Develop your career in Global Environmental Change and Planetary Health

There is a growing urgency to address the environmental crises driven by climate change, biodiversity loss, human population growth, land cover and land use change, and pollution. These crises are frequently covered in the media and governments have increasingly promised to take greater action to tackle them at both national and international levels.
The Global Environmental Change and Planetary Health MSc has been developed in response to the growing urgency and global demand for experts in this field. It will equip you with the knowledge and skills required to:
1) Understand how these crises develop;
2) Interpret the interactions and interconnections between the natural environment, human health and wellbeing underpinning planetary health;
3) Provide you with the  tools and strategies that can be used to work towards effective and sustainable environmental and solutions.


  • Start dateFull-time: October, part-time: October
  • DurationOne year full-time, two-three years part-time
  • DeliveryTaught modules 40%, group project (dissertation for part-time students) 20%, individual project 40%
  • QualificationMSc, PgDip, PgCert
  • Study typeFull-time / Part-time
  • CampusCranfield campus

Who is it for?

We welcome students from a variety of academic backgrounds, ranging from economic and social sciences to natural sciences and engineering who have a passion for solving real-world problems and making a positive impact. The course has been specifically designed to support students with a desire to take a more multidisciplinary approach to their learning.

In this respect, you will have the opportunity to select from available module options from across the environment, water, and energy programmes, tailoring these with the help of a tutor, to suit your personal learning ambitions. You will develop a range of personal and leadership skills as you progress through the course, to set you on the path to a rewarding career in becoming part of the solution to the environmental challenges that we face today.

Your career

With the current global focus on finding ways to tackle global environmental and planetary health challenges, you can expect to be highly sought after by employers. Successful Cranfield students will develop diverse and rewarding careers in consultancies, research and teaching organisations, non-government organisations, along with national and local government departments involved in finding solutions to national and global environmental challenges. The international nature of this course means that career opportunities are not restricted to the UK. Cranfield graduates develop careers around the world and are internationally recognised by employers across the scientific, industrial and educational communities.

Cranfield Careers and Employability Service

Cranfield’s Career Service is dedicated to helping you meet your career aspirations. You will have access to career coaching and advice, CV development, interview practice, access to hundreds of available jobs via our Symplicity platform and opportunities to meet recruiting employers at our careers fairs. Our strong reputation and links with potential employers provide you with outstanding opportunities to secure interesting jobs and develop successful careers. Support continues after graduation and as a Cranfield alumnus, you have free life-long access to a range of career resources to help you continue your education and enhance your career.

Cranfield supports international students to work in the UK after graduation

Why this course?

The MSc in Global Environmental Change and Planetary Health will allow you to become part of the solution to address the environmental crises that we face today by providing you with the skills and knowledge required by both national and international organisations working in the environmental sector.

  • Benefit from Cranfield’s unique expertise in applied problem-solving research in the environment and for sustainable development.
  • Develop skills and knowledge for a multidisciplinary understanding of the causes, complexity, and implications of key global environmental and planetary health challenges.
  • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to support decision-making in complex socio-environmental situations.
  • Work with data to develop practical solutions for environmental and planetary health challenges in the land, water, or energy sectors.
  • Informed by industry

    The Global Environmental Change and Planetary Health MSc is designed to meet the current needs of employers and benefits from a strong input from industry experts. This gives our students the confidence to know that what they are learning is both relevant and beneficial to building a rewarding career.

    Course details

    Course delivery

    Taught modules 40%, group project (dissertation for part-time students) 20%, individual project 40%

    Group project

    The group project experience is highly valued by both students and prospective employers. It provides students with the opportunity to take responsibility for a consultancy-type project, working within agreed objectives, deadlines and budgets. For part-time students a dissertation or projects portfolio can replace the group project.

    Individual project

    The individual project is the chance for you to focus on an area of particular interest to you and your future career. These projects provide you with the opportunity to demonstrate your ability to carry out independent research, think and work in an original way, contribute to knowledge, and overcome genuine problems in the energy industry.


    Keeping our courses up-to-date and current requires constant innovation and change. The modules we offer reflect the needs of business and industry and the research interests of our staff and, as a result, may change or be withdrawn due to research developments, legislation changes or for a variety of other reasons. Changes may also be designed to improve the student learning experience or to respond to feedback from students, external examiners, accreditation bodies and industrial advisory panels.

    To give you a taster, we have listed the compulsory and elective (where applicable) modules which are currently affiliated with this course. All modules are indicative only, and may be subject to change for your year of entry.

