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History

Founding

At an October 2005 conference sponsored by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and held in Aspen, Colorado, more than a hundred leading scientists, policymakers, journalists, and leaders from business, religion and civil society identified the critical need for a central authoritative source for climate change information. A broad group of climate experts later confirmed this need during a November 2006 New York meeting convened by James Gustave Speth, Dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. At roughly the same time, in Palo Alto, California, The 11th Hour Project began organizing with the mission to popularize good information about global warming solutions, using the power of Silicon Valley scientists, entrepreneurs, and inventors.

These meetings inspired the idea for Climate Central, which took shape early in 2008 with seed money from The Flora Family Foundation and development funds from 11th Hour Project.

Climate Central’s founding board members were Jane Lubchenco, Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology and Distinguished Professor of Zoology at Oregon State University; Stephen Pacala, Petrie Professor of Biology and Director of Princeton’s Institute for the Environment; and Wendy Schmidt, founder of The 11th Hour Project.

Climate Central is an independent nonprofit organization, a 501(c)(3) public charity headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey.

World Weather Attribution

In 2014, Climate Central helped create the World Weather Attribution (WWA) initiative, a groundbreaking international effort to analyze and communicate the possible influence of climate change on extreme weather events such as storms, extreme rainfall, heat waves, cold spells, and droughts. WWA was launched as a partnership of Climate Central, the University of Oxford Environmental Change Institute (Oxford ECI), the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), the University of Melbourne, and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre (the Climate Centre), with Climate Central serving as secretariat and convener.

WWA was initiated in 2014 when leading members of the climate science community concluded that the emerging science of extreme event attribution could be made operational. In 2016, this assessment was confirmed by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in a consensus report titled Attribution of Extreme Weather Events in the Context of Climate Change. As that report noted, “In the past, a typical climate scientist’s response to questions about climate change’s role in any given extreme weather event was ‘we cannot attribute any single event to climate change.’ The science has advanced to the point that this is no longer true as an unqualified blanket statement.”

Between its founding and early 2018, WWA produced and disseminated more than two dozen attribution analyses on extreme-weather events at locations around the globe, including in Africa, Asia, South and North America, Europe and Australia. Many of these reports drew substantial attention from the media and policymakers.

In early 2018, Climate Central completed its participation in WWA in order to focus on the widespread effects of climate change on weather extremes, valuation of damages from such events, and resulting harm to human well-being. In doing so, Climate Central is responding to growing demand from planners, private and public-sector users, media, civil society, and others for customized, local climate change information, which has become its hallmark, to be delivered efficiently at scale through broad geographic analyses conducted by Climate Central and others. WWA separately continues to conduct its full range of activities independent of Climate Central. 

With our new focus, Climate Central aims is to reveal to the public and decision-makers when and to what extent impacts such as flood damage, heat-related illness and death, declines in property values, and other social and economic impacts associated with increases in extremes may be firmly connected to greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.

Analyzing extremes and impacts more comprehensively will, we believe, enable Climate Central to have greater impact on the ongoing conversation about how to address the threat of climate change. The time is ripe for such a shift because event attribution is now widely accepted in the scientific community and broadly understood by the media, thanks in part to Climate Central’s prior work with WWA and on attribution more broadly.

Fundamental to our mission is conveying the facts about climate science in a cogent and unbiased fashion. Therefore, we will continue to communicate results from all sources within the scientific community whenever we find those to be rigorous, credible and important for informing the public and decision-makers.