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Exploring the Science: 6 Best Climate Change Courses for 2024

Be informed about climate change – its causes, mitigation, and adapting to a changing world. Here are the best climate change courses!

A few years ago, after becoming confused by the debates about climate change in the press and on social media, I decided to look for reputable online courses to learn what all the fuss was about. Taking some courses convinced me that we should be doing more to save the earth from extreme effects of climate change. It’s a complex issue, with varying interests from governments, business people, and consumers.

Recently, reports have shifted somewhat from “Does climate change exist?” to “How can we minimize and adapt to the changes?” But there are still people out there who continue to insist that it’s all a massive hoax and some courses address this mindset.

Whether you’re interested in the basic science behind climate change, exploring its health-related implications, comprehending climate change denial, mitigation strategies or adapting to a changing world there’s a course for you. We’ve done the legwork, using Class Central, a search engine for online courses, and other sites to identify the top online climate change courses. With over 200 climate change courses and more than 38K people following the subject in our platform, we’ve collated ratings and reviews to narrow down the best choices for you.

These courses are created by well-known institutions: Harvard University, Columbia University, and the University of Groningen among others. We’ve also thrown in a couple of super offerings from Udemy and SDG Academy for good measure. And you can find a complete list of courses relating to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) here. Goal number 13 relates to climate.

Click on the shortcuts for more details:

Here are our top picks

Course Highlight Workload
Best Basic Climate Change Course (Columbia University) 6-12 hours
Best Short Overview of Climate Change (Udemy) 1-2 hours
Best Course Combating Climate Change Denial (potholer54) 14 hours
Best Course Relating Health to Climate Change (Harvard University) 21-35 hours
Best Course about Climate Change Mitigation (SDG Academy) 20-40 hours
Best Course about Adapting to Climate Change (University of Groningen) 16 hours

Best Basic Climate Change Course

Frontiers of Science: Climate & Us from Columbia is a handy place to start if you want to understand the basics. You’ll learn about the factors influencing Earth’s temperature, including astronomical issues, surface reflectivity, and the composition of the atmosphere. Investigate the recent warming trend and increasing greenhouse gasses. Examine paleoclimate proxies such as tree rings and ice cores to understand past data, then delve into climate models, human impact on carbon release, and the complexities of positive and negative feedback loops in climate science.

Mikhail Meksin was enthusiastic: “…As someone without any scientific training or background, I was able to follow, learn and gain from the content of this course. I highly recommend this…”

Course Frontiers of Science: Climate & Us
Provider edX
University Columbia University
Instructor David J. Helfand and Ivana N. Hughes
Time Commitment 6-12 hrs
Class Central Rating 4.8 stars
Cost Free audit
Quizzes/Assessment Items Yes, behind paywall
Certificate Paid

Best Short Overview of Climate Change

Climate Change & Sustainability Essentials -2023 Edition gives you an overview of what is causing the climate to change and what we can do about it on personal, national and global levels. In less than two hours, you will hear from a range of experts in climate and environment fields, who present the facts to help overcome the sometimes overwhelming complexity of this issue. Updated in late 2021, this is currently the highest-rated climate change course on Udemy with average 4.5 stars from over 1800 ratings.

In the words of John L.: “Great reminder of the broad impacts of climate change and some suggestions on how we can each play our part.”

Course Climate Change & Sustainability Essentials -2023 Edition
Provider Udemy
Instructor Pierre-Antoine Ullmo, Dr Yishay Mor
Time Commitment 1-2 hours
Number of enrollments >3500
Cost Paid
Quizzes/Assessment Items No
Certificate Available

Best Course Combating Climate Change Denial

In Climate change explained, and the myths debunked, you will learn about the widespread misinformation surrounding climate science in blogs and the media. The author of the series is Peter Hadfield, who writes as potholer54. He is a former science journalist who holds a degree in geology. By fact-checking claims and exposing their misinterpretations or deliberate alterations, potholer54 aims to combat misinformation. Despite not being a climatology expert, he draws upon his extensive experience in fact-checking and includes citations so you can examine and verify the information yourself. Throughout the series, potholer54 simplifies the authentic science presented in published papers, making it easily understandable.

Although the first video was uploaded in 2008, the video course is frequently updated and is a recent addition to the Class Central catalog. On YouTube, the videos have been watched over a million times and the first video has 64K thumbs-up. Later videos have higher resolution than the earlier ones.

Course Climate change explained, and the myths debunked
Provider YouTube
Instructor potholer54
Time Commitment 14 hours
Number of views >1 million
Cost Free
Quizzes/Assessment Items No
Certificate No

Best Course Relating Health to Climate Change

The Health Effects of Climate Change from Harvard University explores how the effects of climate change can interfere both directly and indirectly with optimal health. It begins with an overview of climate change and its effects. This mini-course on climate science will help if you are unfamiliar with the greenhouse effect and carbon dioxide’s impact.

