Posts in the water measuring sea level

Five ways to study climate change

Are you interested in studying climate change? There are many different scientific disciplines that analyse the subject

Climate change is a massive subject, and the causes, effects and controversies that surround it can be analysed from a very wide range of scientific perspectives.

Epidemiology

Epidemiologists study how often diseases occur in different groups of people and why. They use that information to make recommendations on how those affected can be treated and how the future spread of a disease can be stopped.

Epidemiology is vital to the scientific study of climate-related diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and other mosquito- and waterborne illnesses. For example, epidemiologists examine how patterns of malaria are shifting as a result of climate change, and how vulnerable communities can be best protected from contracting the disease.

Environmental science

Environmental scientists build computer-based models of the climate system to understand and predict its behaviour. These models are critically important to our understanding of how climate change is taking place and predicting how it might affect us 20, 50 or 100 years from now.

Environmental scientists need to do huge numbers of mathematical calculations to accurately model the complexities of the climate. They also need to be very aware of the limitations of their models, so that their work is perceived as robust and authoritative.

Human geography

Human geographers (as opposed to physical geographers) explore the relationship between human beings and their natural environment. They study the social and economic patterns that shape human societies and how those societies change over time.

Human geography is crucial to improving our understanding of the likely social impacts of climate change, including the effects of climate-related disease on communities in the developing world, major population movements from rural to urban areas, and resource-related civil strife and violent conflict.

Meteorology

Meteorologists are scientists who study the Earth’s atmosphere. They use scientific principles to observe, explain and forecast our weather. Meteorologists study weather patterns using a variety of tools, including weather stations, ships, buoys, aircraft, radar, weather balloons and satellites.

Some meteorologists focus on predicting the weather over a short period of time, and their work forms the foundation for forecasts in the newspapers and on television. Others work alongside environmental scientists to model climate patterns over much longer periods.

Psychology

Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and human behaviour. Psychologists might be involved in a scientific investigation of the effects of climate change on mental health. They might analyse the extent of the trauma undergone by survivors of extreme weather events, for example, or the depression suffered by those whose livelihoods are impacted by climate change.

They might also study why politicians and the public seem unable to make tangible progress in addressing climate change, despite widespread scientific recognition of the threat it poses to the future of the human race.

Lead image:

Posts in the water measuring sea level.

Martin Fisch/Flickr CC BY

About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Health and Climate Change’ in January 2009 and reviewed and updated in September 2014.

Topics:
Ecology and environment, Careers, Psychology, Health, infection and disease
Issue:
Health and Climate Change
Education levels:
14–16, 16–19, Continuing professional development