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Experts Debate Moral, Religious Case for Climate Action

When members of the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) meet each year at the organization's annual conference, reporters are updated on the latest advancements in climate science from leading climatologists and government scientists.

Extreme weather, disappearing Western snowpack, wildfires, sea level rise, withering crops and vanishing wildlife habitat are all typically on the docket for discussion.

Credit: J.D. Pooley/Getty Images

But with the science becoming overwhelmingly clear that human greenhouse gas emissions are fueling climate change, a discussion at last weekend's SEJ conference in Chattanooga, Tenn., veered toward the philosophy of action and personal responsibility to do something — anything at all — to reduce our impact on the climate.

In other words, if we can do something about climate change, do each of us have a personal responsibility to act? On what philosophical ground should we take individual action?

Or, what would Jesus do about CO2?

That’s a tough question for a lot of conservative Christians to answer, particularly those who are uncomfortable with some scientific theories as well as uncertainty about the future that climate science implies, said Dawn Coppock, a Christian environmentalist and co-founder of the Christian environmental group LEAF, said Saturday at SEJ.

A new study by researchers at the University College of London and Yale University shows that evangelicals are less likely than non-evangelicals to believe that climate change is...


Shutdown Silences Weather and Climate Social Media

On Tuesday at 12 a.m. ET, the federal government shut down after Congress failed to pass a budget. The shutdown starts on a day when Yosemite National Park turns 123 and NASA celebrates its 55th birthday, but that didn't keep either the park or the agency up and running. Many physical sites that fall under the federal domain, such as 401 units managed by the National Park Service, have closed their gates and "non-essential" government services have come to a halt. This includes a number of climate and weather services, particularly social media accounts. Read on to see which sites and accounts have gone dark and which still have the lights on.


The 5 Most Sobering Charts from the IPCC Climate Report

The first installment in the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest scientific assessment on climate science came out on Friday, and it’s loaded with dense terminology, expressions of uncertainty, and nearly impenetrable graphics.

But we'll make it simple for you. Here’s what you need to know, in number and chart form.

Global average surface temperature change to date in degrees Celsius.
Credit: IPCC Working Group I.

1.6°F: Amount that globally averaged combined land and ocean surface temperatures increased between 1901-2012.

0.54°F to 8.64°F: How high global average surface temperatures are likely to climb by 2081-2100 relative to 1986-2005 levels, depending on future amounts of greenhouse gases in the air. The report found that the global mean surface temperature change by 2100 is likely to exceed 2.7°F relative to the period betwen 1850-1900 in all but one of the emissions scenarios.

Map of multi-model mean results for different greenhouse gas concentration scenarios of annual mean surface temperature change in 2081– 2100.
Credit: IPCC Working Group I.

The report also found that the past 30 years have been the warmest three decades since instrument records began during the 19th century, and that in the Northern Hemisphere, the past 30 years have likely been the warmest in more than 1,000 years.

Decadal average surface temperatures.
Credit: IPCC Working Group I.

10.2 to 32 inches: How much mean global sea level is projected to increase by 2081-2100. The scenario with the highest amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere shows a mean sea level rise range between 21 and 38.2 inches, which would be devastating for numerous highly populated coastal cities at or near current sea levels, from New York to Hong Kong.

Projections of global mean sea level rise over the 21st century relative to 1986–2005 from the combination of the computer models with process-based models, for greenhouse gas concentration scenarios. The assessed likely range is shown as a shaded band. The assessed likely ranges for the mean over the period 2081–2100 for all scenarios are given as coloured vertical bars, with the corresponding median value given as a horizontal line.
Credit: IPCC Working Group I.

By compariso...


Interactive Look at Top 11 Indicators of a Warming World

By Climate Central

Climate scientists are 95 percent certain that the greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are causing the climate to change. From 1901-2012, temperatures have risen 1.6°F. While this temperature change is the most commonly cited climate change indicator, there are numerous others that also show what climate change looks like. They range from rising seas to melting glaciers and ice sheets to changing ecosystems. In the above graphic, you can view 11 of these indicators and see how they’ve changed as the Earth has warmed.

These indicators are discussed in-depth in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, the first part of which will be released Sept. 27. The reports, which come out every five to six years, provide a comprehensive snapshot of how the planet is changing. While there are questions about the direction the IPCC should go after this release, the indicators discussed in the report clearly showcase how the planet is changing.

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IPCC Roundup: Stories Turn to IPCC’s Purpose, Scope

We’re another day closer to the release of the first official round of documents from the gigantic new climate report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Scientists and government representatives are meeting in Stockholm to hammer out the final language of the most widely-read portion of the document, known as the Summary for Policymakers. The summary is approved word-by-word, which makes for painstaking work for the government officials and scientists at the meeting.

The dais during the opening session of IPCC Working Group I (l-r): Lena Ek, Minister for the Environment, Sweden, IPCC WGI Co-Chairs Thomas Stocker and Dahe Qin, IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri, and Renate Christ, Secretary of the IPCC.
Credit: IISD.

Much of Tuesday's IPCC coverage took a broader look at the IPCC's purpose and scope as it enters its third decade of existence and prepares to publish its fifth major climate science assessment report.

The Associated Press filed a dispatch from Stockholm, which included the number of comments — more than 50,000 — that the authors have considered when drafting this portion of the report, known as the Working Group One report. “I know of no other document that has undergone this scrutiny,” Thomas Stocker, co-chair of the working group said. “It stands out as a reliable and indispensable source of knowledge about climate change.”

The AP story also noted that 60 percent of the authors of the forthcoming report were new to the IPCC process. That is significant, since the report's conclusions are expected to depart only slightly from the last major report in 2007, despite the changeover in authorship.

One question asked by several reporters was whether the massi...



Cherry Blossoms in a Changing Climate The famous cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. are blooming earlier in our changing climate.

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