Professor Colin David Butler

Honorary Professor


My interest in global health precedes medical school, which I started in 1980. I spent 1985 mostly in tropical disease endemic countries, which consolidated how public health trumps individual medicine in need. While working mostly as a GP I co-founded the NGOs BODHI and BODHI Australia, and also published a paper in the Lancet, warning that global health was heading to a precipice, fuelled by the convergence of discrimination, hubris and denial that limits to growth could impede civilizational progress.

ANU connection: continuous 1998-present; PhD, research, visiting or Hon positions.

Other universities: UTAS (1990s), Deakin (2006-7); Univ Canberra (2012-present) (Adjunct Prof since 2016), Flinders (Principal Research Fellow) (2017-20).

In 2014 I became the first health contributor to the IPCC (and 1st Australian contributor) to be arrested for civil disobedience over climate change; in this case for protesting Australian coal exports. I believe that climate change is the greatest moral issue of our time; yet it is only one of a suite of interacting threats to global public health; sometimes called "planetary boundaries"; also "Limits to Growth".

I have published about 50 papers and chapters directly relevant to limits to growth and health, as well as at least another 50 indirectly relevant, of about 155 altogether.

Edited Books:

Climate Change and Global Health (CABI) (2014); 2nd edition 2020Health of People, Places and Planet: Reflections based on A.J. (Tony) McMichael’s four decades of contribution to epidemiological understanding (ANU Press) (2015) (I was senior editor, co-editors Jane Dixon and Tony Capon).

NGO co-founding: BODHI, BODHI Aust (1989), Drs for the Envt (Aust) (2001), Health-Earth: (2014)

Major Grants: ARC Future Fellowship (2011-15).


Australian Population Association: Borrie Prize (2002)

French Environmental Health Association: One of a 100 "doctors for the planet" (2009).

Public Health Association of Australia: Tony McMichael award for public health, ecology and environment (2018).


Research interests

Future population health and the survival of civilisation in the context of diminishing resources and denial. However some hope exists due to new technologies and ways of human organisation.

Key words: Sustainability, eco-social interactions, environmental health, infectious diseases of poverty, ecology and health (especially the ecology of infectious diseases), discrimination, prejudice and the struggle for improved social justice, intergenerational ethics, limits to growth, climate change, conflict and its avoidance, food security, energy and the new industrial revolution, human nutrition, extreme weather events and extreme agricultural events, one health, ecohealth, planetary health, conflict, migration, famine.


