Climate Change

Questioning the science of climate change has become a popular strategy to delay action against climate change. U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration discredit climate science to justify the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, signed by Obama in 2015. Does this mean that climate politics is doomed to failure? What are the latest computer models saying about emission and temperature trends in the face of the U.S. withdrawal from Paris?


At the Open Universiteit (OU), we do research on climate change, from both natural and social science perspectives. We study technical and policy options for mitigating and adapting to climate change.

The Faculty of Science offers a unique research program focused on 'Learning and Innovation for Resilient Systems', which involves wide and deep cross departmental collaboration, on topics such as Energy Collectives of Citizens for Renewable Energy, Institutional Change and Equitable Adaptation to Climate Change in Cities around the World. New work has just begun on the role of artificial intelligence and big data in generating new perspectives on climate change and climate change solutions.

In the Faculty of Science, the OU harbors a vibrant group of social and natural scientists collaborating on climate change issues. The OU Science group investigates global environmental modelling, energy systems, and sustainable cities. We also investigate the international politics of climate change including international climate negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Moreover, we explore the many policy innovations at sub-state, state and transnational levels from a polycentric governance perspective. The polycentricity of climate governance is a key topic in our international collaboration, most prominently in the European COST action ‘Innovations for Climate Governance (INOGOV)’, co-led by OU Prof. Dave Huitema funded under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Program (more on this under collaboration).


A complex issue like climate change requires collaboration across disciplines and team work.

Those of us working on climate change are:

Prof. dr Stefan Dekker
Chair Integrated Environmental Modelling, Science

  • Integrated Environmental Modelling
  • Global Ecohydrology
  • Food-Water-Energy Nexus
  • Feedbacks and regime shifts in Environmental Sciences

Prof. dr. Huitema
Chair Environmental Policy, Science

  • Science
  • Environmental governance
  • adaptive governance
  • policy learning
  • innovation

Dr Wilfried Ivens
Associate professor Environmental Science, Science

  • Modeling of emission of non-CO2 greenhouse gases
  • Energy Analysis

Dr. Joop de Kraker
Associate professor Environmental Sciences, Science

  • Ecosystem services for climate change adaptation and mitigation
  • Perspectives on climate change, adaptation and mitigation
  • Change in perspectives through social learning, climate impact models as learning tools
  • Learning for sustainable development and climate change in higher education Angelique Lansu
Lecturer Earth and Environmental Sciences

  • Soil science
  • Global sustainability science
  • Technology enhanced learning,
  • Land use change,
  • Knowledge transfer

Dr Ansje Löhr
Assistant professor, Science

  • (marine) biology, marine litter and (eco)toxicology
  • integrated water management
  • learning for sustainable development

Dr Angela Oels
Assistant professor Environmental Governance, Science

  • Science
  • artificial intelligence, big data and climate change solutions
  • politics of the German energy transition
  • climate change, migration and security discourses
  • discursive and poststructuralist perspectives on international climate politics

Dr James Patterson
Senior researcher, Science

  • Institutional innovation and change
  • Cities and urban governance
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Sustainability transformations




This project led by Dr. James Patterson investigates 'Institutional Innovation for Adapting to Climate Change in Water Governance within Cities' (INNOVCITIES). It aims to understand how cities can become more adaptable under climate change in order to deal more effectively with uncertain and changing futures. It focuses theoretically on the novel question of how and why do institutions change, and with what effects?

The first phase of this project (2015-2017) focused on understanding institutional innovation to enhance adaptability in cities. It involved a multi-scale, mixed-methods approach comprised of a global survey of 90 cities across the globe, and comparative case studies in several countries. It was conducted under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme through a Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant (No 659065) at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

The second phase of this research project (2017-2019) is now being conducted at the Netherlands Open University. It focuses on institutional innovation for enhancing equity and justice in cities under climate change. How cities address equity and justice issues under climate change is a critical issue, particularly in a rapidly urbanizing world. This project will conduct both large-n and small-n analysis, seeking understand what kinds of institutions can help to achieve more equitable and just cities.

