Learn more about climate change and climate action from online courses created by leading universities
Since 1880, the earth’s average global temperature has risen by at least 1.9° Fahrenheit. Human activities are the main reason for climate change, and as the earth’s temperature increases, so do air pollution, droughts, floods, and other serious environmental dangers. If drastic action isn’t taken, every living thing on earth will suffer. What should everyone know about climate change and climate action? This article lists 10 online courses covering topics like the science of climate change, its health effects, climate change law, how to communicate about climate change, and more. Courses can be audited for free. Verified certificates are available for a fee.
#1. Climate Change and Human Rights (NYU Law)
#2. Championing Change: Human Rights and the Climate Crisis (Amnesty International)
#3. Communicating Climate Change for Effective Climate Action (University of Glasgow)
#4. The Health Effects of Climate Change (HarvardX)
#5. Climate Change Mitigation in Developing Countries (University of Cape Town)
#6. Climate Change Science and Negotiations (SDGAcademyX)
#7. Tourism and Climate Change (WageningenX)
#8. International Climate Change Law and Policy (NewcastleX)
#9. Climate Action in Biodiverse Landscapes (WageningenX)
#10. Climate Change and Sustainable Investing Specialization (EDHEC Business School)
Length: 1 week
Commitment: 8 hours/week
This short course is a great choice for anyone interested in climate change and its ties to human rights. You’ll learn about the field’s history, important cases and trends, present-day challenges, and thinking strategically about climate litigation. By the course’s end, you’ll have a solid understanding of the basics of climate change and human rights.
César Rodríguez-Garavito, Professor of Clinical Law and Faculty Director and Chair of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU School of Law, teaches the course. He’s a human rights and environmental justice scholar and practitioner who focuses on global governance, climate change, Indigenous peoples’ rights, and more. The course takes just 8 hours to complete, so it can be finished in about a week if you spend around an hour on the course every day. There are no required prerequisites.
Length: 3 weeks
Commitment: 1 hour/week
Created by Amnesty International UK, this course explores the relationship between human rights and climate change. You’ll learn why climate change is a human rights issue, why it’s important to be both an environmental and human rights activist, and what climate change solutions exist. By the course’s end, you’ll be ready to frame climate change as a human rights issue, explain key terms, evaluate the tensions and links between human rights and climate change action, and engage with hostility toward environmental human rights defenders.
Amnesty Human Rights Education teaches the course. It takes three weeks and requires about 1 hour of work per week. Because this course was created for anyone interested in human rights and climate change, no prerequisites are required.
Length: 4 weeks
Commitment: 3 hours/week
In this course, you’ll learn how to communicate about climate change science and related issues. You’ll learn about common communication challenges, how to use trusted sources, what techniques are most effective, and how storytelling can increase engagement. By the course’s end, you’ll be ready to identify communication challenges, evaluate the principles of effective communication, and articulate why engaged action is so important.
Professor Jaime Toney (Director of the Centre for Sustainable Solutions), Dr. Elaine Hesop (Honorary Fellow in the School of Geographical & Earth Sciences at Glasgow University), and Dr. Ria Dunkley (Senior Lecturer and Associate Director of the Centre for Sustainable Solutions) teach the course. With 3 hours of work per week, you can finish in 4 weeks. “Communicating Climate Change” is a great choice for beginners; there are no prerequisites.
Length: 7 weeks
Commitment: 3-5 hours/week
As climate change worsens, so do its health effects. This course examines the many health effects of climate change from various angles, including air quality, infectious diseases, human migration, and nutrition. You’ll also learn about what experts recommend and what research methods measure the health effects of climate change. By the course’s end, you’ll be ready to describe climate change’s health impacts, how changes in the earth’s atmosphere affect health, and what mitigating strategies can work.
Aaron Bernstein (Interim Director, Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment) and Ashish Jha (Director, Harvard Global Health Institute) teach the course. With 3-5 hours of work per week, you can finish the course in 7 weeks. It’s an introductory course, so no prerequisites are required.
Length: 6 weeks
Commitment: 2-4 hours/week
Developing countries deal with the most severe climate change impacts. This course explores the complexity of trying to grow an economy using climate-friendly methods with a special focus on Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Peru, and South Africa. Topics covered include facilitation process techniques, energy modeling, policy-making, and more. Students will get an opportunity to respond from their own context.