  • Butler, C & McFarlane, R 2018, 'Climate change, food security and population health in the Anthropocene', in D A DellaSala (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Anthropocene, Elsevier, Netherlands, pp. 453-459pp.
  • Butler, C & Higgs, K 2018, 'Health, population, limits and the decline of nature', in Terry Marsden (ed.), The SAGE Handbook of Nature, SAGE Publications Ltd, London, pp. 1122-1149pp.
  • Butler, CD & Kefford, B 2018, 'Climate and conflict: risk multiplier', Nature, vol. 555, no. 7698, pp. 1-1.
  • Butler, CD 2018, 'Climate Change, Health and Existential Risks to Civilization: A Comprehensive Review (1989-2013)
    ', International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 15, no. 2266, pp. 1-21.
  • Butler, CD 2018, 'Planetary Epidemiology: Towards First Principles', Environmental Reports, vol. Published online 13 October 2018, pp. 1-16.
  • McFarlane, R, Butler, CD, Maynard, S et al 2018, 'Ecosystem-based translation of health research: expanding frameworks for environmental health', Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, vol. 2018 Online, pp. 1-4.
  • Butler, C & Whelan, J 2017, 'Air pollution and climate change in Australia', in R Akhtar and C Palagiano (ed.), Climate Change and Air Pollution: The Impact on Human Health in Developed and Developing Countries, Springer Nature, Switzerland, pp. 131-149pp.
  • Butler, CD 2017, 'Limits to growth, planetary boundaries, and planetary health', Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, vol. 25, pp. 59-65pp.
  • Tong, S, Berry, H, Ebi, K et al 2016, 'Climate change, food, water and population health in China', Bulletin of the World Health Organization, vol. 94, no. 10, pp. 759-765.
  • Butler, CD 2016, Planetary Overload, Limits to Growth and Health. Environmental Health Reports Vol 3(4): 360-369.
  • Butler, CD 2016, 'Sounding the Alarm: Health in the Anthropocene', International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 13, no. 7, pp. 1-15. (Open access)
  • Butler, CD, Hales, S, Beggs, P et al 2016, 'From Paris towards 1.5 degrees C', in Colin D. Butler (ed.), Climate Change and Global Health (2016), CABI International, United Kingdom, pp. 293-305pp.
  • Singh, M, Rao, M & Butler, CD 2016, 'Climate change, health and future well-being in South Asia', in Akhtar, Rais (ed.), Climate Change and Human Health Scenario in South and Southeast Asia, Springer International Publishing Switzerland, Switzerland, pp. 11-27pp.
  • Rahman, K, Samarawickrema, I, Harley, D et al 2015, 'Performance of Kala-Azar Surveillance in Gaffargaon Subdistrict of Mymensingh, Bangladesh', PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 1-9.
  • Butler, C 2015, 'Revised hunger estimates accelerate apparent progress toward the MDG hunger target', Global Food Security, vol. 5, no. 6, pp. 19-24.
  • Bowles, D, Butler, CD & Morisetti, N 2015, 'Climate change, conflict and health', Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, vol. 108, no. 10, pp. 390-395.
  • Butler, CD, Dixon, J & Capon, A, eds, 2015, Health of People, Places and Planet, ANU Press, Canberra. (open access)
  • Butler, C 2014, 'Climate Change and Global Health: a new conceptual framework', CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources, vol. 9, no. 27, pp. -.
  • Butler, C & Oki, T 2014, 'Climate extremes, disasters and health', in Colin D Butler (ed.), Climate Change and Global Health**, CABI Publishing, United Kingdom, pp. 54-64.
  • Butler, C, McMichael, A, Steffen, W et al 2014, Climate Change and Global Health, CABI Publishing, United Kingdom.
  • Black, P & Butler, CD 2014, 'One Health in a world with climate change', OIE Revue Scientifique et Technique, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 465-473.
  • Bowles, D & Butler, CD 2014, 'Socially, politically and economically mediated health effects of climate change: Possible consequences for Africa', SAMJ South African Medical Journal, vol. 104, no. 8, pp. 585-+.
  • Bowles, D, Braidwood, M & Butler, CD 2014, 'Unholy Trinity: Climate change, conflict and ill health', in Colin D Butler (ed.), Climate Change and Global Health, CABI Publishing, United Kingdom, pp. 144-152.
  • Bowles, D, Butler, CD, Friel, S et al 2014, 'Climate change and health in Earth's future', Earth's Future, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 60-67.
  • Bowles, D, Reuveny, R & Butler, CD 2014, 'Moving to a better life? Climate, migration and population health', in Colin D Butler (ed.), Climate Change and Global Health, CABI Publishing, United Kingdom, pp. 135-143.
  • Butler, CD, Bowles, D, McIver, L et al 2014, 'Mental health, cognition and the challenge of climate change', in Colin D Butler (ed.), Climate Change and Global Health, CABI Publishing, United Kingdom, pp. 251-259.
  • Butler, CD, Mathieson, A, Bowles, D et al 2014, 'Climate change and health in Africa', in Colin D Butler (ed.), Climate Change and Global Health, CABI Publishing, United Kingdom, pp. 218-227.
