Sustainable Cooling: Building Resilience to Extreme Heat

It is estimated that by 2050, billions of people will be exposed to heat stress because they do not have the capacity to reduce the shocks, risks and exposures caused by the rise in global temperatures. 

Developed by leading academics at the Oxford Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, and the Future of Cooling Programme, this sustainable cooling online course is designed to equip you with the skills and knowledge needed to implement sustainable cooling solutions and drive the transition towards a more positive future for people and the planet.

Our innovative programme is a direct response to the growing worldwide demand for new sustainable cooling solutions and the need to upskill the workforce to fill knowledge gaps with coherent and sustainable approaches. With the information and tools you gain on this course, you’ll be empowered to influence change and implement effective solutions to the mounting extreme heat pressures facing people, cities and societies.

  • Type:
    Online short course
  • Length:
    Eight weeks (4-5 hours of study per week recommended)
  • Upcoming intakes:
    October 2023
  • Next start date:
    7 October 2023 (enrolment deadline: 6 October 2023)
  • Fees:
    £1,500 (including VAT)*
  • Award:
    Certificate of completion

*Discounts available to alumni and those working in the public sector. Evidence required.

Learning outcomes

By the end of our Sustainable Cooling online programme, you will be able to: 

  • interpret the macro trends, tensions and trade-offs involved in building resilience to extreme heat;
  • confidently communicate the urgency for implementing sustainable cooling solutions at individual, urban and societal levels;
  • distinguish between the socio-technical levers for change, including technology, infrastructure design, governance, business models and social interactions; and
  • develop a heat resilience plan to transition to sustainable cooling, combining evidence learned throughout the course with specific local requirements and knowledge.   

Upon completion of this programme, you will receive a certificate that will enhance your resume and support your career performance and progression.


There are no specific entry requirements for this programme. However, a certain level of commitment is expected – we recommend dedicating 3-5 hours a week to your studies. All learning and assessment will take place online, so you will need a stable internet connection and suitable equipment to participate.


You will study one module a week. Your assessments and tasks during each will vary, but they will all give you the opportunity to test your knowledge and ensure you’re on track with the learning targets. You’ll also be able to join online discussions with peers and a course Facilitator.

The modules on this sustainable cooling programme are all interconnected, with each module assessing the importance and relevance of the topic from a different perspective and building to a comprehensive understanding. You’ll begin by learning vital contextual information about sustainable cooling and extreme heat before examining the cultural attitudes towards cooling; exploring innovative technologies; studying the socioeconomic and health implications of reducing extreme heat; and identifying the role of planning and policy in influencing strategies to drive change.

In the final module, you’ll bring together all you have learned to formulate a Heat Resilience Plan, which will outline how you aim to avoid, remedy and/or reduce the negative impacts of severe heat – whether that’s in your organisation, city or wider region.

  • Module 0: Getting started 
  • Module 1: Cooling for sustainable development 
  • Module 2: Rising extreme heat 
  • Module 3: The built environment 
  • Module 4: Cultures of cooling 
  • Module 5: Health and productivity 
  • Module 6: Technologies 
  • Module 7: A circular economy 
  • Module 8: Shaping the future

Academic expertise


Dr Radhika Khosla

Lead academic

Associate Professor at Oxford Smith School, Research Director of the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development and Co-Investigator of Oxford Net Zero and the ZERO Institute

Learning experience

This programme, including all its activities and assessments, will be delivered flexibly and entirely online.

You will benefit from a Facilitator who will provide guidance throughout your studies, from beginning to end. An expert in the field, they will be present in weekly discussions on specific topics relating to sustainable cooling and provide feedback and guidance on assessments and tasks.

For this programme, we would recommend participants commit 4-5 hours a week to studying, although this may vary by individual and topic.

Fees and funding

The total cost of this short course is £1,500 (inclusive of VAT), with discounts available to Oxford University alumni and those working in the public sector (evidence required).

It is possible to pay your fees in two instalments, laying down a deposit (and reserving a space) before settling the final balance and securing your place on the course ahead of its start.

For more information about our deposit scheme or discounts you may be entitled to, please feel free to email us or book a time for our team to give you a call.

Find out more

Calls may be recorded for quality and training purposes. 

About the course

Sustainable Cooling: Building Resilience to Extreme Heat is aimed at a variety of professionals and fields, from policy makers, architects and city planners through to journalists, NGOs, international organisations and consultancy firms. Finding solutions to the devasting effects of the climate crisis requires a diverse network of professionals committed to building a more sustainable future, and this course is directly applicable and beneficial to workers across numerous industries and sectors.  

Learning from leading University of Oxford academics, you’ll explore the science behind rising temperatures, discover the links between heat, health and productivity, examine cooling technologies and infrastructure design, and consider options for delivering cooling effectively and the social and economic implications of extreme heat.  To finish, you will combine ideas and knowledge gained in the course to develop a Heat Resilience Plan suited to your own situation, organisation or location.

