What you'll learn

  • Climate change’s impacts on nutrition, migration, and infectious diseases
  • The research methods used in this field
  • Strategies to mitigate and adapt to the health impacts of climate change
  • How changes in Earth’s atmosphere affect health outcomes
  • How to assess the various ways of addressing the health effects of global warming

Course description

Our world’s climate is changing. Of the top twenty hottest years ever recorded, sixteen have occurred in the last two decades. This warming has already had a profound effect. Many feel powerless in the face of this challenge, but you can make a difference.

By looking at air quality, nutrition, infectious diseases, and human migration, this course will show you how increases in greenhouse gases impact public health. Experts working in a variety of settings will present their recommendations for responding to these challenges, and interested students will have the opportunity to learn about the research methods that measure the health effects of climate change.

You will learn how climate change impacts people around the globe, but also how it directly affects you and your life. Though your risk rises with the rising global temperatures, climate change is a solvable problem, and there are things you can do to mitigate that risk. 

This course is not an elegy for the planet, but a call to action. Enroll now to learn what you can do to reduce the harm caused by global warming.

Course outline

  • Week 1: Health — The Human Face of Climate Change

    In this week you’ll meet the professors, get used to the edX environment, and receive an overview of the pathways from climate change to human health outcomes. This week also includes a Climate Science Mini-Course for those who haven’t studied the greenhouse effect or the effects of carbon dioxide before.

  • Week 2: Heat & Air Quality

    From here on, our course will be focused on answering a set of questions each week. This week: How does climate change affect heat-related illness? What does climate change have to do with air quality? What can be done to prevent heat exposure?

  • Week 3: Infections

    How does climate change impact water-borne diseases (like cholera and dysentery) and vector-borne diseases (such as malaria and dengue)? Will there be more outbreaks of water-borne diseases in a warming world? How will the range of disease vectors such as mosquitos and ticks shift with changes in temperature and rainfall?

  • Week 4: Nutrition

    Will we grow more crops or fewer in a hotter world? Will those crops be more nutritious, or less? What about the pests that feed on those crops? How will marine fisheries adapt to a warmer and more acidic ocean?

  • Week 5: Migration

    What happens when ambient temperatures exceed human tolerances? When storms, droughts and, extreme weather displace people - where do they go and what are the health consequences? What will happen to the inhabitants of small island states that will be wiped off the map by sea level rise? What is it like to live as a climate refugee, both mentally and physically?

  • Week 6: Research Methods

    Climate change’s impact on health can be gradual and progressive, emerging over years or even decades. How can one identify the relevant datasets to understand these emerging health impacts of climate change time series analysis? How can we address challenges of physical and temporal scale?

  • Week 7: Responding to Climate Change

    In our final week, we ask: What can nations, cities, and individuals do to respond to climate change? What are our options in terms of migration, adaptation, or even intervention? And given what we can do, what should we do?

Faculty

  • Aaron Bernstein
    Associate Director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard University

Associated Schools

  • Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Enroll now.
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