Climate Change Impacts and Sustainability MSc

  • Overview
  • Course Content
  • Special Features
  • Teaching & Assessment
  • Employability
  • Fees
  • Entry Criteria

About the Course

This is a multi-school, interdisciplinary programme that explores the likely impacts of global climate change on society and the wider environment and to instil the skills to develop creative and evidenced solutions.

This MSc is accredited by the Institution of Environmental Sciences (IES) and the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM). 

Scholarship schemes available for this MSc course


We aim to provide students with an interdisciplinary knowledge of the potential impacts of global warming and climate change across a variety of key areas, including public health, business and economics, national and international policy and technological development, underpinned by a critical understanding of the concept of sustainability as applied to resource and energy use.

In so doing, we aim to meet the changing needs of society by generating graduates able to tackle the challenges presented by climate change, thus preparing them for careers that will likely span the transition to a post-carbon economy.

About the Institute for the Environment

During your MSc you will be based in the Institute for the Environment (IfE). IfE is a rapidly expanding research centre housing a strong team of leading experts held in high international regard in their respective fields. In 2011, IfE's research revealing the link between chemicals in rivers and reproductive health won the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education. 

You can find out more about the Institute in our brochure.


Institute for the Environment
Brunel University
Tel +44 (0)1895 266105

Course Director: Dr Andrew Russell

Related Courses

Course Content

Core Modules

The modules within this MSc have been specially designed to give you up-to-date knowledge and the necessary skills to be able to understand and act on climate change impact and sustainability issues in areas such as policy, law, health, energy and business. The specific modules are:

Global Climate Change (15 credits)

This module is fundamental to the programme as it introduces the background to the climate system, why it undergoes changes and how we measure and assess those changes. We also examine how humans have influenced the climate system and how it has affected humanity. Future projections are also considered in order to understand how Earth’s climate will change in the next few decades and out to 2100.

Sustainable Development in Practice (15 credits)

The key aim of this module is to develop the skills required to analyse, research and tackle sustainable development problems. This is achieved via a series of group projects that illustrate the complex interplay of environmental, societal and economic implications for a range of stakeholders in real sustainable development case studies. Developing the process of personal review, reflection and development is the second major aim of the module.

Responses to Climate Change (15 credits)

The aim of this module is to provide an integrated view of how societies can achieve greater levels of sustainability through legislative, voluntary and market-led initiatives. This will be achieved by evaluating economic activity through the triple-bottom-line, and exploring the ways that modern day corporate actors will need to adapt their activity to meet increasingly stringent targets to minimize future climate change.

Climate Change Policy and Law (15 credits)

The module’s intellectual aims are to explore the development of environmental issues as problems of public policy since the 1960s, with particular reference to climate change; identify the challenges that climate change poses to the neoliberal paradigm; evaluate key strategies to combat climate change, such as the Kyoto Protocol and the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme; and critique proposals for a more radical response to climate change from the perspective of green theory.

Environmental Hazards and Risk (15 credits)

The aims of this module are to develop an understanding of: scientific uncertainty and the relationship between hazard and risk; how risk is perceived and how governments, industries and individuals assess risk in relation to natural, anthropogenic and occupational hazards in our environment and; how these risks may be influenced by global warming and climate change. This knowledge is essential when developing mitigation or adaptation strategies relating to climate change or sustainability.

Climate and Health (15 credits)

The impact on human health has to be one of the key considerations in climate change and sustainability analyses and mitigation or adaptation strategies. This module addresses this concern by developing a broad understanding of the variety of ways in which climate affects human health and by exploring the potential for public health interventions

Biosphere (15 credits)

The main aim of this module is to introduce the impact of human activities on our planet, especially the living component of our planet; the Biosphere. Humans are now the dominant species on the planet, and our activities are having far reaching consequences. These include impacts on photosynthetic production, increasing mean global temperatures, ocean acidification, altered atmospheric chemistry, altered reflectivity of the planet, freshwater quality, and species loss. Some of these global alterations made by humans may be approaching tipping points that some fear will destabilise whole Earth systems by eroding ecosystems and the services they provide and that we depend on to survive. This module will explore these issue within the context of the nine planetary boundaries outlined by Lynas is the landmark paper in Nature in 2009 ("A Safe Operating Space for Humanity"). These are (1) Biodiversity loss, (2) Global Warming, (3) Nitrogen Pollution, (4) Land Use, (5) Fresh Water Scarcity, (6) Ocean Acidification, (7) Ozone Depletion, (8) Chemical Pollution, (9) Atmospheric Aerosols.

