Systems Thinking: Climate Change & Sustainable Decision Making (PGT)

This course improved my confidence in my ability to self-motivate, adapt and learn new skills. It was a great way of trying my hand at something new and to experiment, but with real tangible benefits going forward. A tremendous opportunity.

Lauren Roberts Systems Thinking: Climate Change & Sustainable Decision Making

November 2021 will be a milestone in my learning as the combination of excellent content and teaching on this course combined with live developments provided a rich and enjoyable opportunity to truly upskill.

Mark Cairney Systems Thinking: Climate Change & Sustainable Decision Making


Systems Thinking: Climate Change & Sustainable Decision Making Microcredential

Duration: 10 weeks
Credits: 10 Academic Credits (PG)
Delivery: All course content is delivered on Moodle, our virtual learning platform. You will converse with the tutors and fellow students in online forums.
Timetable: Fully online and flexible, with no scheduled classes to attend.
Funding: You are eligible for a fully funded place on this course if you are Scottish-domiciled and/or work for an organisation based in Scotland.
College: College of Science & Engineering
School: School of Geographical & Earth Sciences

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Climate change is the biggest global challenge to the foundations of our society and the health of our planet since humans have inhabited the Earth. It impacts every part of the world and has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, which have highlighted how our society, economy, and environment are interconnected. This course is designed to increase your understanding of the complexities of climate change and the ways in which it impacts the world around us. It will provide you with the knowledge and skills needed to make sustainable decisions and take action to reduce your carbon footprint at work and home. In completing this course, you should feel equipped in discussing this pressing global emergency and able to contribute to building a more sustainable future for all.

Why this course

Upon completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • Understand tools and theories that help create solutions for a sustainable future;
  • Reflect on and understand how individual and siloed components of a system in isolation interrelate and interconnect;
  • Utilise personal and professional skills that enable you to make practical and positive decisions in your personal life and in the workplace;
  • Describe what systems thinking is and why it is relevant to climate change and sustainability;
  • Evaluate the potential value and contribution of systems thinking in supporting ESG and CSR (a systems approach will naturally leverage pro-environmental orientation of individuals within organisations to act toward their strengths and interests);
  • Explore different ways in which systems thinking can be applied in practice by individuals and organisations to support problem-solving, decision-making and organisational learning;
  • Evaluate a range of case studies of system-orientated responses to climate change;
  • Understand that due to the complexity and dynamic nature of systems, intuitive decision-making does not always lead to expected outcomes;
  • Apply a set of synergistic analytic skills including:
    • Systems mapping to enable problem framing and scoping;
    • Scenario thinking to support individuals to explore plausible futures. 

Course structure

This course is designed to help you to shift your mindset away from siloed and compartmentalised thinking to a more holistic view of the system. It will cover the following topics:

Weeks 1 & 2: Introduction to Systems Thinking, Climate Change & Sustainability

Weeks 3-5: Applications of Systems Thinking to Problem-Solving & Decision-Making

Weeks 6-8: Exploration Case Studies That Show Systems Thinking in Practice

Weeks 9 & 10: Making Systems Change: Intervening, Acting & Measuring



  • Short Answer Assignment (25%) (optional)

Learners will engage with a ‘lab’ to experiment with different scenarios in an online, open access systems model. Following familiarisation with using the model, learners will explore a specific scenario and answer a series of questions designed to demonstrate critical thinking about how systems work. Due in Week 5.

  • Report (75%) (optional)

Learners will produce a report that demonstrates the attainment of key concepts learned throughout the course when applied to a community, institutional, organisational or governmental setting. Due in Week 10.

Learners who choose to submit these assessments will be awarded 10 Academic Credits towards a relevant Master’s degree at the University of Glasgow.


Meet The Team

This course is designed and delivered by Jaime Toney and Elaine Heslop.

Jaime is a Professor in Environmental and Climate Science. As Director of the Centre for Sustainable Solutions, she is enabling people to act toward a just and sustainable future. Jaime is an expert in the science behind climate change, specifically in understanding how modern climate, environmental and ecosystem changes differ from those the Earth has experienced in the past. She recognises that collaboration and interdisciplinary approaches are needed at all levels to make a transition to a sustainable future.

Elaine is an Honorary Fellow in the School of Geographical & Earth Sciences. Her career to date has included roles in the NHS, Civil Service, Deloitte and the University of Oxford. In 2020 Elaine worked with Professor Toney to establish the Centre for Sustainable Solutions at the University of Glasgow. Elaine is passionate about enabling individuals and organisations to apply ideas in practice and is using her expertise in bringing about workplace change into the sustainability agenda.


Course alteration or discontinuation
The University of Glasgow endeavours to run all courses as advertised. In exceptional circumstances, however, the University may withdraw or alter a course. For more information, please see: Student contract.

Career prospects

This course is designed to equip learners with skills to progress into the following roles and industries:

  • All organisations interested in making the necessary changes for the transition to net zero and remaining responsive to new sustainability policies and regulations.

Completion of this course grants potential for:

  • Further academic study
  • Promotion
  • Increased earning potential
  • New career path

Entry requirements

It is suggested that learners on this course are educated to at least Undergraduate level and have an IELTS equivalent of 6.5. No prior knowledge of climate change or sustainability is required. Learners will not be asked to prove their academic or professional history.