It all starts with you. Becoming climate literate means understanding your influence on the climate, as well as the climate’s influence on you and society. A climate-literate person:
- Understands the essential principles of Earth’s climate system
- Knows how to assess scientifically credible information about climate
- Communicates about the climate and climate change in a meaningful way
- Makes informed and responsible decisions with regard to actions that affect climate
To read more about climate literacy, visit NOAA’s Climate Program Office site and download the Climate Literacy Principles. To lean more about energy literacy, visit the Department of Energy’s site and download the Energy Literacy Principles.
Understanding climate change
Climate literate individuals have a basic understanding of the climate system, including the natural and human-caused factors that affect it. They know the scientific consensus behind human-induced climate change – specifically, that the burning of fossil fuels has contributed to elevated CO2 levels and the warming of the planet. They also understand how climate observations, records, and computer modeling contribute to scientific knowledge about climate. They are aware of the fundamental relationship between climate and human life and the many ways in which the climate has always played a role in human health.
The National Climate Assessment provides the most comprehensive overview of climate change impacts on the United States, broken down for each region. The Climate Science section provides an excellent overview of the science behind climate change, and GlobalChange.gov, which produces the U.S. National Climate Assessment every four years, offers helpful resources as well.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) organizes thousands of climate experts worldwide to synthesize, summarize, and report the latest scientific understanding of the causes, consequences, and potential solutions to climate change. IPCC assessment reports are released at regular intervals every few years.
Climate Basics: Climate Generation has written numerous blogs about climate change, the science to support it, and solutions to effectively address the problem. Check them out here.
Climate 101: Climate 101’s goal is to build an internet site that acts as a supplement to current in-class environmental science education for K-12 students.
Climate Reality Project: 97% percent of climate scientists agree that man-made climate change is a reality. We know it’s happening, and we know why. Visit Climate Reality’s educational site to learn more.
Dine for Climate brochure: Climate change is impacting agriculture and our food supply in concrete ways. For our 2014 fundraising series, Dine for Climate, we created a brochure that highlights the food-climate connection.
Climate Change in Minnesota
In Minnesota, climate change has hit home, with four 1,000-year floods since 2004 and dozens of extreme weather events – from hail storms to tornadoes to droughts – impacting our state. Financial impacts are just as real. In 2013, Minnesota had some of the highest weather-related disaster claims in the country, even topping some tornado- and hurricane-prone states. And, University of Minnesota economists estimate that electricity generation annually causes more than $2 billion in environmental and health damages, such as asthma aggravated by air pollutants.
From 2015-2016, we traveled the state through our Climate Minnesota: Local Stories, Community Solutions project to talk with communities about local manifestations of climate change, stories, and solutions work happening in their area. Learn more by visiting the Climate Minnesota homepage.
- Climate Change and Minnesota: This Prezi slideshow, created by our Education Team, shows how climate change is affecting Minnesota.
- Learn more about climate change impacts in our state from the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board website. The EQB created a report to summarize the impacts as well as what the state is doing to address the issue, called Minnesota and Climate Change: Our Tomorrow Starts Today.
- Listen to Will Steger’s Eyewitness to Climate Change Account, based on his 50 years of polar exploration. Through his expeditions, Will put himself on the frontlines of climate change, which has impacted the Arctic regions earlier and harder than nearly anywhere else.
Know trustworthy sources on climate change
Climate literate individuals have the ability to assess the validity of scientific findings about climate change, and can use that information to support their decisions.
Skeptical Science: Scientific skepticism is healthy. Scientists should always challenge themselves to improve their understanding. Yet this isn’t what happens with climate change denial. Climate skeptics vigorously criticize any evidence that supports man-made climate change and yet embrace any argument, op-ed, blog or study that purports to refute climate change. This website gets skeptical about global warming skepticism. Do their arguments have any scientific basis? What does the peer reviewed scientific literature say?
Criteria Used in Evaluating Web Resources: This website, from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate change discusses five traditional criteria, used to determine the quality of print information in libraries, can also be applied to the evaluation of web resources.
Communicate about climate change effectively
Climate literate individuals understand that talking about climate change is most effective when done through certain frames. Connecting with others on a values level, making it personal, highlighting a few key facts, and giving people opportunities for hope and action are key to successful communication.
While there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to communicating about climate change, this Grist article, Here’s everything we know about how to talk about climate change, offers some broad do’s and don’ts to help you get your message across.
The report Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Change Communication, created by the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED) at Columbia University and ecoAmerica, offers strategies and best practices for anyone who is interested in talking to others about climate change, from individuals, to business people, to religious leaders, to nonprofits.
The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication conducts scientific research on public climate change knowledge, attitudes, policy preferences, and behavior, as well as the underlying psychological, cultural, and political factors that influence them. They also engage the public in climate change science and solutions, through partnerships as well as a national radio program, Yale Climate Connections.
What We Think About When We Try Not to Think About Global Warming, a book by the Norwegian psychologist Per Espen Stoknes, offers insightful explanations and analysis of what really keeps people from taking action on climate change – and how to counter those forces.
An atmospheric scientist and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, Katharine Hayhoe is a thought leader in climate change communications, specializing in discussing the issue with conservative Christian audiences. Her blog has great tips and insights into her approach.
Climate Access is an international network supporting the community of climate change communicators, including recent research, tips, and “what works.”
For a long time, the dominant narrative of climate change has been told from a scientific perspective. While that’s important, science is often not what moves people. What moves people are stories. Personal stories help us make sense of the world around us. It’s how we remember things and how we think. They have the ability to draw out an emotional connection. This is especially important with the topic of climate change, which already feels abstract and hard to grasp because it’s invisible. Telling your climate story is a good way to talk to your peers about the issue, because while people can dispute the science, they can’t dispute what you share from your heart and your experience.
Make climate-smart decisions
People who are climate literate know that climate science can inform our decisions, helping us to act in climate-smart ways that can also improve our quality of life.
Our Take Action page offers more specific ways that you can act to address climate change, individually, with your peers, and with broader communities. From calculating your carbon footprint to contacting your legislator about climate solutions, there are many ways you can make an impact to advance a climate-resilient future for our common home.