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Climate Change Policy and Public Health

University of Wisconsin–Madison via Coursera

This course may be unavailable.


Climate change is having and will continue to have a dramatic impact on global public health – from natural disasters and the increased spread of infectious disease to predicted crop losses and heat waves.

This course explores the impact of human activities on climate change and consequently public health, as well as the many real benefits to climate change mitigation. We will discover the multiple benefits – or co-benefits – provided by public policies and initiatives to reduce emissions. For example, protecting the environment by reducing greenhouse gases can simultaneously improve human health.

In addition to providing evidence for climate change’s impact on human health, this course will explore three primary areas where co-benefits can be realized: renewable energy, agriculture and food, urban design and active transport. Please note: use of the term “urban” is relative; traits traditionally understood as “urban” can exist in many places, even if populations are not large.

This course will feature input from experts across the globe. Participants will have the opportunity to engage with the current scientific and political literature, and discuss course content with peers worldwide.

Course participants will be given a strong foundation in the core linkages between climate change, policy, and health. There will also be hands-on opportunities to develop skills in communicating the science and policy connections between climate change and public health.

The course will emphasize a way forward for all, one providing the most beneficial effects on both human health and the environment.


Week 1: Week 1 will explore crucial background information for this course, including the scientific consensus on climate change and its known impacts on health.  Students will also review the Lima Decision, where at the 20th Conference of the Parties held in Lima, health concerns were explicitly mentions for the first time as a requirement for countries to consider in their formal policy planning for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Week 2: Week 2 will cover the health “Co-Benefits” of renewable energy and  efficient housing, with a detailed look at how burning fossil fuels impacts air pollution and health.  Students will also explore air quality legislation in India. 

Week 3: Week 3 will focus on the health “co-benefits” of sustainable agriculture, and introduce students to some missed opportunities in agriculture policy.  Students will review the US-Farm Bill, one of the most influential pieces of legislation controlling land management in the United States.

Week 4: The final week of the course will feature the health “co-benefits” of active transportation and smart urban design.  Students will evaluate Sweden’s “Vision Zero” initiative and consider polices that support active transportation and reduced reliance on fossil fuels.  

Taught by

Jonathan Patz


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