Cooperatives for sustainable energy ( Désirée Brakenhoff, dr. Wilfried Ivens, prof. dr. Dave Huitema)

Renewable energy cooperatives (RECs) are on the rise across Europe since the 1980s. They contribute to sustainable development in various ways. National governments generally support this grassroots movement, but relatively little is known about the interrelationship between government policies and the rise and diffusion of RECs. This comparative study of the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK addresses this gap. Following a simple pattern matching approach, the study chronicles the development of both aims and means of national support policies from 1985 until 2016, and places these developments next to the patterns of emergence, diffusion and development of RECs which are visible in the three case study countries.

2010 EU Erasmus Mundus Action 2 Program within the framework of “the European and Asian Academic Networks in the Field of Environmental Science (LEANES)” development of educational material within the module ’Climate Change’: ’Global Water Systems and Adaptive Water Management‘ and a case study on the Millingerwaard. (Dr. Ansje Löhr)

SKILLS LABS 2008 – 2010 SURF-project ‘SKILLS LABS, e-practica Water Management’ in cooperation with Hogeschool Zeeland and KennisNetwerk DeltaWater. Projectleader case development. (Dr. Ansje Löhr)


Courses for the public

Some of our courses on climate change are free of charge, open to the public and can be started at any time. You can get a certificate of attendance if you complete all the tasks required for a course, but no ECTS credit points.

Open Access course: The Lived Experience of Climate Change (in English, outcome of an EU project with international partners, funded 2009-2012).

Massive Open Online course (M.Sc. level course) Governing climate change: polycentricity in action (in English) (with a grant from the INOGOV COST Action) – started March 2018, takes a political science perspective.

Courses for PHD Students

INOGOV Spring School 2017 (and again 2018): Governing climate change: Polycentricity in action?

The INOGOV Spring school is a training school for early career scholars (PhD students) which took place at the Open University in Heerlen, from 28th-31st March 2017. The spring school was funded by the INOGOV (Innovation in Climate Change Governance) COST Action and organized by Dr. Angela Oels, Prof. Dave Huitema and others. The 4-day Spring School used lectures, small group discussions and participant paper presentations. It explored the emergence of a polycentred regime pattern in climate governance. It asked to what extent polycentricity can contribute effectively to positive outcomes in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Different theories and methodologies for evaluating innovations in climate governance were also discussed The spring school was an excellent opportunity for networking between early career scholars and more senior researchers..


Open Universiteit is a Dutch leader in distance education in the area of climate change, using digital media. At the Department of Science, you can do a Bachelor (B.Sc.) or Master (M.Sc.) in Environmental Sciences in part-time besides your regular job. All learning materials are online and you get feedback on each task that you complete. While the Bachelor is mostly in Dutch, the Master programme is in English and accessible to non-Dutch speakers. At Bachelor level, the following courses have units related to climate change:

Moreover, the following M.Sc. level courses have units related to climate change. These are:



European research collaboration on “Innovations in Climate Governance” (INOGOV COST Action)

Prof. Dave Huitema, Open University of the Netherlands, is a co-chair of the Action “Innovations in Climate Governance”, funded by COST (European Cooperation in Science & Technology), running from 2014-2018.


  1. Identifies ways in which innovative forms of policy and governance for climate change have been stimulated and diffused across time, space and different modes and levels of governing
  2. Builds a stronger evaluation capacity to assess their actual and intended effects and impacts
  3. Shares usable knowledge with network participants to reach a fuller appreciation of what it means to govern climate change more innovatively

It draws together scholars and practitioners within and outside Europe who focus on particular aspects of policy and governance innovation, namely their: ‘sources’; ‘diffusion’; and ‘effects’. By using the full suite of COST networking instruments to explore the inter-relationships between these topics, it is extracting greater value from previous research investments.

There are currently 28 countries signed up to the INOGOV Action, and the INOGOV mailing list currently has around 800 members.

