Understanding how human activities are causing climate and other global changes requires a basic understanding of climate, how it differs from weather, and at least a little about how climate and related science is conducted.
“Climate Literacy: Essential Principles of Climate Science” provides a framework for understanding the climate system in general and climate change in general. Reviewed and endorsed in 2009 by top scientists with the U.S. Global Change Research Program, a collaboration of over a dozen federal agencies, and vetted by education and communication experts, “Climate Literacy” offers seven Essential Principles:
- The Sun is the primary source of energy for Earth’s climate system.
- Climate is regulated by complex interactions among components of the Earth system.
- Life on Earth depends on, is shaped by, and affects climate.
- Climate varies over space and time through both natural and human processes.
- Our understanding of the climate system is improved through observations, theoretical studies, and modeling.
- Human activities are impacting the climate system.
- Climate change will have consequences for the Earth system and human lives.
There is also the Guiding Principle for Informed Climate Decisions:
Before these principles are considered, it is useful to understand (as a “zeroth” principle) that there is a distinction between weather and climate:
Continue to the next section to find out how weather and climate are different.