Climate science guide helps adults become critical consumers and educators

Climate change and extreme weather events have been featured prominently in the news media headlines. Adults can help youth be critical thinkers by helping them develop “climate science literacy.”

On September 6, during his acceptance speech for his nomination as the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party at the Democratic National Convention, President Barak Obama spoke of his plans “to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet, because climate change is not a hoax.” He went on to say that “more droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They are a threat to our children’s future.”

A severe and widespread drought in the United States, record high temperatures and record low ice coverage on the Artic Sea have all grabbed news headlines in recent weeks, and highlight some of the extreme weather and climate events currently taking place in the world. Scientists have also recently completed research that links global climate change with the increased incidence of extreme weather events.

With these and other climate change and extreme weather events grabbing headlines and national attention, many parents, teachers and youth educators may be finding themselves dealing with questions and interest from children and youth regarding the topic of climate change and extreme weather. Navigating and understanding the vast amount of information that is available regarding this topic can be daunting for many. So, for someone looking for factual science-based information, where is a good place to get started in learning about climate science?

An easy-to-understand and comprehensive guide on climate science is presented in “Climate Literacy - The Essential Principles of Climate Science: A Guide for Individuals and Communities,” published by the U.S. Global Change Research Program and the Climate Change Science Program. This guide, available as a free download “presents information that is deemed important for individuals and communities to know and understand about Earth’s climate, impacts of climate change, and approaches to adaptation or mitigation.”

The guide presents seven principles that individuals should understand in order to be “climate science literate,” which is defined as having “an understanding of your influence on climate and climate’s influence on you and society.” According to the guide, a climate science literate individual “understands the essential principles of Earth’s climate system, knows how to assess scientifically credible information about climate, communicates about climate and climate change in a meaningful way, and is able to make informed and responsible decisions with regard to actions that may affect climate.”

The guide contains seven principles that are a starting point for learners of all ages to develop climate science literacy. The seven principles (explained in detail in the guide) are:

  1. The sun is the primary source of energy for Earth’s climate system.
  2. Climate is regulated by complex interactions among components of the Earth system.
  3. Life on earth depends on, is shaped by, and affects climate.
  4. Climate varies over space and time through both natural and mad-made processes.
  5. Our understanding of the climate system is improved through observations, theoretical studies and modeling.
  6. Human activities are impacting the climate system.
  7. Climate change will have consequences for the Earth system and human lives.

The guide provides parents, teachers, educators and youth themselves with a valuable resource for developing knowledge of the basic concepts of climate science, and for understanding the potential impact of climate change on individuals, communities and the world. The guide is a good starting point for youth and adults to develop the critical knowledge necessary for understanding climate change and extreme weather events that will most likely continue to be featured prominently in media and the news in the coming weeks and months.

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