History of Climate Central
In 2008, motivated by climate scientists’ high levels of concern about the heating planet versus the low priority given by the public and decision-makers, a group of leading scientists, philanthropists and communicators established Climate Central. They aimed to bridge that gap and promote understanding and action in line with the threat. To do it, they built an organization designed to communicate the facts about climate change and its solutions accurately, widely, and effectively.
Over the years, Climate Central has grown from working with just a handful of news organizations to collaborating with hundreds and making a mark on thousands. We have evolved from creating a small number of fully produced stories to providing science-based content, tools, and training that support countless storytellers and stakeholders in media, social media, government, businesses, NGOs, and beyond. We moved from tapping only existing climate science to filling key gaps and making headlines with our own research. We have developed an advanced technology capacity to generate and disseminate tailored, local climate information at national and global scale, with high-quality graphics–all available, for free. And we have expanded from a U.S. focus at the start to embracing global initiatives today.
Climate Central took its original shape with seed funding from the Flora Family Foundation and development funds from the 11th Hour Project. The founding board members were Jane Lubchenco, Stephen W. Pacala, and Wendy Schmidt.
Climate Central has developed several high-impact major initiatives. We created Climate Matters to bring climate change into weathercasts via local voices highly trusted by Americans everywhere: TV meteorologists. In the program’s first year, we placed our content in about 50 segments; in its tenth, that number exceeded 5,000. Climate Central’s research, tools, and visuals on sea level rise have repeatedly achieved widespread global distribution and are used by millions. And Climate Central’s work developing and communicating the rapid scientific attribution of extreme weather events to climate change has accelerated a critical shift in the narrative. You can legitimately quantify the link between many individual events and climate change, and the media, leaders, and the public increasingly recognize this.
Timeline of milestones
Climate Central is founded.
First television segment aired on PBS NewsHour.
Began research on sea level rise.
Piloted an initiative to bring climate change to TV weather.
Launched Climate Matters and spurred 55 TV segments, aired by a dozen participating TV meteorologists.
Made national headlines with sea level rise program research and maps. Invited to and testified in a Senate committee hearing.
Led the creation of World Weather Attribution, in order to put a number on the influence of climate change on select individual extreme weather events; do it fast enough to bring results into the news cycle; and eliminate the false public narrative that individual events could not be tied to warming.
Co-authored the first-ever rapid extreme weather attribution analysis.
Ahead of Paris climate talks, published sea level research and visuals reaching 5,000 news stories. Driven substantially by concerns about sea level rise, the global Paris Agreement included a more ambitious stretch goal than expected: limiting warming to below 1.5 degrees C.
The U.S. National Academy of Sciences validated attribution of extreme weather events to climate change in a report. Media narratives increasingly recognized climate links to extreme events.
Completed 10th rapid extreme event attribution project.
Launched WeatherPower, bringing solar and wind power generation into the daily local forecast.
More than 1,000 TV segments included Climate Matters content. Climate Matters expanded beyond the TV weatherdesk to all beats and all media.
Launched Partnership Journalism program, collaborating with local newsrooms nationwide to produce in-depth science-backed stories.
Rewrote understanding of global sea level threats with publication of a new AI-supported assessment. Generated more media and online attention than any other peer-reviewed climate research paper from at least 2011-2021 (sources: Altmetric, Carbon Brief). More than 1 million users explored Climate Central’s associated online mapping tool.
More than 1,000 TV meteorologists participating in Climate Matters–plus 800 other journalists.
More than 5,000 TV segments included Climate Matters content. Climate Matters named an international Landmark initiative by Tools of Change.
Launched Realtime Climate, a system for rapidly dispatching tailored local climate content and alerts to subscribers when local conditions warrant.
4,000 media outlets worldwide covered Picturing Our Future, Climate Central’s research and visuals that show contrasting futures under different pollution and heating scenarios—released three weeks ahead of major global climate talks in Glasgow.
Climate Central began working with The Weather Company, an IBM Business, to make our climate-related content available to a larger audience via TWC’s hundreds of media product clients.
Launched the Climate Shift Index, the world’s first service for daily local temperature attribution—putting a number on the influence of climate change on observations and forecasts.