    Course modules

    Compulsory modules
    All the modules in the following list need to be taken as part of this course.

    Fundamentals of Global Environmental Change

    Module Leader
    • Professor Neil Harris

      Human activity is accelerating consumption of natural resources and emissions of pollutants into the environment, destabilising planetary life support systems. This module will introduce you to these processes, identifying the drivers, pressures, changes in state, and impacts on the environment, as well as examining potential responses and solutions. It will cover the physical science-based understanding of our planetary systems, how humankind is modifying these systems, and examine current and future efforts to address these key challenges through science, technology, and policy.

      • Planetary systems and the Gaia hypothesis,
      • The Anthropocene,
      • Dynamics of resource consumption, pollution emissions, population.
      • Safe operating space,
      • Effects of anthropogenic activities on planetary and human systems including climate change (past, present and future), ecology and biodiversity, natural disasters, air pollution, waste, agriculture, food security, sea level rise and coastal change, water quality and supply, planetary health and societal impacts,
      • Response options for sustainable environmental change including policy options, sustainable development goals, concepts of net biodiversity gain, net environmental gain, renewable technologies, doughnut economics, natural capital, ecosystem services, and valuation.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

    • Analyse key global environmental challenges and evaluate their underlying drivers of change,
    • Evaluate the consequences of global environmental change for planetary systems and human society,
    • Identify and critically appraise response options that aim to tackle the challenges presented by global environmental change,
    • Critically evaluate the importance of interdisciplinary solutions in resolving global environmental challenges.

    Decision Science

    Module Leader
    • Dr Alice Johnston

      The module introduces the context of environmental decision making, providing both a conceptual overview and practical tools for addressing environmental management problems. It aims to promote an understanding of weight-of-evidence approaches used to inform real-world problems by research, industry, and government. Central to this is an understanding of the strengths and limitations of different approaches and aspects of decision science, the social, economic, and environmental trade-offs made during decision-making, and how real-world complexity and future uncertainty is accounted for. Students will learn how to apply systems thinking to evaluate different courses of action in response to environmental challenges related to land, water, and/or energy. 

      • Key environmental challenges and the need for decision support tools.
      • Different stakeholders in environmental decisions.
      • Weighing the evidence for different courses of action.
      • Big data; data analytical approaches; mathematical modelling; statistical inference; machine learning; information systems; spatial data science approaches. 
      • Environmental, economic, and social trade-offs in decisions. 
      • Accounting for real-world complexity and future uncertainty in decisions
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

    • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of decision science approaches for practical environmental management problems.
    • Conceptualise complex environmental issues using systems thinking to weigh-up different courses of action.
    • Critically appraise the need for stakeholders to trade-off environmental, economic and social concerns, and the limitations of decision science approaches in accounting for real-world complexity and future uncertainty.

    Environmental Policy and Risk Governance

    Module Leader
    • Dr Simon Jude
      Aim A critical application of environmental risk management is in the development and appraisal of policy in central government and business. Policies are developed to manage environmental risks and selection of policy options must be informed by risk-based tools and techniques. Doing so demands a comprehension of the technical, organisational, and human elements of governing environmental risks and developing environmental policy. This module draws these themes together by introducing core concepts and then illustrating these concepts with case studies spanning business and government, and finally application via a group exercise. Core lectures are supported by multiple case studies and module assignment.
      Attitudes towards risk based on psychological, cultural and other dimensions.
      The role of various societal groups (e.g. the media, NGOs) in risk issues.
      Environmental risk analysis, communication and management
      Risk governance.
      Delivering organisational change, including implementation challenges and opportunities.
      Environmental policy development and appraisal.
      Policy instruments and co-design
      Evidence-based decision-making. 
      Communicating risk messages to individuals, groups, and society at large and errors in communication
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

    Identify and evaluate the drivers that may influence individual or group perceptions and attitudes towards risk in specific scenarios.
    Critically assess the technical, organisational and human features of effective environmental risk governance. 
    Compare and contrast environmental risk management techniques, selecting tools appropriate to the character of the risk in question.
    Critically evaluate the environmental policy cycle of implementation and the basics of policy development and appraisal.  
    Develop effective means of communication to suit specific or general situations and how to demonstrate its effectiveness, and critique methods based on theory and evidence.