Official site within COST


In 2018, the Open University will lead the following INOGOV activities:

  • Massive Open Online course ‘Governing climate change: polycentricity in action’ (in English), open to the public, to start in March 2018
  • International Spring School ‘Governing climate change: polycentricity in action’, 5-8 March 2018 in Heerlen (for 25 selected PhD students from all across Europe)

Earth System Governance and Resilience Alliance

OU researchers working on climate change publish in a wide range of journals, including Ecology and Society, Environmental and Planning C, Global Environmental Change, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning, Security Dialogue, Geoforum and others. They actively engage with discussions in the Earth System Governance network and the Resilience Alliance.


Stefan Dekker

Santos MJ, Dekker SC, Braakhekke MB, Diaglou V, van Vuuren D. 2017. The charcoal nexus. Frontiers in Environmental Sicences, 5.

Bijl DL, Bogaart PW, Dekker SC, Stehfest E, van Vuuren D. 2017 A physcially-based Model of Long-Term Food Demand. Global Environmental Change.

Dekker SC, Groenendijk M, Booth BBB, Huntingford C, Cox PM 2016. Spatial and temporal variations in plant water-use efficiency inferred from tree-ring, eddy covariance and atmospheric observations. Earth Systems Dynamics 7/525.

Staal A, Dekker SC, Xu C, van Nes E 2016. Bistability, spatial interaction and the distribution of tropical forests and savannas. Ecosystems.

Bogaart PW, Velde Y, Lyon SW, Dekker SC 2016. Stream flow recession patterns can help unravel the role of climate and humans in landscape co-evolution. HESS

Dave Huitema

Huitema, D., Boasson, E. L., & Beunen, R. (2018). Entrepreneurship in climate governance at the local and regional levels: concepts, methods, patterns, and effects.

Morrison, T.H., W. N. Adger, K. Brown, M.C. Lemos, D. Huitema, and T.P. Hughes. Mitigation and adaptation in polycentric systems: sources of power in the pursuit of collective goals. WIREs Clim Change 2017, e479.

Huitema, D., W. N. Adger, F. Berkhout, E. Massey, D. Mazmanian, S. Munaretto, R. Plummer, and C. C. J. A. M. Termeer. 2016. The governance of adaptation: choices, reasons, and effects. Introduction to the Special Feature. Ecology and Society 21(3):37. 

Hilden, M., L Saikku, A Jordan, D Huitema, D. Huisingh (2016). The opportunities and roles of experimentation in addressing climate change. In Journal of cleaner production, Vol. 115, p. 1-4.

Jordan, A., D. Huitema, H. van Asselt, M. Hildén,T. Rayner, E.L. Boasson, J. Forster, J. Schoenefeld, and J. Tosun. 2015. The emergence of polycentric climate governance and its future prospects, Nature Climate Change 5, 977–982.

Termeer, C., A. van Buuren, A. Dewulf, D. Huitema, H. Mees, S. Meijerink, M. van Rijswick, Governance arrangements for the adaptation to climate change: challenges, insights and design principles, Oxford Encyclopaedia on Climate Adaptation (forthcoming).

Wilfried Ivens

Wilfried PMF Ivens, Daisy JJ Tysmans, Carolien Kroeze, Ansje J Löhr, Jikke van Wijnen, Modeling global NO2 emissions from aquatic systems, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, Volume 3, Issue 5, 2011, Pages 350-358, ISSN 1877-3435.

Jikke van Wijnen, Carolien Kroeze, Wilfried P. M. F. Ivens & Ansje J. Löhr , Future scenarios for N2O emissions from biodiesel production in Europe, Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences, Volume 12, 2015 - Issue sup1: Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gasses, Guest Editors: André van Amstel, Peter van Velthoven and Arjan Hensen, Pages 17-30.

J Wijnen, W Ivens, C Kroeze, A Löhr, Coastal eutrophication in Europe caused by production of energy crops. Science of the Total Environment 511, 101-111, 2015.