  • Butler, CD, Stott, R, Bowen, K et al 2014, 'Climate change and health: From adaptation towards a solution', in Colin D Butler (ed.), Climate Change and Global Health, CABI Publishing, United Kingdom, pp. 284-291.
  • Rahman, K, Olsen A, Harley, D et al 2014, 'Kala-azar in pregnancy in Mymensingh, Bangladesh: a social autopsy', PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, vol. 8, no. 5.
  • Smith, K, Frumkin, H, Balakrishnan, K et al 2013, 'Energy and human health', Annual Review of Public Health, vol. 34, no. 34, pp. 159-188.
  • Jeggo, M, Butler, C, Fang, J et al 2012, 'EcoHealth and the Influenza A/H5N1 Dual Use Issue', EcoHealth, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 1-3.
  • Butler, C, Powles, J & McMichael, A 2012, 'Human Disease: Effects of Economic Development', in Butler, Colin D, Powles, John, and McMichael, Anthony J (ed.), Encyclopedia of Life Sciences (2012), John Wiley & Sons Inc, Chichester, pp. 1-10.
  • Bowen, K, Friel, S, Ebi, K, Butler C.D., McMichael A.J. 2012, 'Governing for a Healthy Population: Towards an Understanding of How Decision-Making Will Determine Our Global Health in a Changing Climate', International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 55-72.
  • Brijnath, B, McMichael, A & Butler, CD 2012, 'Don't forget health in sustainability talks', Nature, vol. 486, no. 7402, pp. 191-191.
  • Butler, C. D. & Dixon, J. 2012, 'Plentiful food? Nutritious Food?', in Rosin C, Stock P, Campbell H (ed.), Food Systems Failure: The Global Food Crisis and the Future of Agriculture, Earthscan Publications Ltd, London and New York, pp. 98-113.
  • Butler, C. D. & Soskolne, C. L. (2012). Ecosystems - Stable and Sustainable. In: Gellman, M. D. & Turner, J. R. (eds.) Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine. Springer.
  • Butler, C. D. (2012). Malnutrition. In: Juergensmeyer, M. & Anheier, H. K. (eds.) Encyclopedia of Global Studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. pp 1095-1100.
  • Butler, C. D. (2012). Population Trends and the Environment. In: Friis, R. H. (ed.) Praeger Handbook of Environmental Health. Westport, Connecticut: Praegar. pp 215-231.
  • Butler, C. D., Powles, J. & McMichael, A. J. (2012). Human Disease: Effects of Economic Development. In: Hillier, J. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Life Sciences. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Butler, CD 2012, 'Infectious disease emergence and global change: thinking systemically in a shrinking world', Infectious Diseases of Poverty, vol. 1, no. 5, pp. 1-17.
  • Butler, CD 2012, 'Malnutrition', in Helmut K. Anheier and Mark Juergensmeyer (ed.), Encyclopedia of Global Studies, Sage Publications Inc, Los Angeles, pp. 1095-1100.
  • Butler, CD 2012, 'Population trends and the Environment', in R H Friss (ed.), Praeger Handbook of Environmental Health, Praeger Publishers, Santa Barbara USA, pp. 215-231.
  • Butler, CD 2012, 'Water, global change and health: Research gaps, research priorities', Human Evolution, vol. 27, no. 1-3, pp. 43-46.
  • Hanigan, I, Butler, C.D., Kokic, P, Hutchinson, M. 2012, 'Suicide and drought in New South Wales, Australia, 1970-2007', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 109, no. 35, pp. 13950-13955.
  • Kovats, R & Butler, CD 2012, 'Global health and environmental change: Linking research and policy', Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 44-50.
  • Kovats, R. S. & Butler, C. D. 2012. Global health and the global environment: linking research and policy. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 4, 44-50.
  • Hanna, E, McMichael, A & Butler, C 2011, 'Climate Change and Global Public Health: Impacts, Research and Actions', in Richard Parker & Marni Sommer (ed.), Routledge Handbook in Global Public Health, Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, London and New York, pp. 133-144.
  • Friel, S, Butler, C & McMichael, A 2011, 'Climate change and health: Risks and Inequities', in Solomon Benatar and Gillian Brock (ed.), Global Health and Global Health Ethics, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK, pp. 198-209.
  • Butler, C & Weinstein, P 2011, 'Global Ecology, Global Health, Ecohealth', EcoHealth, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 253-254.
  • Butler, C, Yaryan, W, Woldenberg-Butler, S. Peoples DO. 2011, 'Environmental preservation and restoration.', in Dhammasami K, Dhammahaso, PH, Butthikaro, PS, Butler CD et al (ed.), Buddhist Virtues for Socio-Economic Development, Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University, Thailand, pp. 13-15.
  • Butler, C. D. & Weinstein, P. 2011. Global ecology, global health, ecohealth. EcoHealth, 8(iii) 253-254.
  • Butler, C.D. 2011. Life on Eaarth McKibben, B. (2010) Eaarth: making a life on a tough new planet. New York, Henry Holt and Co. (book review). EcoHealth, 8, 244-246.
