts to meet these needs through resource exploitation without sustainability considerations have led to global crises.

One of the greatest challenges now facing humanity is climate change, induced by the imbalance of incoming and outgoing solar radiation. Climate change involves not just the increase of greenhouse gases, but also such factors as growing amounts of atmospheric carbon from bio-mass burning and industrial and traffic pollution, and large-scale changes in land cover and land management practices that affect carbon storage and fluxes.  Another important driver in global change is the urbanization process. Rapid urbanization brings with it a host of sustainability and quality-of-life problems.
The first part of the course provides an overview of these changes and how they affect the sustaianbility of ecological systems.  This will then be followed with indepth discussion on climate projections, uncertainty and impact assessment on different sectors.

Effects of gloabl change on water sector is discussed in detail focussing on the  need to manage limited water wisely through integrated water mangement practices that can meet diverse water needs in an ethical and equitable manner, while reducing water-related risks. Changes in land cover and management also are leading to land degradation and loss of biodiversity, thereby affecting ecosystem sustainability. This course will incorporate, in the treatment of the topics, an anthropogenic-centred focus on sustainable development (development that fulfils the needs of present generations without endangering the needs of future generations) as well as an eco-centric perspective aimed at improving the quality of life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting eco-systems.

Week 1: Global Change effects on Sustainability

  • Sustainable Systems and Global Change
  • Urbanization
  • Addressing Change - Adaptation Based on Risk Assessment

Week 2: Climate Change and Impacts

  • Climate Change Projections, Future Scenarios
  • Global to Local Linkages, Uncertainty and Impacts
  • Adaptation to Climate Change in Water Sector

Week 3: Risk Management

  • Management of Disasters
  • Systems Analysis for Integrated Disaster Management
  • Implementation of Systems Analysis

Week 4: Biodiversity, Ecosystems and Agriculture

  • Biodiversity in the Context of Global Change
  • Food Security and Agro-diversity
  • Sustainable Land Management

Week 5: Sustainability

  • Managing Water Cycle Addressing Global Change
  • Adaptation and Sustainability Linkages
  • Exploring the Potential of Satoyama Landscapes as Models for Sustainable Systems

Week 6: Discussion and Wrap-up

  • Student presentations
  • Tangible Earth Demonstration
  • Wrap-up Brainstorming

*Please note that the topics listed below may be subject to change.


The course will be taught by the staff of UNU and prominent external experts in the field.