Harald Winkler (Director of the Energy Research Centre) teaches the course. Professor Winkler’s research interests include energy, the environment, climate change, and the economics of mitigation within a sustainable development context. This course deals with more complex topics, so it’s at an intermediate level. With 2-4 hours of work per week, you can finish in six weeks.
Length: 10 weeks
Commitment: 2-4 hours/week
While developed before the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference, this course provides a good foundation for climate change and the process of creating the Paris Agreement. You’ll learn the basics of climate change science, what carbon budgets and energy systems are, and the main challenges of climate change negotiations. By the course’s end, you’ll be ready to describe the basics of climate change, why the 2°C limit matters, the role of nuclear power and other technologies, and the process of global climate negotiations.
Jeffrey D. Sachs (Professor, Columbia University) and Emmanuel Guérin (Director of International Climate Politics Hub, European Climate Foundation) teach the course. It’s a great choice for graduate students and advanced undergrads, climate change activists, and sustainable development practitioners. With 2-4 hours of work, you can finish the course in 10 weeks. There are no prerequisites, but the course level is intermediate.
Length: 5 weeks
Commitment: 2-4 hours/week
As global warming accelerates, disasters like droughts, heavy rain, biodiversity loss, and more follow. This has a devastating impact on tourism, which many countries depend on. At the same time, tourism can drive climate change, too. In this course, you’ll learn about the relationship between tourism and climate change, climate change mitigation, and future challenges. By the course’s end, you’ll be ready to describe climate change and tourism impacts, model future scenarios, and calculate your own travel footprint.
Dr. Edward Huijbens, Dr. Arjaan Pellis, Dr. Bas Amelung, and Dr. Machiel Lamers (all from Wageningen University & Research) teach the course. The course is 5 weeks long with 2-4 hours of work per week. There are no prerequisites, but the instructors recommend enrolling in the MOOC Sustainable Tourism: Society & Environmental Aspects in preparation.
Length: 4 weeks
Commitment: 2-3 hours/week
If you work in the environmental and resources sector, public policy, government sector, or any other sustainability-related field, this is a great choice. You’ll learn the foundations of international climate change law, how to critically assess Environmental Economics theory, and how it applies to climate change policy. By the course’s end, you’ll be ready to identify the impacts of climate change, understand how international climate change law works, apply the Theory of Externalities, and develop intercultural awareness and sensitivity.
Elena Adyos (Senior Lecturer, University of Newcastle), Sven Rudolph (Associate Professor at Kyoto University), and Christopher Kellet (Professor, University of Newcastle) teach the course. With 2-3 hours of work per week, you can finish the course in 4 weeks. There are no prerequisites, but it’s an intermediate-level course, so some understanding of climate change and/or law will be helpful.
Length: 4 weeks
Commitment: 4-6 hours/week
This course dives into how climate change impacts your landscape or work, including how it negatively affects biodiversity and human well-being. Topics covered include stakeholder collaboration, climate impacts, solutions, climate finance, and more. By the course’s end, you’ll be ready to explain how climate change impacts you and your landscape, how to mobilize collaboration, and how to get practical support in taking climate action.
There are 13 instructors on this course, including Ilse Hennemann (Advisor Climate Change & Environmental Governance), Ingrid Gevers (Advisor Aquatic Resource Management and Climate Change), and Mercy Owusu Anash (Director, Tropenbos Ghana). With 4-6 hours of work per week, you can finish the course in 4 weeks. To take the course, you need to have a BA/BSc or higher-level certificate in social or natural sciences, as well as at least one year of academic or professional engagement in landscapes or climate change
Length: 5 months
Commitment: 2 hours/week
The relationship between climate change, the economy, and finance is complicated. In this 4-course specialization, you’ll learn about the evidence for climate change, how to assess how climate change impacts finances, and what transitioning to a low-carbon economy could look like. Topics include the science and engineering of climate change, the economics and policies, the finance, and climate-aware investing. By the course’s end, you’ll have a thorough understanding of the relationship between climate change, the economy, and money.
Riccardo Rebonato (Professor of Finance), Lionel Martellini (Professor of Finance), Gianfranco Gianfrate (Professor of Finance), and Emanuele Chini (Ph.D. Candidate in Finance and Teaching Assistant) teach the specialization. If you take all the courses, it takes 5 months with 2 hours of work per week. No prerequisites are required.