  • Butler, CD 2011, 'Towards a Buddhist approach for living in harmony with the oceans and its life', in Dhammasami K, Dhammahaso, PH, Dhammaratana T, Somaratna GA, Keown D, Butler CD & DO Peoples, Buddhist Virtues for Socio-Economic Development, Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University, Thailand, pp. 441-449.
  • Dhammasami, K, Dhammahaso, P, Vutthikaro, P, Butler CD, et al, eds, 2011, Buddhist Virtues in Socio-Economic Development, Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University, Thailand.
  • McMichael, AJ & Butler, CD 2011, 'Promoting global population health while constraining the environmental footprint', Annual Review of Public Health, vol. 32, pp. 179-197.
  • Butler, C.D. 2011 'A stormy future for population health in southeast Asia?', Lancet, 377, 885-886.
  • Butler, C.D. 2010, 'Lightening our carbon footprint: Economics, norms and doctors', Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 192, no. 9, pp. 485-486.
  • Butler, C.D. 2010, 'The Climate Crisis, Global Health, and the Medical Response', World Medical Journal, vol. 56, no. 2, pp. 56-58.
  • Butler, C.D. & McMichael, A.J. 2010, 'Population health: where demography, environment and equity converge', Journal of Public Health, vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 157-158.
  • Butler, CD 2010, 'Limits to growth, the climate crisis and the medical response (Kasvun rajat, ilmastokriisi ja lääketieteen vastuu)', Finnish Medical Journal (Suomen Lääkärilehti), vol. 65, pp. 70-73.
  • Butler, C.D. 2010, 'The middle path to a greener future', In: Global Recovery: The Buddhist Perspective. K. Dhammasami, P.H. Dhammahaso, P.S. Vutthikaro and D.O. Peoples (editors). Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University, Bangkok, Thailand: pp 49-55.
  • Butler, C.D. & Harley, D 2010, 'Primary, secondary and tertiary effects of eco-climatic change: the medical response', Postgraduate Medical Journal, vol. 86, pp. 230-234.
  • Butler, C.D. 2010, 'Climate change, crop yields, and the future', United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition News (SCN News), vol. 38, pp. 18-25.
  • Bryant, L, Carver, L, Butler, C.D. et al 2009, 'Climate change and family planning: least-developed countries define the agenda', Bulletin of the World Health Organization, vol. 87, pp. 852-857.
  • Butler, C.D. 2009, 'Food security in the Asia-Pacific: Malthus, limits and environmental challenges', Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 577-584.
  • Butler, C.D. 2009, 'Food security in the Asia-Pacific: climate change, phosphorus, ozone and other environmental challenges', Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 590-597.
  • Butler C.D. 2009, 'Without and within: science and the middle path'. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Universities 2:85-95.
  • Butler, C.D. 2008, 'Do we face a third revolution in human history? If so, how will public health respond?', Journal of Public Health, vol. 30, no. 4, pp. 364-365.
  • Butler, C.D. 2008, 'Environmental Change, Injustice and Sustainability', Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 11-19.
  • Butler, C. D. 2008 'Sustainable health for all by the year 2100?' International Journal of Public Health, 53, 223-224.
  • McMichael, AJ, Powles, J, Butler, CD et al 2007, 'Food, livestock production, energy, climate change, and health', Lancet, The, vol. 370, no. 9594, pp. 1253-63.
  • Butler, C. D. & Friel, S. 2006 'Time to regenerate: ecosystems and health promotion'. Public Library of Science Medicine, 3, e394.
  • Butler, C. D. 2005 'Peering into the fog: ecologic change, human affairs and the future'. EcoHealth, 2, 17-21.
  • Butler, C.D. 2004, 'Human Carrying Capacity and Human Health', PLoS Medicine, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 192-194.
  • Butler, C.D., Chambers, R, Chopra, K et al 2003, 'Ecosystems and Human well-being', in Millenium Ecosystem Assessment (ed.), Ecosystems and Human Well-being: A Framework for Assessment, Island Press, Washington, pp. 71-81.
  • McMichael, A.J., Butler, C.D. & Folke, C. 2003, 'New Visions for Addressing Sustainability', Science, vol. 302, pp. 1919-20.
  • Butler, C. D. (2000) Inequality, global change and the sustainability of civilisation. Global Change and Human Health, 1, 156-172.
  • Butler, C.D. (1997) The consumption bomb. Medicine Conflict and Survival, 13, 209-218.
  • Butler, C. D. (1994) Overpopulation, overconsumption, and economics. The Lancet, 343, 582-584.
  • McMichael, A.J. & Butler, C.D. 2009, 'Climate change and human health: recognising the really inconvenient truth', Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 191, pp. 595-596.
  • Friel, S, Dangour, A, Garnett, T et al 2009. 'Health and Climate Change 4: Public health benefits of strategies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions: food and agriculture'. Lancet, 374: 2016-2025.
  • Wahlqvist, M, Keatinge, J, Butler, C.D. et al 2009, 'A Food in Health Security (FIHS) platform in the Asia-Pacific Region: the way forward', Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 688-702.