Research and Critical Skills in Environmental Sciences (15 credits)

When considering environmental science careers in public or private sectors or academia, a good grounding in research skills and how to critically appraise sources of information is essential. This module develops those skills with both the dissertation and your career beyond Brunel in mind. We also cover transferable skills, employability and professional development within this module.

Dissertation (60 credits)

The dissertation can be viewed as the cornerstone of the programme. It is where you can take the knowledge and skills developed from the other modules and build a short research project in collaboration with your academic supervisor. Working on the dissertation project is often when our students realise just how much they have learnt and developed during the MSc programme.

View further details for each module.

Typical Dissertations

The dissertation is a key aspect of your studies and you need to know that we have the expertise to support your research project. Within the Institute for the Environment, and the wider Brunel community, we have world leading experts who can supervise you on the following example topics:

  • Air pollution and public health
  • Clean process technology and recycling
  • Ecosystems and disease environments
  • Ecotoxicology, chemicals in the environment, endocrine disruption and chemical safety assessment
  • Environmental change, climate change, geological and hydrological hazards
  • Water, waste and industrial wastewater treatment
  • Climate modelling
  • Palaeoclimatology
  • Antarctic climate dynamics
  • European thunderstorms

Recent dissertation titles

  • Implications of changes in Arctic sea ice and the North Atlantic Oscillation for understanding the Caspian Sea level in the 20th and 21st Centuries
  • A critical analysis of the scientific argument for climate change scepticism
  • Demographic patterns indicate the onset of climate refugees from the coastal zone in Bangladesh
  • Fuel Security - The Real Drive for Emission Reductions in the Aviation Sector?
  • Climate change and resilience in the Arabian Peninsula – water management strategies for the Gulf States
  • Use of living walls and green roofs to reduce the air quality and greenhouse gas impact of Heathrow Airport

Special Features

  • Interdisciplinary course in award winning Specialist Research Institute
  • Excellent staff to student ratio (around 1:4)
  • IES and CIWEM accredited course
  • Full time (2-day contact a week) or part time (1-day contact a week)
  • Campus university with excellent facilities and close to London with great transport links


A range of assessment methods are employed including coursework reports, group and individual presentations and exams. Group work features strongly in the Sustainable Development in Practice module, which employs problem-based learning methods throughout


Employability is central to our MSc programme. First, we aim to provide you with the knowledge, skills and abilities that employers want. On top of this, we also want to help you get your career going by providing support and advice on looking for jobs, getting you application right, CV writing, interview skills and even how to use social media to help. You will also have a mock job interview with a real employer from the environmental sector during your MSc studies.

For some of our graduate success stories, have a look at this list of Institute for the Environment alumni.


Global warming is a pressing and universal environmental issue, which is likely to affect essentially all arenas of human activity. This will create demand for professionals with the knowledge and understanding of how to mitigate our impact on the atmosphere and how to adapt to climate change. These professionals will be needed in a wide variety of organisations in public, private and charitable sectors; in energy, transport, mining, heavy and light industrial, service and retailing, financial, marketing and insurance.

Many of our students have also gone on to further postgraduate studies, working towards PhDs within the Institute for the Environment, other Brunel University Schools and other universities around the world.

Past Student Profiles and Testimonials

Our students go on to have successful environmental careers thanks to their qualifications from IfE. You can read some profiles from past students in our Past Student Profiles and Testimonials document and here are some highlights:


Current employment: Director of his own sustainability consultancy.

Antony said: “After too many years working in wholesale finance in the City of London I felt ready to take up a new challenge and align my working life with my personal interests.

What I liked about the Climate Change Impacts and Sustainability course was its broad multidisciplinary nature and the fact that the syllabus has been designed to fit the specific subject domain.

I was particularly concerned about the challenges of returning to full-time education as a mature student. As it turned out, I was not alone, and academic life, though challenging, has proved to be very rewarding.”


Current employment: Schools Coordinator and European Projects Manager for Energy Solutions NW London, a sustainability charity.

Ben said: "I always dreamed of completing a Masters and when I decided that I wanted to change my career in order to work in the environmental field I decided that this was the perfect opportunity and would definitely enhance my career prospects. My previous employment experience plus my Masters from Brunel were an ideal combination when applying for my current job.

I was struck by the variety of tasks we were asked to undertake, emphasis being paid equally to working in a team and individually. The course went beyond purely academic study requiring a range of transferable skills to be developed. In particular I feel my presentation skills and ability to communicate increased dramatically as a result of being required to regularly feedback our research to our peers. This has helped me enormously in my current job where I have to speak to a wide range of stakeholders about a range of subjects.

