Postgraduate Courses on Building Resilience to Climate Change


    UNU-IAS regularly organizes intensive 4-week postgraduate courses on Building Resilience to Climate Change, developed under the framework of the University Network for Climate and Ecosystems Change Adaptation Research (UN-CECAR). UN-CECAR is a collaborative initiative of more than 20 leading universities across Asia, committed to develop post graduate educational and research programmes on climate and ecosystems change, adaptation and sustainability science. UNU-ISP acts as the UN-CECAR Secretariat.

    The courses run from 14 October to 7 November 2014. They cover a range of issues on sustainability and adaptation to climate and ecosystems change. Topics include climate and atmospheric science, impacts assessment, climate and society, ecosystems resilience, risk and uncertainty, integrated solutions for mitigation and adaptation, mainstreaming adaptation into development planning and community-based adaptation. Students receive practical training in the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and in down-scaling rainfall forecasts.

    Assessment is based on a research paper, presentations, class participation, and intermediate tests. The courses are practically-oriented and will be taught by a highly qualified and diverse team of natural and social science scholars. Each course is equivalent to a regular 2 credit postgraduate course in Japan. Credits also can be transferred to the UNU-IAS Master of Science in Sustainability programme.

    Daily Schedule

    There are three sessions each weekday: 10:00-12:00, 13:00-15:00 and 16:00-18:00.

    Faculty and Learning Environment

    Students will benefit from working closely with an expert teaching faculty comprising distinguished UN-CECAR scholars and practitioners, and UNU-IAS academic staff. Because it shares a building with many UN agencies, UNU-IAS offers a unique learning environment.

    The UNU Library offers access to a wide range of academic books, over 10,000 electronic journals, World Bank and OECD publications, and official UN documents. All students will receive a comprehensive library orientation session at the beginning of the course.

    A dedicated computer lab will be provided for students, with software to cater to the needs of each course, including GIS, environmental modelling applications, and statistical analysis tools. An online learning tool will be provided for students to access lecture notes, reading lists and other materials specific to each course, as well as a message board and forum to facilitate discussion among faculty and students.

    Student Support and Accommodation

    UNU-IAS assists students throughout the courses, acknowledging that students may experience difficulties in adjusting to a new country and culture. Students can stay in low-cost accommodation arranged by UNU-IAS at a nearby hotel. Further information on payment and hotel reservations will be provided to successful applicants.

  • Target Applicants

    These courses are designed for:

    • students who are currently enrolled in a masters or Ph.D. programme, in any discipline;
    • who wish to deepen their knowledge on, and gain practical training in, building resilience to climate and ecosystems change; and
    • who desire a future career as a climate change specialist.

    Tuition Fees

    The fees for Course Ⅰ (14 – 24 October 2014) are USD 1,000 (or JPY 100,000).
    The fees for Course Ⅱ (27 October – 7 November 2014) are USD 1,000 (or JPY 100,000).

    English Language Requirements

    Excellent written and verbal English language skills are required. Applicants whose first language is not English and whose bachelor’s degree is not from an institution at which English is the language of instruction must submit proof of English language proficiency within the past 2 years. The minimum score requirements for TOEFL or IELTS are listed below:

    • 600 TOEFL paper-based
    • 100 TOEFL internet-based
    • 7.0 IELTS academic version


    The following applicants are exempt from submitting a score sheet:

    1. Applicants whose first language is English.
    2. Those who graduated from a university or a graduate school located in a country where English is the first language.
    3. Those who completed an undergraduate or graduate degree programme taught in English. In this case, please submit a certificate showing that the programme you attended was taught in English.
    4. Applicants who submit proof by any other means that have proficiency in English equivalent to that described in points (2) and (3) above.

    Please visit UN-CECAR website for more details.

  • You can apply to the Postgraduate Courses on Building Resilience to Climate Change online or by downloading and completing an application form. All application documents should be submitted in English. Please note that incomplete applications will not be considered.

    Application Deadline

    The application deadline is 31 July 2014.
    Applications received after the deadline or incomplete applications will not be considered, and UNU-IAS will not be responsible for any postal delay or loss.

    Online Application

    If you would like to apply online, please use the online application form. You will need to create a user account to submit your applications.

    Document Application

    If you would like to apply by post or email, you should submit the following documents:

    • A completed Application with photo and signature;
    • Proof of enrolment in a master’s or Ph.D. degree programme for those currently undertaking a degree programme;
    • Original transcripts of academic records at the college or university level, or certified copies of original transcripts (these will not be returned to the applicant, so please do not include original certificates of diplomas or degrees);
    • A detailed proposal of your research topic, and explain how it could link with your current university thesis topic to that of climate change;
    • TOEFL scores or equivalent proof of English-language proficiency for non-native speakers or those who do not have an academic degree in an English-speaking country;
    • at least two references; one from the student’s supervisor and one from another faculty member.

    All of the documents listed above should be sent by email to , , or sent by registered express mail to the following address:

    UNU-IC Secretariat
    UNU Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS)
    United Nations University Headquarters
    53-70 Jingumae 5-chome, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-8925, Japan
    Tel: +81-3-5467-1212

  • Course 1 focuses on Science, Impacts and Vulnerability, and Course 2 focuses on Approaches to Adaptation. Practical training on remote sensing and GIS software will be provided in conjunction to the courses. The programme is open to students who are currently enrolled in a university postgraduate programme and who have already identified their thesis topic prior to arriving in Japan. As part of the assessment, students will be required to complete a research paper that links their thesis topic to climate change.

    Students who successfully complete the course will be awarded a certificate of completion and a transcript from UNU-IAS. Each course is designed to be worth 2 credits and comprises of 36 hours of teaching time. While a number of universities have negotiated credit transfer agreements with UNU-IAS, ultimately the decision on whether credits are transferable will be made by the student’s university. Please note that the topics listed below may be subject to change.