C Kroeze, N Hofstra, W Ivens, A Löhr, M Strokal, J. van Wijnen. The links between global carbon, water and nutrient cycles in an urbanizing world—the case of coastal eutrophication, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, Vol. 5(6), p. 566-572, 2013

PW Gerbens-Leenes, S Nonhebel, W Ivens, A method to determine land requirements relating to food consumption patterns. Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 90 (1), 47-58, 2002

Joop de Kraker

van der Wal, M.M., J. de Kraker, C. Kroeze, P.A. Kirschner, P. Valkering (2016). Can computer models be used for social learning? A serious game in water management. Environmental Modelling & Software, 75, 199-132.

de Kraker, J., S. Kuijs, R. Cörvers, A. Offermans (2014). Internet public opinion on climate change: a world views analysis of online reader comments. International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management 6(1), 19-33.

Perez Salgado, F., de Kraker, J., Boon, J., Van der Klink, M. (2012). Competences for climate change education in a virtual mobility setting. International Journal of Innovation and Sustainable Development 6(1), 53–65.

Wilson, G., Abbott, D., de Kraker, J., Perez Salgado, F., Terwisscha van Scheltinga, C., Willems, P. (2011). ‘The lived experience of climate change’: creating open educational resources and virtual mobility for an innovative, integrative and competence-based track at Masters level. International Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning 3(2): 111-123.

Ansje Löhr

Van Wijnen, J., Kroeze, C., Ivens, W.P.M.F., & Löhr , A.J. (2015) Future scenarios for N2O emissions from biodiesel production in Europe. Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences.

Kroeze, C., Hofstra, N., Ivens, W., Löhr A., Strokal M. & van Wijnen, J. (2013) The links between global carbon, water and nutrient cycles in an urbanizing world — the case of coastal eutrophication, Curr Opin Environ Sustain (2013).

Willems, P., Kroeze, C. & Löhr, A. (2012). The essential role of expertise on natural resources in climate change Master's education. International Journal of Innovation and Sustainable Development. Vol. 6 13-42.

Hummel, H.G.K., van Houcke, J., Nadolski, R.J., van der Hiele, T., Kurvers, H., & Löhr A. (2011). Scripted collaboration in serious gaming for complex learning: Effects of multiple perspectives when acquiring water management skills. British Journal of Educational Technology. 42 (6): 1029-1041.

Ivens, W.P.M.F., Tysmans, D.J.J., Kroeze, C., Löhr, A.J., & Wijnen, J. van. (2011). Modeling global N2O emissions from aquatic systems. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 3(5), 350-358.

Angela Oels

Methmann, C./Oels, A. (2015) From ‘fearing’ to ‘empowering’ climate refugees: Governing climate-induced migration in the name of resilience. Security Dialogue 46 (1): 51-68.

Oels, A. (2015) Resisting climate security discourse: Restoring 'the political' in climate change politics. In: Dalby, Simon and O’Lear, Shannon (eds.) Reframing Climate Change: Constructing an Ecological Geopolitics. London: Routledge. 188-202.

Oels, A. (2015) Climate Security. In: Bäckstrand, K./ Lövbrand, E.(eds.) Research Handbook on Climate Governance. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. 458-469.

Oels, Angela (2013) Rendering Climate Change Governable by Risk: From probability to contingency. GEOFORUM, themed issue on Natures of Risk, 45 (March 2013): 17-29.

Oels, A. (2005) Rendering climate change governable: From biopower to advanced liberal government? Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning 7 (3): 185-208.

James Patterson

Patterson, J., Thaler, T., Hoffmann, M., Hughes, S., Oels, A., Chu, E., Mert, A., Huitema, D., Burch, S., Jordan, A. (forthcoming) Political feasibility of 1.5° societal transformations: the role of social justice. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability.

Beunen, R., Patterson, J.J., van Assche, K. (2017) Governing for resilience: the role of institutional work. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability.

Patterson, J., Schulz, K., Vervoort, J., van der Hel, S., Widerberg, O., Adler, C., Hurlbert, Anderton, K., Sethi, M., Barau, A. (2017) Exploring the governance and politics of transformations towards sustainability. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions.

Patterson, J.J. (2017) Purposeful collective action in ambiguous and contested situations: exploring enabling capacities and cross-level interplay. International Journal of the Commons. 11(1):248-274.

Beunen, R., and Patterson, J.J. (2016) Institutional change in environmental governance: exploring the concept of "institutional work". Journal of Environmental Planning and Management.