Climate change, air pollution, and ecological degradation have had extreme impacts on the health of our planet. Our ability to urgently and ambitiously implement climate crisis solutions will define public health outcomes for generations to come. 

The Climate Change and Planetary Health concentration, launching in fall of 2024, will help you understand the consequences of the current planetary health crisis, including its effects on food, water, air, infectious diseases, extreme weather events, heat, mental health, migration, and political stability.  

Students in this concentration will also learn about the health inequity born out of environmental degradation. Structural racism and international economic policy have exacerbated the climate crisis, with communities of color, poor communities, and the Global South being disproportionately impacted. You will be equipped to use research, leadership, advocacy, and policy to implement solutions that better serve these populations.  

Curriculum

This is a ten-unit concentration for all degree programs at Harvard Chan School. Students in this concentration will be required to take core curriculum courses, choose one of 2 tracks (research methodologies or research translation), and take additional elective courses at Harvard Chan School and across Harvard University.

Learning Objectives

Interpret foundational climate, planetary, and environmental science.

 

    1. Explain the impact of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions on global climate (greenhouse effect). 
    2. Describe historical trends and current sources of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. 
    3. Understand how human activities impact ecological stability, land use changes, biodiversity, water pollution, deforestation and food systems.

Define the mechanisms by which climate change and degradation of planetary health impact public health.

 

    1. Explain the ways by which climate change and planetary health degradation impacts public health through environmental exposure pathways including natural disasters/extreme weather events, changes in water quantity and quality, food insecurity, heat stress, air pollution, and vector borne infections. 
    2. Identify risks for disease emergence arising from ecological degradation in the form of deforestation, land use changes, agricultural practices, habitat encroachment, pollution, and biodiversity loss. 
    3. Describe how the acute and chronic impacts of climate change and degradation of planetary health affect mental health. 
    4. List ways in which the delivery of health care creates greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, environmental toxicants and waste. 
    5. Explain how climate change can interfere with the delivery of health care through effects on access to care and impacts on health care facilities and supply chains. 
    6. Identify public health findings in major reports such as the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, U.N. Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, and National Climate Assessment.

Analyze the historical and structural causes of climate change and planetary health degradation and describe the ways in which it creates/exacerbates health inequity.

 

    1. Explain how climate change and planetary health degradation intersects with structural racism and health equity in the U.S. (e.g. redlining, heat islands, the disproportionate impact on certain populations, intersecting health challenges, access to adaptive and protective measures). 
    2. Define environmental justice and recognize its importance to climate and planetary health solutions. 
    3. Describe impacts of climate change and planetary health on global health inequities (e.g. natural disasters/extreme weather events, forced migration, social instability, political conflict, food security, water scarcity, and sea level rise), including inequitable resource allocation for adaptive responses. 
    4. Identify the ways in which Black and Indigenous people, and people from the Global South contribute to climate and planetary solutions.

Develop public health skill sets to contribute to climate and planetary solutions.

 

Research Methodologies track 

    1. Use foundational biostatistical and epidemiological methodology to contribute to scientific discovery at the intersection of public health, climate change and planetary health. 
    2. Translate scientific findings to the public forum. 

Research Translation track 

    1. Communicate the health and health equity benefits of climate and planetary solutions to the general public, policy makers, and patients, and address climate science misinformation. 
    2. Examine the role research, health systems, education, communication, community partnership, and advocacy play in the development of climate and planetary solutions. 
    3. Execute policy and advocacy strategies that promote a healthy planet. 

Concentration co-sponsors 

    • Harvard Chan C-CHANGE 
    • FXB Center for Health and Human Rights  
    • Department of Environmental Health 
    • Department of Global Health and Population 
    • Department of Nutrition 
    • Department of Biostatistics