  • Butler, C.D. 2008, 'Human health and forests: an overview', in C. J. P. Colfer (ed.), Human Health and Forests: A Global Overview of Issues, Practice and Policy., Earthscan Publications Ltd, London, UK, pp. 13-33.
  • Woodruff, R, McMichael, AJ, Butler, CD et al 2006, 'Action on climate change: the health risks of procrastinating', Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, vol. 30, no. 6, pp. 567-571.
  • Butler, C.D. & Oluoch Kosura, W 2006, 'Linking future ecosystem services and future human well-being', Ecology and Society, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 30-45.
  • Nicholls, N, Butler, C & Hanigan, I 2006, 'Inter-annual rainfall variations and suicide in New South Wales, Australia, 1964-2001', International Journal of Biometeorology, vol. 50, pp. 139-143.
  • Butler, C, Oluoch-Kosura, W, Corvalan, C et al 2005, 'Human well-being across the scenarios', in Robert Watson, A.H.Zakri, Angela Cropper, Harold Mooney, Walter Reid (ed.), Ecosystems and human well-being: Scenarios, Island Press, Washington, US, pp. 389-400.
  • Agard, J, Alder, J, Bennett, E et al 2005, 'State of the art in simulating future changes in ecosystem services', in Robert Watson, A.H.Zakri, Angela Cropper, Harold Mooney, Walter Reid (eds.), Ecosystems and human well-being: Scenarios, Island Press, Washington, US, pp. 71-118.
  • Corvalan, C, Hales, S, Woodward, A et al 2005, 'Consequences and options for human health', in Doris Capistrano (ed.), Ecosystems and human well-being: multiscale assessments; findings of the Sub-global Assessments Working Group of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, Island Press, Washington DC, pp. 469-484.
  • McMichael, A & Butler, C 2005, 'Fish, health, and sustainability', American Journal of Preventive Medicine, vol. 29, no. 4, pp. 322-323.
  • Cork, S, Peterson, G, Petchsel-Held, G et al 2005, 'Four Scenarios', in Robert Watson, A.H.Zakri, Angela Cropper, Harold Mooney, Walter Reid (ed.), Ecosystems and human well-being: Scenarios, Island Press, Washington, US, pp. 223-296.
  • McMichael, A & Butler, C 2005, 'The effect of environmental change on food production, human nutrition and health', Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 14, no. CD Supplement, pp. 39-47.
  • Collignon, P, Wegener, H, Braam, P et al 2005, 'The routine use of antibiotics to promote animal growth does little to benefit protein undernutrition in the developing world', Clinical Infectious Diseases, vol. 41, pp. 1007-1013.
  • Butler, C 2005, 'Free trade in food: moral and physical hazards', in R E Hester and R M Harrison (ed.), Issues in Environmental Science and Technology Vol 21: Sustainability in Agriculture, Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, UK, pp. 103-125.
  • Butler, C, Corvalan, C & Koren, H 2005, 'Human health, well-being, and global ecological scenarios', Ecosystems, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 153-162.
  • Grootjans, J, Townsend, M, Butler, C.D. et al 2005, 'Listening', in Valeria A Brown, John Grootjans, Jan Ritchie, Mardie Townsend, Glenda Verrinder (ed.), Sustainability and Health: Supporting global ecological integrity in public health, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest NSW, Australia, pp. 39-79.
  • Patz, J, Daszak, P, Tabor, G et al 2004, 'Unhealthy Landscapes: Policy Recommendations on Land Use Change and Infectious Disease Emergence', Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 112, no. 10, pp. 1092-1098.
  • Hales, S, Butler, CD, Woodward, A et al 2004, 'Health Aspects of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment', EcoHealth, vol. 1, pp. 124-128.
  • McMichael, A, Butler, CD & Ahern, M 2003, 'Global environment', in Smith R, Beaglehole R, Woodward D, Drager N. (ed.), Global public goods for health: health economics and public health perspectives, Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 94-116.
  • Butler, C 2003, 'The environment always matters', Development Bulletin (Canberra), vol. 62, pp. 51-55.
  • Butler, CD 2003, 'Conflict, resources, water and entrapment', Development Bulletin (Canberra), vol. 63, pp. 103-105.
  • Butler, CD 2001, 'Personal Perspective: Epidemiology, Australians and Global Environmental Change', Australian Epidemiological Association Annual Scientific Meeting, ed. Anne Kavanagh, Australasian Epidemiological Association, Melbourne, pp. 13-15.
  • Butler, CD, Douglas, R & McMichael, AJ 2001, 'Globalisation and Environmental Change: Implications for Health and Health Inequalities', in Eckersley R, Dixon J, Douglas R. (ed.), The Social Origins of Health and Well-being, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 34-50.
  • Butler, C.D. 2000, 'Entrapment: Global ecological and/or local demographic? Reflections upon reading the BMJ's six billion day special issue', Ecosystem Health, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 171-180.
  • Butler, CD 1998, 'Climate change, population health and the general practitioner', British Journal of General Practice, vol. 48, no. 436, pp. 1806-1807.