In general my course was a small and very close-knit group. Studying this great course was a real pleasure, equipping me with skills and memories that will stay with me a very long time."


Current work: Set up, a web business to help people reduce their carbon footprint.

Lucinda said: "Climate Change is one of the biggest issues we face today, and one of the most complicated. I enrolled on the MSc course to improve my understanding of this important topic, but the breadth and depth of subject area, and diversity of backgrounds of fellow students meant I achieved much more than that!

Not only do I feel I have a solid foundation in the science, politics and ethics of climate change, I also gained the confidence and

inspiration to start my own business helping others understand climate change, and take action against it."


Current employment: PhD student in the Institute for the Environment

Satwant said: "I’ve always been interested in ecology, environmental issues and their impacts. When I was planning to do postgraduate study in this field, I found out about Brunel, which is ranked as one of the best universities in environment research, and some of best known names in environmental studies are based here.

A big advantage is that the teaching links theoretical knowledge with practical applications. Since I finished my course, I’ve continued to work as a research assistant at the Institute for the Environment."


Current work: Recycling Advisor, City of London Corporation

Anthony said: "I was greatly impressed by how my course was comprehensively packaged and delivered, giving students a broad based knowledge of the concepts involved. The modules were thoroughly taught and supported by practical laboratory works, group discussions, seminar presentations, lectures by leading academics and environmental consultants. I particularly developed key presentation skills and team spirit as a result of the various seminar presentations, group task and discussions.

The Institute parades a wonderful team of staff that provided students with the so much needed support and advice with both academic work and life on campus which I particularly benefited from as a foreign student. The institute also prides itself in its good contact with a wide range of public and private environmental organisations and agencies across the UK. This presented me with the opportunity of developing useful experience in the field by working part-time for some of the organisations during my study.

The main highlight of my programme is my participation in a major research project. Besides enjoying the support and encouragement of my supervisor and other members of the research team, I was able to also develop key technical experience and insight into the relevant industry. For me, studying at the institute was not only academically rewarding but enjoyable."

At Brunel we provide many opportunities and experiences within your degree programme and beyond – work-based learning, professional support services, volunteering, mentoring, sports, arts, clubs, societies, and much, much more – and we encourage you to make the most of them, so that you can make the most of yourself.

» More about Employability

Fees for 2015/6 entry

UK/EU students: £7,000 full-time; £3,500 part-time

International students: £16,500 full-time; £8,250 part-time

Scholarship schemes available for this MSc course

  1. The Water Conservation Bursary (£4,000)
  2. The Queen’s Anniversary Prize Scholarships (6 x £3,000 fee waivers)

UK/EU students can opt to pay in six equal monthly instalments: the first instalment is payable on enrolment and the remaining five by Direct Debit or credit/debit card.

Overseas students can opt to pay in two instalments: 60% on enrolment, and 40% in January for students who commence their course in September (or the remaining 40% in March for selected courses that start in January).

Fees quoted are per annum and are subject to an annual increase.

Entry Requirements 2015/6

Students will be admitted with a Science or Social Science based degree with a minimum grade of a 2:2 (or equivalent) from a British University (or equivalent). A wide range of disciplines are acceptable, for example: Environmental Science; Engineering; Physics; Chemistry; Biology; Geography; Environmental Health; Marine Science; Maths; Agricultural Science; Law; History; Sociology; Psychology; Business and Economics.

Applicants with a third class honours degree or other qualifications will be considered if supported by science A-level (or equivalent) and relevant work experience. Such applicants may be required to attend an interview.

Entry criteria are subject to review and change each academic year.

International and EU

If your country or institution is not listed or if you are not sure whether your institution is eligible, please contact Admissions

This information is for guidance only by Brunel University London and by meeting the academic requirements does not guarantee entry for our courses as applications are assessed on case-by-case basis.

English Language Requirements

  • IELTS: 6.5 (min 6 in all areas)
  • Pearson: 58 (51 in all subscores)
  • BrunELT: 65% (min 60% in all areas)

Brunel also offers our own BrunELT English Test and accept a range of other language courses. We also have a range of Pre-sessional English language courses, for students who do not meet these requirements, or who wish to improve their English.

Our International Pathways and Language Centre offers a range of foundation and pre-masters courses to provide you with the academic skills required for your chosen course.

Page last updated: Monday 08 December 2014