    Course I: Science, Impacts and Vulnerability (2 credits)

    1. Introduction to the Programme

    Welcome and introductions
    Programme overview and philosophy
    Context of the UNFCCC and IPCC
    Structure, expectations and assessment
    Group allocation and discussion of major research project

    2. Weather, Climate and Atmospheric Processes

    Fundamental concepts
    Weather and climate mechanisms
    Structure and composition of the atmosphere
    General circulation of the atmosphere

    3. Climate Change (UNFCCC, WMO)

    Introduction to climate change
    Greenhouse gases and aerosols
    Carbon cycle
    Fundamental principles of climate change
    The oceans and climate change
    Climate variability and change

    4. Observed Climate Change and Impacts

    Observation networks
    Overview of climate change responses
    Global and regional scale responses
    Extreme events
    Consequences of observed changes and extreme events

    5. Scenarios for Future Impact Assessments

    Introduction to scenario principles
    IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES)
    Introduction to Global Climate Models (GCMs)
    GCM projections for impact assessments
    Introduction to Regional Climate Models (RCMs)
    RCM projections for regional and local impact assessments
    Next-generation IPCC scenarios (5th Assessment Report)

    6. Climate Projections & Uncertainty

    Major sources of uncertainty in climate change projections
    Concepts and practical examples: evaluating, quantifying and reducing uncertainty in climate projections
    Issue of uncertainty in the wider context of natural variability

    7. Selecting Appropriate Future Climate Predictions

    Differences in model predictions
    Multi-model ensembles
    Bias correction
    Weather generators from climate forecasts

    8. Climate Change Impacts: Ecosystems

    Concept of ecosystems services
    Social, ecological and economic impacts of climate change and their interactions
    Payment for ecosystem services and biodiversity

    9. Climate Change Impacts: Water Sector

    Climate change impacts on the water cycle
    Flood discharge modification from climate change
    Cost-benefit analysis of flood risk reduction measures
    Conventional flood-control design and its alteration due to climate change

    10. Climate Change Impacts: Food Security

    Climate change impacts on food production
    Quantifying food production changes due to weather changes
    Adaptation measures for climate change impacts on food production
    Cost-benefit analysis of adaptation measures

    11. Climate Change Impacts: Extreme Events

    Extreme events
    Catastrophic disasters
    Climate change modifications to extreme events and challenges
    Reducing extreme even losses through adaptive practices

    12. Assessing Climate Change Impacts: National and Regional Scales

    Macro modelling of regional climate change impacts
    Integrated models for climate change impact assessment
    Assessing adaptation costs at national and regional scales

    Course II: Approaches to Adaptation (2 credits)

    1. Basic Understanding of Key Concepts

    Welcome and introductions
    Programme overview and philosophy
    Context of the UNFCCC and IPCC
    Structure, expectations and assessment
    Group allocation and discussion of major research project

    2. Global and National Challenges

    Security issues
    Capacity and awareness issues
    Policy processes and challenges
    Problems at national and local levels
    Local institutions
    Local-level climate change adaptation

    3. Mitigation and Adaptation Practices and Resilience (Urban Areas)

    Introduction: drivers of urban growth
    Framing the problem in urban areas: social, cultural and economic aspects
    Mitigation and adaptation options
    Key constraints and measures
    Case studies

    4. Mitigation and Adaptation Practices and Resilience (Rural Areas)

    Mitigation options: engineering (hard) vs. ecological (soft) approaches, and socio-economic approaches
    Adaptation options in various sectors
    Adaptation strategies and re-adjustments
    Local wisdom and indigenous technologies
    Case studies

    5. Adaptation in Practice (International Donors Context): Flood Disaster Risk Management

    What is happening in Japan
    Flood risk management under a changing climate
    Case studies

    6. Adaptation in Practice: National Target Programme Development

    Climate change observations
    Greenhouse gas emission scenarios
    Methods used for scenario development (GCM, dynamic downscaling, statistical downscaling, others)
    Climate change scenarios and impact assessments
    Institutional, budgetary and implementation challenges

    7. Community Adaptation

    Climate Vulnerability and Capacity Analysis (CVCA)
    CVCA process and analysis
    Participatory tools
    Policy analysis

    8. Community Engagement Practices

    Steps in the adaptation process
    Methodologies and principles of engaging communities
    Participatory policy-making
    Individual and collective participation and responsibilities
    The ‘Yomenkaigi’ method for achieving consensus and strategic programmes for public participation

    9. Economics of Climate Change: Cost and Benefits Analysis

    Basic economic principles
    Putting a price on carbon
    Uncertainties and assumptions
    Market-based solutions: carbon markets (ETS) and carbon taxes

    10. Economic Assessment of Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Measures

    Climate change parameters and potentially vulnerable system assets (flood and food production)
    Integrated assessment of economic costs of climate change impacts and adaptation policies
    Introduction to economic models used for assessing the impacts of climate change: e.g. Stern Review, AIM
    Critical review of the framework, assumptions and value judgments of economic models

    11. Global and National Policies on Financing Adaptation Strategies

    International adaptation policy framework and financing
    Role and impact of the Global Environment Facility
    Assessment of past and existing adaptation projects
    Co-benefits of adaptation and development
    Mainstreaming adaptation into development planning

    Applied Training

    Remote Sensing (RS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for environmental problem-solving

    This training provides a basic understanding of the theory and application of use of RS and GIS as tools for environmental problem-solving. Through practical hands-on experience with current environmental issues, students can obtain basic skills in spatial analysis and webmapping application development. GIS software will be used in this training.