Our ambition is for you to leave our course with a stronger understanding of sustainable cooling technologies and an everyday toolkit for adapting to the effects of extreme heat based on the latest evidence and solutions. With practical knowledge gained from our holistic curriculum, you’ll be ready to influence policies, plans and strategies to bring about real-world change.


During this module, you will meet your fellow learners and the Facilitator who will be providing support to you throughout your studies. You will learn more about what the programme offers and how to navigate through it. You’ll also have the chance to tell your peers more about yourself by answering the questions and posting to the discussion board.

This module introduces the relevance of cooling across multiple aspects of contemporary life. You will discuss why cooling is a growing issue of concern across regions and organisations and explore how cooling is linked to all the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

On completion, you will be better able to:

  • assess the changing context and applications of cooling, including the growing trends of extreme heat, and the growing relevance of cooling in international policy debates and agreements;
  • analyse the relationship between cooling and sustainability across different contexts; and
  • apply a systematic approach towards cooling.

This module will reflect on the climate science behind rising extreme heat, its growing frequency and intensity, and how it is projected to be the largest killer of all extreme weather events. You will explore the role of climate change and the urban heat island contributing to the cooling issue, using Climate Degree Days (CDD) models to describe how classifications of climatic zones are changing and which parts of the world are predicted to get the hottest. You’ll also examine how heatwaves evolve and are managed, including heat actions plans.

On completion, you will be better able to:

  • identify the primary drivers and issues of heat globally;
  • use vocabulary and metrics necessary for describing cooling issues e.g. CDD, absolute and relative humidity, heat waves;
  • effectively communicate climatic zones and how they are changing as the planet gets hotter;
  • recognise the main topics needed to be covered in heat actions plans for country and city scale; and
  • effectively communicate issues and solutions at local levels (cities and neighbourhoods).

This module takes a deep dive into challenges for infrastructure design, focusing on sustainable cooling environments. You will explore the implication on cities and buildings for achieving thermal comfort (outdoor and indoor) and think critically about approaches to sustainable and heat resilience cities.

On completion, you will be better able to:

  • identify the factors influencing heat exposure and cooling needs in the built environment;
  • compare and analyse the different indicators to measure heat exposure and cooling needs in buildings;
  • analyse the different policy tools available to support infrastructure design;
  • identify the existing barriers in current infrastructure design procedures; and
  • justify a building design following the right steps to address sustainable cooling.

This module will focus on the individual, social and societal elements of cooling – starting by exploring the numerous factors determining consumption patterns for cooling. There will be a focus on the transition to sustainable cooling and levers for change.

On completion, you will be better able to:

  • describe the lifestyle factors and behaviour influencing consumption patterns for cooling e.g., indoor/outdoor, population/individual preferences, location, cities, health, age, food;
  • compare behavioural and cultural approaches to individual cooling indoors and outdoors across different geographies;
  • assess the institutional mechanisms in support to adaptive thermal comfort buildings; and
  • identify the existing barriers in equitable thermal comfort in public spaces.

This module starts with the heat-health nexus and moves from the physiological and behavioural factors to mortality. The second section focuses on productivity through the lens of economics and the losses and growth impacts of heatwaves. Ultimately, the module focuses on heat health action plans – effective preparation for shortterm actions, coordination and longterm solutions.

On completion, you will be better able to:

  • describe the heat-health nexus;
  • analyse scientific evidence on the impact of heat on productivity and economic growth; and
  • identify existing policies around heat and health and provide input in the policy-making process of heat and health action plans.

This module will explore innovation in the cooling industry. You will analyse the implications of air conditioning in energy demand and environmental impact during its life cycle, going deeply into the role of refrigerants. You will also compare the extraordinary knowledge of alternative cooling solutions and practices for human adaptation to hot weather conditions, which are often overlooked.

On completion, you will be better able to:

  • describe the evolution of the cooling industry on air conditioning, its main characteristics, and limitations;
  • analyse the whole catalogue of cooling techniques and technologies at different scales; and
  • implement and justify the benefit of innovative cooling techniques on thermal comfort, thermal cooling demand, energy consumption and carbon emissions.

This module will describe the importance of circularity, business models and regulations to bring about sustainable cooling for all. This will include discussing the production, use and end-of-life stages and relevant actions that bring cooling closer to a circular economy. You will also be introduced to the concept of Cooling-as-a-Service (CaaS) using real practitioners’ examples and discuss the benefits and challenges in its adoption. Finally, you will explore the importance of regulating cooling activities that cause ecological harm and how to draft a policy brief that will help your organisation to transition to a more circular economy for cooling.

