Climate change causes – free online courses and books

Laveta Brigham

When you buy through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more. With extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and alarming biodiversity loss, there is no better time than the present to learn about climate change. This living emergency begs for urgent attention, but the issue […]

When you buy through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more.

With extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and alarming biodiversity loss, there is no better time than the present to learn about climate change. This living emergency begs for urgent attention, but the issue of environmental degradation is so broad that it’s not always easy to grasp.

Being educated about climate issues is essential in lobbying for solutions, and taking any of the following courses is a great way to start learning. Experts from Harvard, Yale, the University of Leeds, and the Smithsonian Institution will teach you the science behind climate change and how it intersects with other global issues. 

Many of the courses listed here are either free or free to audit, and certification prices range from $49-$370, depending on the chosen course and learning platform.

10 online environmental courses and books to help you understand climate change better:

Concepts in Sustainable Development: An Introduction to the Key Issues

Free; $59 for a certificate

This University of Leicester course discusses the concepts of sustainable development and its relation to socio-political issues like wealth inequality. It tackles the effects of human activity on the environment and the implications of agricultural and industrial revolutions. By analyzing different approaches to global issues, you’ll learn to view sustainability from a natural science, political, and economic perspective. If you’re interested in learning about sustainable development and collective action in the face of climate change, this course is for you.

Global Warming I: The Science and Modeling of Climate Change

Free; $49 for a certificate

In this introductory climate change course, the science of global warming is broken down to make it easily understandable. The class touches on the atmosphere’s structure, the greenhouse effect, and how both impact the planet’s weather and climate. Instructor David Archer, a geophysical sciences professor, believes that mitigating human impact on climate change is “a challenge that humankind could beat if we decided to.” It’s a great course to take for you to refresh your knowledge of the basic scientific concepts of global warming.

The Health Effects of Climate Change

Free; $149 for a certificate

The Health Effects of Climate Change, offered by Harvard, is one of the most popular courses in environmental studies. It explains how global warming makes a tremendous impact on public health and directly affects the life of each individual. The class focuses on exploring solutions to reduce global warming’s effect on food security and air quality. It also talks about how climate change increases the prevalence of infectious diseases — an especially relevant issue right now.

The Atmosphere, the Ocean, and Environmental Change


This class covers a wide range of topics that give you a thorough background on the essentials of meteorology. It discusses the weather, air pollution, the ozone layer, ocean currents, and even the history of the Earth’s climate. It also includes 35 free video lectures with laboratory exercises and exams that challenge your knowledge about the planet’s scientific processes. This is a good course to take if you’re interested in how climate change affects meteorological patterns and causes extreme weather events.

Act on Climate: Steps to Individual, Community, and Political Action

Free; $49 for a certificate

If you think that climate issues are too overwhelming for one person to make a difference, you should take this course. With the help of featured climate change experts and professional leaders, you can convert your concern about the environment into tangible actions. The course explores how individual climate actions regarding food, energy, and transportation can influence community and political action. By engaging in environmental initiatives, it is possible to make a huge positive impact in your local community.

Climate Change Communication

Free; $49.99 for a certificate

This Smithsonian Institution course takes a look into the public perception of climate change and explores communication strategies that may encourage action. It acknowledges the need for meaningful discussions around climate solutions and develops your skills as an effective communicator. By discussing the Earth’s climate history and current climate challenges, the course equips you with the knowledge to successfully spearhead educational discussions about environmental issues.

Environmental Challenges Program

Free; $370 for a certificate and £300 for final assessment to receive university credit

Taking this five-course program from the University of Leeds will give you a solid background in natural resource management. The program covers the relationship between people and nature, especially the human impact on the natural environment. It uses case studies to explain the need for an interdisciplinary approach in forming sustainable policies. The program also shows how war and conflict, language, and justice all affect the planet’s natural resources by looking at environmental challenges through economic and social perspectives. 

“The Future Earth: A Radical Vision for What’s Possible in the Age of Warming” by Eric Holthaus

Free with 30-day Audible trial; $14.95 a month after trial ends

Discussions about climate change are often bleak, but “The Future Earth” shows that all hope is not lost. By imagining a positive vision of the future, author Eric Holthaus, along with climatologists, futurists, and climate change activists, demonstrates that transformational change is possible. The book teaches you that reversing the effects of climate change is achievable through the implementation of radical solutions. Though the current state of the environment may be daunting, Holthaus encourages you to imagine a better world and then move forward with a solid intent to achieve it.

“How to Give Up Plastic: A Guide to Changing the World, One Plastic Bottle at a Time” by Will McCallum

Free with 30-day Audible trial; $14.95 a month after trial ends

If you know how dangerous plastic is but you don’t understand the extent of plastic pollution, this book is for you. Will McCallum shares alarming statistics that prove how necessary it is to break free from plastic dependence. The book gives you concrete actions to gradually reduce your plastic usage at home, at the grocery store, and even on the go. Through these small steps, you can easily begin your plastic-free journey and encourage others to do the same.

“Inconspicuous Consumption: The Environmental Impact You Don’t Know You Have” by Tatiana Schlossberg

Free with 30-day Audible trial; $14.95 a month after trial ends

Climate change is often viewed as something that concerns only a handful of big corporations and industries. Tatiana Schlossberg helps you understand that every decision you make regarding food, fuel, fashion, and technology contributes to pollution. The book shows you that you can reduce your environmental impact simply by making more conscious decisions every day. By outlining how pollution and climate change connect all of humanity, the book emphasizes the power each individual has to make a significant difference.

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