    Planetary Health

    Module Leader
    • Dr May Sule

      Applied scientific and green engineering principles are required to address the global and national environmental crises driven by climate change, land use change, pollution emissions, and population growth. This diverse module aims to develop an understanding of the interconnected environmental, social and health crises from a local to global scale, and the management, mitigation and adaptation strategies to address them from a planetary health perspective. As the module progresses, learners will be required to develop an advanced interdisciplinary understanding of exposure pathways and the interconnections between the natural environment, ecosystems, human health and wellbeing. Learners will be provided with the necessary systems thinking skills to assess the complexity and impact connecting environmental issues and human health in the Anthropocene and provide solutions; and to also appraise the reliance of human populations on healthy ecosystems, including the highly complex socio-ecological feedback mechanisms involved in interactions between humans and nature.

      Interdisciplinary understanding of water, land and air interconnections of human health and wellbeing
      Environment, health, and equity
      Pathways to exposure
      Systems thinking and holistic understanding of complexities
      Enablers and inhibitors
      Upstream causes and downstream effects 
      Fundamental concepts of structural, attitudinal and transactional (SAT) analysis
      Case studies 
      Management solutions 
      Application of Vensim software for causal loop diagrams
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

    Interpret interactions and interconnections between natural environment, human health and wellbeing.

    Critically evaluate complex systems and the social and ecological approach to health promotion and disease prevention and control, ranging from individual to population level determinants of human and ecosystem health.

    Critically appraise the rights of humans and the rights of nature, giving all human populations and ecosystems, present and future, the opportunity to attain their full vitality.

    Characterise the linkages between environmental changes and human health at different geospatial and temporal scales. Synthesise diverse information to provide diverse solutions for planetary health challenges.

    Sustainable Environmental Solutions

    Module Leader
    • Dr Andrea Momblanch

      This module aims to introduce you to the real world environmental solutions that are being developed and in use already, to enable them to enter a number of sectors with up to date knowledge of current approaches. The module will provide you with an overview of the international climate and environmental policy landscape in which countries, sectors and industries are operating, and the scale of action required in order to fulfil current policy goals. You will work on case studies of sustainable solutions (e.g. in aviation, agriculture, transport, waste, etc) and evaluate the potential in these solutions to contribute to global climate or other environmental goals.

      • Environmental Policy – national and international, including climate, water, air, biodiversity, the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals. How to assess potential solutions towards achievement of policy goals,
      • Series of lectures with relevant experts to focus on sustainable environmental solutions in a range of sectors, for example: nature based solutions for water and climate; agriculture and food; transport; supply chains; energy systems; sustainable technology entrepreneurship; plastic; biodiversity; LivingLab,
      • Individual reports on sustainable climate solutions for a sector or sub-sector, based on appropriate metrics for the policy goal(s), including consideration of co-benefits and trade-offs with other environmental goals.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

    • Critically analyse environmental solutions based on appropriate metrics and tools in the context of policy goals,
    • Evaluate data and evidence on potential solutions to environmental challenges with colleagues to apply diverse expertise to a real world challenge,
    • Critically appraise and synthesise various sources of information in written and verbal form to create coherent arguments that provide effective solutions to global environmental challenges from technical, political, and social perspectives.

    Elective modules
    From the following list, select 2-4 modules which total 40 credits.

    Sustainability and Environmental Assessment

    Module Leader
    • Dr Gill Drew

      Environmental impact assessment and life cycle analysis are important tools for evaluating the sustainability of complex renewable energy technologies and industrial processes or products. The tools and concepts taught in this module will enable you to assess the sustainability of a case study from an environmental standpoint. Analysis of relevant case studies to demonstrate the assessment process, including how to account for uncertainty and sensitivity analysis.

      This module is 10 credits.

      • Environmental impact assessment and sustainability,
      • Environmental Impact Assessment,
      • Indicator selection and analysis,
      • Life cycle analysis, and carbon footprinting,
      • Social impact assessment,
      • The technique of demand forecasting.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

    • Critically assess the emissions and waste production throughout the lifecycle of a technology or process,
    • Design a framework to ensure compliance of a  process, product or service to support the transition to Net Zero that is  compliant with regulatory and voluntary requirements,
    • Evaluate forecasting techniques as one of the fundamental aspects of environmental assessment,
    • Critically evaluate different environmental and social appraisal metrics,
    • Design and implement a strategy to assess the environmental sustainability of a process or technology, and evaluate the associated uncertainties.