On completion, you will be better able to:

  • summarise the principles of a Circular Economy (CE) and the end-to-end design thinking;
  • relate circularity to the whole life cycle of active versus passive cooling;
  • describe the concept of Cooling-as-a-Service (CaaS) using an example; and
  • identify the importance of regulating equipment use and end-of-life – including refrigerant gases.

This module builds on what you will have learned previously about the undeniable threat extreme heat poses to all pillars of society, and the approaches that can be used to address this. You will learn about strategic steps you can take to address extreme heat, shape the future of cooling and increase your triple bottom line to ultimately deliver social, environmental and economic benefits.

Your final assessment will require you to build a Heat Resilience Plan, which will outline your case to avoid, remedy and/or mitigate the negative impacts of extreme heat.

On completion, you will be better able to:

  • explain how to protect your triple bottom line from extreme heat;
  • identify how to use sustainable cooling to deliver environmental, social and governance (ESG) benefits; and
  • describe how to use heat resilience plans to deliver ESG benefits.

Academic expertise

Sustainable Cooling: Building Resilience to Extreme Heat

Dr Radhika Khosla, Associate Professor

Lead academic and Module 1 lead

Radhika is an Associate Professor at Oxford Smith School and the programme leader for our Sustainable Cooling: Building Resilience to Extreme Heat course. Radhika is also the Research Director of the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development and her work examines the productive tensions between urban transitions, energy services consumption and climate change, with a focus on cities in developing countries. She is also the Co-Investigator of Oxford Net Zero, an interdisciplinary research programme aimed at informing effective, equitable, and ambitious climate action, and Co-Investigator of the ZERO Institute, which brings together Oxford research on zero-carbon energy systems.

Radhika’s research priorities are underlined by two sets of interrelated questions. The first is: how does consumption of energy-related services change as cities urbanise? What are the socio-technical systems and institutional structures that shape (and can reconfigure) energy and carbon emission pathways? The second is: what forms of governance and political rationalities characterise the varied urban responses to climate change in rapidly developing cities, given their (often competing) objectives to provide urban services?

Radhika’s broader interdisciplinary research examines how cities in transition manage the tensions of meeting growing energy needs for development while protecting the local and global environment.

Sustainable Cooling: Building Resilience to Extreme Heat

Dr Nicole Miranda, Senior Researcher

Module 2 and 6 lead

Nicole’s research is focused on sustainable cooling technology, notably clean transitions of fluorinated gases, future global cooling demand, and using passive technologies, either exclusively or combined with active cooling.

Sustainable Cooling: Building Resilience to Extreme Heat

Dr Jesus Lizana, Marie Curie Fellow

Module 3 and 6 lead

Jesus’ research focuses on the cross-disciplinary challenges to support the transition towards low carbon climate-responsive buildings.

Sustainable Cooling: Building Resilience to Extreme Heat

Dr Antonella Mazzone, Postdoctoral Researcher

Module 4 lead 

As a member of the Oxford Future of Cooling Programme, Antonella investigates the interplays between culture, identity and social relations in cooling energy household practices.

Sustainable Cooling: Building Resilience to Extreme Heat

Dr Patrick Fahr, Quantitative Researcher

Module 5 lead

Patrick is a health economist and works as a quantitative researcher. His current research focuses on the impact of suboptimal temperature exposure on health and the associated economic impact on the healthcare system.

Sustainable Cooling: Building Resilience to Extreme Heat

Dr Giovani Palafox-Alcantar, Research Associate in Sustainable Cooling Production Network

Module 7 lead

Giovani’s research focuses on Global Production Networks for cooling systems, particularly on analysing the end-of-life stage in order to situate these systems within a Circular Economy.

Sustainable Cooling: Building Resilience to Extreme Heat

Dr Anant Jani, Oxford Martin Fellow

Module 8 lead

Anant currently works on understanding how we can improve population health by addressing social determinants of health.

Frequently asked questions

This programme is for you if you have responsibility, expertise or interest in part of the solution, but need to understand the challenges and solutions in full context to analyse, evaluate and implement the best options for your organisation, location or population.  Roles that would benefit from this programme include (but are not limited to):

  • policy professionals in national, metropolitan and city government departments; 
  • NGO workers; 
  • workers in an international organisation with an urban climate focus eg United Nations Environment Programme; 
  • health and social care workers; 
  • professional service and consulting professionals; 
  • architects and urban planners; and 
  • journalists. 

Beyond specific roles, this programme is also beneficial to professionals working in industries which include (but are not limited to): 

  • construction and engineering firms
  • transport
  • finance
  • media
  • education
  • government.

The programme takes eight weeks to complete, with 4-5 hours of study required per week.

There are no specific entry requirements for this programme. However, a certain level of commitment is expected – we recommend dedicating 4-5 hours a week to your studies. All activities and tasks will take place online, so you will need a stable internet connection and suitable equipment to participate.