Interim Director, Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School
Why I teach Sustainability at Harvard Extension School
As a pediatrician, my job is to keep kids healthy and safe, and climate change directly impacts my ability to do that. When we take action on climate by greening communities, getting off of fossil fuels, and making neighborhoods more bikeable and walkable, we are taking actions that directly benefit our children’s health – especially children in the most vulnerable communities who already have less access to healthcare and bear the brunt of the climate crisis, in a way that medicine can’t always do.
I spend my time trying to figure out how to take climate actions that will build a healthier, more just, and sustainable world, especially for our children.
During COVID-19, I’ve researched how preventative actions like reducing deforestation can forestall the next pandemic and mitigate the effects of climate change at a fraction of the cost of what it takes to manage pandemics after they emerge.
More about Aaron
Aaron is the Interim Director of The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Harvard Chan C-CHANGE), a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. He focuses on the health impacts of the climate crisis on children’s health and advancing solutions to address its causes to improve the health and wellbeing of children around the world.
Aaron is an author on the Human Health chapter of the Fifth National Climate Assessment, a Congressionally mandated report that evaluates the impacts of climate change on humans and natural systems in the United States led by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. He regularly testifies before Congress on the child health impacts of climate change, drawing from his personal experience as a pediatrician having to treat children with breathing difficulties, vector-borne diseases, and trauma from natural disasters. He is a trusted voice for major news outlets, providing interviews and expertise to reporters from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC News, CNN, and The Guardian, and writing articles for the New England Journal of Medicine, the British Medical Journal, and the Boston Globe, among others.
With Nobel Laureate Dr. Eric Chivian, Aaron co-authored and co-edited the Oxford University Press book, Sustaining Life, which received the distinction of best biology book of 2008 from the Library Journal, and which has been published in several foreign language editions.
Aaron leads Climate MD, a Harvard Chan C-CHANGE program to encourage physicians to transform climate change from an issue dominated by politics and concerns about the future or faraway places, to one that matters to every person’s health here and now. He is the course director for Human Health and Global Environmental Change and created the HarvardX course “The Health Effects of Climate Change” which explores how climate change influences health through its effects on air quality, nutrition, infectious diseases, and human migration as well as solutions to the climate crisis. Through this course, thousands of students from over 100 countries have learned how climate change directly impacts their lives, and what they can do to become part of the solution.
In 2015, he was awarded a Lokey-Businesswire visiting professorship at Stanford University and has also been a visiting professor at Columbia University. Dr. Bernstein has been a member of the Harvard President’s Climate Change Task Force and co-Chairs the University Food Standards Committee.
He serves on the External Advisory Board of the Dalio Center for Health Justice at New York Presbyterian Hospital, is Chair of the Board of Directors at the U.S. Green Building Council, and is on the Board of Advisors at Parents Magazine as an environmental health specialist. Previously, Dr. Bernstein served on the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health Executive Committee as well as the Board of Scientific Counselors to the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
After receiving his bachelor’s degree in Human Biology from Stanford University, he received graduate degrees in medicine (MD) and public health (MPH), from the University of Chicago and Harvard University, respectively. He is a recipient of Stanford University’s Firestone Medal for Research and a Harvard University Zuckerman Fellowship.
An avid bicyclist, Dr. Bernstein pedals to and from work year-round.