    Land Engineering Principles and Practices

    Module Leader
    • Dr Lynda Deeks

      Natural landscapes and built environments can be engineered to optimise the goods and services delivered to society, including provision of natural resources and the regulation of water and carbon. Technologies that prevent and/or reverse land degradation can be devised and implemented to ensure sustainable use of finite land resources. Environmental engineers and land managers need sound understanding of the environmental properties that determine land capability for any given desired end use, as well as the interrelationships between soil, water, vegetation and built structures. This understanding is grounded in basic soil physics, hydrology, hydraulics, geotechnics and agronomy. With this background, appropriate interventions such as soil erosion control and slope stabilisation can be designed and implemented to improve inherent land quality. The required skills set also informs the management of environmental projects involving land forming, reclamation, restoration and protection, which require selection, design, engineering and maintenance of appropriate structures.

      This module is 10 credits.


      Site Assessment: Concept of land capability and land quality:

      • Criteria used for assessing land capability and its classification - USDA scheme, Canadian Land Inventory, urban land capability scheme.

      Land forming, earth moving and landscape modification:

      • Earth works design - Defra recommendations, Water retention - ponds.
      • Machinery and equipment used (+ visit to Tarmac or similar).

      Geotechnics: Slope stability:

      • The stability of shallow and deep slope failures.
      • Methods of slope stability calculations - Finite slope analysis etc.
      • Slope engineering for slope stability - bunds and berms, bioengineering, biotechnical engineering.
      • Surface erosion of slope forming materials:

      • Soil erosion processes.
      • Soil erosion consequences.
      • Surface soil erosion control - terraces, check dams, agronomic techniques (bioengineering),

      Vegetation as an engineering material (bioengineering and biotechnical engineering),


      Top and sub soil management

      • Vegetation establishment.
      • Site maintenance.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

    • Apply the concept of land capability to site assessment and carry out land capability classifications,
    • Explain how to design earthworks and select appropriate land-forming machinery/equipment,
    • Calculate the stability of slopes and design of simple support and stabilisation systems,
    • Devise strategies for the long-term management of top soil and subsoil in land engineering projects.

    Catchments and Climate Change

      Climate change and human activity are having profound impacts on catchments. Increasing temperatures, more frequent and intense rainstorms, and more prolonged droughts are causing direct and indirect changes to vegetation, soils and rivers that affect water quantity and quality via multiple mechanisms. In this module, students will develop the knowledge and skills to conceptualize the climate change impacts on the water environment, at catchment scale, based on an understanding of hydrological, geomorphic, chemical and ecological processes.

    Environmental Water Quality

    Module Leader
    • Dr Pablo Campo Moreno
      Water of good quality is necessary for domestic, environmental, industrial, recreational and agricultural applications. As a result of the conditions prevailing in the catchment area, natural and anthropogenic constituents in water bodies will define potential uses according to established criteria. Hence, for those working in water science, a comprehensive understanding of regulations applicable to water quality is needed. This module provides an overview of Water Framework Directive and other relevant water quality regulations and policies that govern the management and assessment of surface waters. If quality is to be adequately monitored, it is also important to acquire knowledge about sampling and measurement of water parameters and interpretation of acquired data. It also provides background in ecological processes, aquatic communities, and survey design and data analysis to help those working in environmental water management to interpret water quality data in the context of the catchment characteristics and pressures.

    Energy Systems Case Studies

      The module aims to provide you with a deep understanding of the truly multidisciplinary nature of a real industrial project.  Using a relevant case study, the scientific and technical concepts learned during the previous modules will be brought together and used to execute the analysis of the case study.
      • Work flow definition: setting up the single aspects to be considered, the logical order, and the interfaces.
      • Design of an appropriate analysis toolkit specific to the case study
      • Development of a management or maintenance framework for the case study
      • Multi-criteria decision analysis [MDCA] applied to energy technologies to identify the best available technology. 
      • Energy technologies and systems: understanding the development and scaling/design of the technologies by applying an understanding of the available resources in the assigned location;
      • Public engagement strategies and the planning process involved in developing energy technologies.
    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:

    • Critically evaluate available technological options, and select the most appropriate method for determining the most preferred technology for the specific case study.
    • Demonstrate the ability to work as part of a group to achieve the stated requirements of the module brief.
    • Organise the single-discipline activities in a logical workflow, and to define the interfaces between them, designing an overall multidisciplinary approach for the specific case study.

