GVMAP-Air Pollution: Effects and Control

Module Provider: Geography and Environmental Science
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Dr Hong Yang

Email: h.yang4@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

This course examines the effects and control of air pollution, enabling students to understand the issues and give them a basis for evaluating the controversies. The module will cover the history of air pollution, the “classical” air pollutants – sulphur dioxide and smoke; nitrogen oxides and particulates; ozone and other secondary pollutants; carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases; acid rain; indoor air pollution and air pollution in Asia. Current controversies about urban air pollution and the role of traffic, such as "Dieselgate" will be discussed in detail. The module will also examine the management of air pollution: how decisions are made and what legislation is in force. A visit to a monitoring site or industrial installation will be included if possible.


The aims of this module are: • To promote an understanding of the nature and effects of human-induced air pollution; • To assess some current controversies on the effects of air pollutants and the appropriate control measures to be applied.  • To understand the interface between science and politics in coming to decisions about air pollution. 

Assessable learning outcomes:
On completion of this module, students will be expected to: • Be able to give an account of the origins of the major air pollutants and evaluate and predict their effects on ecosystems and human health; • Understand the history of air pollution; • Evaluate the political and scientific basis for legislation affecting the control of air pollution in Europe and the USA; • Synthesize the recent evidence bearing on current controversies about air pollution; • Apply knowledge of the major sources of data relating to air pollution to predict ecological and health impacts.

Additional outcomes:

Students should improve their oral presentation skills through seminar presentations and group discussions and debates. The module should help them develop their skills of critically assessing information derived from scientific papers, reports, web resources and the popular media. Students should also develop their IT skills through word processing, presentation software and (if they choose) data analysis. These are all positive contributions to their transferable skills profile.

Outline content:

Air pollution is a topic of considerable scientific, economic and political importance, and is steadily rising up the political agenda. This module should enable students to understand the issues and give them a basis for evaluating the controversies which should be useful in other areas as well. Topics covered will be: History of air pollution, concentrating on the UK; The origins and effects of: The “classical” air pollutants – sulphur dioxide and smoke; Nitrogen oxides and particulates; Ozone and other secondary pollutants; Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases; Acid rain; Indoor air pollution; Air pollution in Asia; Managing air pollution: how decisions are made and what legislation is in force; Air pollution controversies. Air Pollution and health. Sources of information about pollution. Pollution monitoring: visit to a monitoring site. Students will be expected to follow up the lectures with their own reading, using both conventional and internet sources. Students will be trained in the use of the peer-reviewed research literature, and encouraged to use it.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

One three-hour session per week between Weeks 1 and 11 of the Autumn Term. The sessions include lectures interspersed with discussions, debates, and classroom exercises. Adversarial student-led seminars are used to cover some of the issues, in which groups take an opposing viewpoint about an air pollution issue.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 14
Seminars 5
Tutorials 10
Project Supervision 8
Practicals classes and workshops 1
External visits 3
Guided independent study 159
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 50
Report 40
Oral assessment and presentation 10

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:
One 2500-word essay is required on a choice of topics.
Group adversarial seminars are used to cover some topics, which are assessed for presentation quality as well as content using the standard GES protocol. These are assessed (10%), each student getting the same mark subject to confirmation of each student making an adequate contribution.
One 2000-word report based on the application of a computer model to predict the ecological or health impacts of air pollution

Formative assessment methods:

Discussions and debates on set topics are interspersed in the lectures. There is a seminar session where groups have to analyze a scientific paper related to air pollution and health, and a scientific evidence-related roleplaying exercise is used to raise awareness of the issues relating to ecological effects of air pollutants.

Penalties for late submission:
Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information: http://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/exams/student/exa-guidePG.aspx

Assessment requirements for a pass:
A mark of 50% overall

Reassessment arrangements:
Re-submission of coursework in August/September

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

Just possibly a small contribution to travel costs if the site visit is distant from Reading.  

Last updated: 20 April 2018


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