You will then examine direct health implications of climate change such as heat-related illnesses and how to deal with heat exposure, before going on to indirect impacts such as water-borne and vector-borne diseases including dysentery and malaria. Did you know climate change can affect our nutrition? Issues include its impact on crop growth, crop nutrition, and pests that feed on crops. You will also look at how marine fisheries will adapt to a warmer and more acidic ocean.

You’ll also look at research methods for understanding health impacts as well as responses to climate change at the national, city, and individual levels. You’ll consider migration, adaptation, intervention, and the choices we face when addressing the impacts of climate change on health. What are the health consequences when extreme temperatures, storms, droughts, or sea-level rise displace thousands or even millions of people? The final modules explore actions and technologies already taken and in the pipeline.

Anonymous says, “This was an amazing course, it really opened my eyes to just how many aspects of global health are being/will be impacted by climate change…”

Course The Health Effects of Climate Change
Provider edX
University Harvard University
Instructor Aaron Bernstein
Time Commitment 21-35 hours
Class Central Rating 5.0 stars
Enrollments >173,000
Cost Free audit
Quizzes/Assessment Items Available
Certificate Paid

Best Course about Climate Change Mitigation

The SDG Academy created Climate Action: Solutions for a Changing Planet after the 2015 Paris Agreement to help teach the world how to implement the agreement. You’ll learn about deep decarbonization, renewables, low emissions electricity, and land use including agriculture. The final two modules focus on how policy can be used to transition to a low-emissions world by business and the public. This well-prepared and recently updated course teaches via videos and a mix of required and suggested readings from a range of sources. Check your knowledge as you proceed through the course with practice questions and reflect on what you’ve learned at the end of the course, whether or not you choose to earn a certificate.

From Alan Blanes, “…I began the course yesterday, and I found it to be extremely worth taking….”

Course Climate Action: Solutions for a Changing Planet
Provider edX
Institution SDG Academy
Instructor Jeffrey Sachs and Jim Williams
Time Commitment 20-40 hours
Class Central Rating 5.0 stars
Enrollments >10,000
Cost Free audit
Quizzes/Assessment Items Available
Certificate Paid

Best Course about Adapting to Climate Change

After decades of squabbling about whether or not humans are causing the climate to change, we are now feeling the effects of a warming planet. So, we need to adapt to the changing conditions. Making Climate Adaptation Happen: Governing Transformation Strategies for Climate Change starts with an introduction to climate science, then you’ll learn the societal effects of climate change and adaptations already available. Next, you will explore the costs and benefits of climate adaptation compared to climate mitigation. You’ll identify associated governance and social science theories, including the role of international climate finance. Many governing bodies currently lack skill sets to nimbly react to fast-changing environmental crises, so mastering adaptive governance skills will help prepare you for current and future environmental policies in the public or private sector.

According to Dave Mansell, “…the focus is on necessary adaptation, as change is happening and more cannot be avoided now…”

Course Making Climate Adaptation Happen: Governing Transformation Strategies for Climate Change
Provider FutureLearn
University University of Groningen
Instructor Hellen Dawo
Time Commitment 16 hrs
Class Central Rating 4.7 stars
Enrollments >5,000
Cost Free audit
Quizzes/Assessment Items Available
Certificate Paid

Why You Should Trust Us

Class Central, a Tripadvisor for online education, has helped 60 million learners find their next course. We’ve been combing through online education for more than a decade to aggregate a catalog of over 150,000 online courses and 200,000 reviews written by our users. And we’re online learners ourselves: combined, the Class Central team has completed over 400 online courses, including online degrees.

I’ve personally completed over 150 online courses in a variety of topics including climate change.

How We Made Our Picks and Tested Them

Trying to find “the best” can be daunting, even for those of us who live and breathe online courses. Here’s how I approached this task.

First, I combed through Class Central’s Catalog and the internet to find a variety of free and paid open courses, some with certificates. You don’t need to enroll in a university to learn about climate change.

I extracted information from course syllabi and reviews, and compiled their ratings, leveraging the Class Central database with its thousands of course ratings and reviews written by our users as well as available course provider ratings. I watched some course videos to sample courses I hadn’t already taken.

Then, I defined the scope for these recommendations. A climate change course can cover various topics, so I chose top courses from a range of sub-fields.

Ultimately, I used a combination of data and my own judgment to make these picks. I’m confident these recommendations will be a reliable way to learn about climate change.

Pat Bowden Profile Image

Pat Bowden

Online learning specialist, still learning after 200+ online courses completed since 2012. Class Central customer support and help since 2018. I am keen to help others make the most of online learning, so I set up a website:  www.onlinelearningsuccess.org

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