Teens and young adult leaders are key to the climate change challenger- Part 8

Youth have an important role in advancing solution based public policies and effective societal responses to a changing climate. This is the eighth article in a series on the topic of youth leadership and climate change.

The sixth essential principle of climate science, as outlined in Climate Literacy – The Essential Principles of Climate Sciences, a report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, states that “human activities are impacting the climate system.”

The consensus among scientists studying recent changes to the Earth’s climate system is that earth’s climate is getting warmer, global greenhouse gas emissions due to human activities is increasing and most of the increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic (human caused) greenhouse gas concentrations.  These findings, published in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 4th Assessment Report in 2007, are based on the reviews of thousands of scientists around the world, and represent the global scientific consensus that climate change and global warming are happening and that human activity is a major cause of recent changes.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established jointly in 1988 by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization, “to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts.”  As the world’s “leading international body for the assessment of climate change” the IPCC “reviews and assesses the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change.”

The scientific evidence clearly indicates that human activity is causing global warming and climate change, but often the scientific literature is presented in technical language that makes it difficult, or too time consuming, for many people to read.  Presented in “brief, plain language,” The Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism is a resource for learning how human activity is driving global warming and climate change without being too technical for most readers.  The guide was released in 2010 by John Cook, creator and editor of the website Skeptical Science.  The guide includes ten indicators of human induced climate change that are based on the results of peer-reviewed scientific research.  A separate posting on the Skeptical Science website includes a brief explanation of the ten indicators, along with links to the research behind each indicator.

Another resource for learning about the link between human activity and climate change is Earth: The Operators’ Manual (ETOM), a TV show, book and website based on the work of Richard Alley, a professor of geology at Penn State University.  A series of short engaging videos on the ETOM website provide viewers with an excellent overview that links the burning of fossil fuels with climate change.  The video segments include background information about the energy use of humans, fossil fuel formation, carbon dioxide’s role in the atmosphere, measurement of carbon dioxide through ice cores and the link of human activity to climate change. 

A third resource for learning about the link between human activities and climate change comes from the National Research Council of the National Academies.  Climate Change: Lines of Evidence is a 26 minute video that provides science-based information on the causes of climate change.  Supporting the video is Climate Change: Evidence, Impacts, and Choices, a 36 page publication prepared by the National Research Council that answers a series of questions related to the causes, effects and potential strategies to for people to respond to climate change.  The first section of the publication focuses on the evidence of human caused climate change, answering questions such as, “How do we know the earth has warmed?”,  “How do we know that greenhouse gases lead to warming?”, “How do we know that humans are causing greenhouse gasses to increase?” and “How much are human activities heating the Earth?”  The publication also provides information that examines whether non-human processes could be factors in the current warming trend on the planet.

To view more resources and lesson plans on teaching or learning the sixth Essential Principle of Climate Science, visit the CLEAN website.  The 4-H Youth Development program of Michigan State University Extension offers youth a variety of research-based educational programs and learning opportunities that can assist youth in developing the character and competencies needed to engage in leadership roles in their community, country and the world.

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