70049 - Global Environmental Challenges

Academic Year 2023/2024

Learning outcomes

Humans have become a force of nature reshaping environmental processes on a planetary scale. This course identifies and describes some ecological issues that poses a challenge for sustainability. It studies their interconnection with economic and political processes. The program builds around three topics: local and global commons, biodiversity, and climate change. The course objective is to provide the tools to understand some ecological challenges at the global level regarding the economy and politics of this generation. Other relevant environmental issues are excluded from the course, such as energy topics, methods for cost-benefit assessments, pollution from toxic chemicals.

Course contents

The course objective is to provide tools for understanding the economics of environmental problems at the national and global levels. It studies the interconnections of environmental and ecological issues with economic and political processes.

Lectures will be organized around the following topics:

  • Environmental problems and the 'Anthropocene'
  • The science of climate change
  • The energy system
  • Social and economic impacts of climate change
  • Mitigation as a social dilemma
  • Economic solutions to climate change
  • Economic models of climate change and cost-benefit analysis
  • Inequality in impacts of climate change and climate policy
  • The political economy of climate policies
  • Adaptation and geoengineering
  • Biodiversity and ecological impacts
  • Ecological transition as a system transition


Lectures and readings will be in English. There is no single textbook; papers and readings will be assigned for each topic. The following two titles may be useful for understanding environmental economics:

  • Perman et al. (2013): Natural Resource and Environmental Economics, 4th edition
  • Phaneuf and Requate (2017): A course in environmental economics : theory, policy, and practice

Both titles are written from an economic perspective and involve some mathematical modelling. A good if basic introduction to climate change is given in Nordhaus (2013) The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty, and Economics for a Warming World, Yale University Press.

Other readings will be made available on Virtuale: some are required while others only recommended. The site will be updated continuously and it is recommended to check weekly.

Teaching methods

Lectures with presentation. Discussion will be encouraged during the lectures.

At least one lecture will be dedicated to discussion only.

Some classes will involve simple mathematical exercises.

Assessment methods

This is an intermediate-level economics class. The class will require a considerable effort, especially if you aim at a good grade. The assessment will be about your level of understanding and your ability to work with the concepts. Memory is a pre-requisite to a successful exam, but the ability to repeat concepts will not be the crucial element.

Evaluation will be by written exam (70%) and three short essays (30%). The essays will cover different parts of the course content, and are intended to help students hone their skills at effective writing.

Examinations. The written examinations will comprise of 3-6 questions. Answers are short essays that focus on defining concepts, illustrating theories, reporting empirical evidence, providing interpretations, and/or solving numerical exercises. The focus will be on the material in the required readings and the slides.

Grade. The final grade will be on the following scale:

<18 failed
18-23 sufficient
24-27 good
28-30 very good
30 e lode excellent

Teaching tools

The teaching will be by lectures.

Interaction during lectures is highly encouraged and students will be prompted to participate in the discussion.

Office hours

See the website of Niko Samuli Jaakkola