    Resource Recovery

    Module Leader
    • Professor Ana Soares
      The water sector is embracing sustainable practices to effectively manage water and wastewater, aligning with circular economy principles and striving towards net zero goals while promoting resource recovery. This paradigm shift entails comprehensive, interdisciplinary strategies that prioritize not only technological advancements but also the establishment of metrics and key performance indicators. Considering regulatory frameworks and engaging local stakeholders are pivotal aspects. This module offers insights into the latest advancements in resource recovery from water, municipal, and industrial wastewater. It explores the drivers, challenges, opportunities, success stories, and tools essential for evaluating resource recovery implementation within the water sector.

    Nature-based Solutions Design for Water and Wastewater

      This intensive module builds from a working knowledge of nature-based solutions, as defined by the IUCN, to focus on the key aspects of design, operation, benefit accounting and implementation. We use industry standard guidance to inform the principles of designs, workshop activities to understand implications of design decisions for Treatment Wetlands and SuDS, and case studies to illustrate best practice.

    Strategic Foresight

    Module Leader
    • Dr Kenisha Garnett

      Strategic foresight research refers to a range of methods that can be used to identify, analyse and communicate insights about the future. Standard methods include horizon scanning, trend research, and scenario planning. Outputs include emerging issues, trends, visions, scenarios, and wild cards. The methods employed and insights produced are used by both private and public sector organisations to inform a wide range of policy, risk, strategy and innovation processes. Foresight research is a truly inter-disciplinary ‘science’, covering and combining developments in society, technology, economy, ecology, politics, legislation and values.

      Crucially, foresight research is as much about analysing the past and present, as it is about looking to the future. Once we understand how a system has developed and works today, we can explore how it may evolve and what it may look like in the future. Strategic foresight techniques consider a wide range of possible, plausible futures so that planning can be put in place to adapt to and mitigate against various conditions. It is designed to add resilience, adaptability and flexibility to organisations in an increasingly complex and fast changing world.

      This module will explore how:

    • Horizon scanning can act as a method of gathering new insights that may point us towards affirming or discrediting existing trends and developments, as well as identifying new and emerging trends and developments that are on the margins of our current thinking, but will impact on the future.
    • Other foresight methodologies (e.g. scenario planning, visioning, back-casting) can be used to help us to use the trends identified from horizon scanning to identify how the future might develop.


      In this module, you will adopt a bespoke three-step foresight process to interpret change in the external organisational environment and use the insights generated to anticipate plausible futures and stress-test strategies that support building organisational resilience. 

      The foresight process will support you in building: 

      Robust organisational intelligence through systematic horizon scanning and insight generation,

      Resilience through comprehensive exploration and interpretation of the future to maintain flexibility (ability to adapt) against impending risks and to cease opportunities.

      Step 1: Build organisational intelligence 

      A 360o horizon scan of the external environment, both operational (e.g. market and consumer trends, competition) and contextual (e.g. regulatory constraints and opportunities, technological and social change), to systemically analyse those trends and patterns within the industry/sector and beyond that point to persistent trends, discontinuities or sharp disruptions that may challenge the future direction and ambition of your organisation. 

      Step 2: Develop a set of alternative plausible future scenarios 

      Build a set of plausible scenarios that explore alternative development pathways for your organisation in the future. The scenarios will reflect both positive and negative factors influencing the development of the organisation over the short to long-term, considering the contrasting role that various external driver of change (e.g. socio-demographic, technological, economic and policy change) will play. The scenarios should also consider discontinuities or sharp disruptive events (e.g. fuel crisis, political conflict or war) that may challenge the organisation’s continuity and its resilience, requiring an analysis of risks, opportunities and trade-offs over the long-term. 

      Step 3: Create a vision and strategic roadmap for achieving a desirable future (scenario)  

      Develop a vision and strategic roadmap for achieving the utopian scenario (i.e. most desirable future), defining the pathway and options for achieving the ambitions of your organisation. Apply the scenarios to stress-test the organisation’s future vision / strategy against potential disruption and to better prepare for other impending risks (e.g. financial and regulatory constraints) but also ceasing the opportunities that may arise. 

    Intended learning outcomes

    On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

    • Assess why organisations engage in strategic foresight research and what foresight research aims to achieve - and what it cannot do,
    • Evaluate the utility and application of different foresight research methodologies,
    • Examine the role of foresight research evidence in a broad organisational and environmental context,
    • Identify and apply the tools of strategic foresight research in a broad organisational and environmental context.
    • Apply strategic foresight research methods to support a convincing case for action within the organisation and use foresight research evidence to effectively plan for the long-term resilience of the organisation.

    How to apply

    Click on the ‘Apply now’ button below to start your online application.

    See our Application guide for information on our application process and entry requirements.