Since the start of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, human society has heavily relied on fossil fuels for energy. Fossil fuels are involved in almost every facet of everyday human life, such as providing heat, power, transportation, and many other services.
Although fossil fuels have undoubtedly helped human civilization advance and prosper, they have created significant adverse effects on the planet. The burning of fossil fuels over the past two centuries has contributed to increasing global temperatures, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and numerous other impacts. Additionally, fossil fuel consumption has contributed to harmful air pollution and widespread habitat destruction.
When fossil fuels are burned, they release harmful byproducts called greenhouse gases. These greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane, produce the Greenhouse Effect.
Source: 2 Degrees Institute
The sun emits longwave solar radiation to the Earth. Some of the solar radiation is reflected off of clouds and the atmosphere, and the rest is absorbed by the planet. The planet then emits shortwave infrared radiation, which would mostly go back out into space. This process helps maintain the planetary conditions necessary for life.
While the Greenhouse Effect is naturally occurring, human activity, namely burning fossil fuels, has pushed the Greenhouse Effect to the extremes. Carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases absorb the infrared radiation emitted from the planet and re-emit it back to the planet. The greenhouse gases that have built up in the atmosphere disrupt the planet's normal warming process. As the concentration of greenhouse gases increases in the atmosphere, the planet will continue to warm.
Our reliance on fossil fuels has destabilized the global climate, putting all life at risk. While the planet's climate has undergone changes in the past, the current rate of change is unprecedented, and there is enormous pressure on wildlife and ecosystems to adapt. We are now faced with a situation where scientists believe we must quickly reduce our emissions levels to 45% below 2010 levels by 2030. Otherwise, we risk increasing global temperatures beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius and suffering serious planetary consequences.
During this period of change and uncertainty, we need to make sure we don't leave people behind as we move towards a greener future. Communities historically connected with the fossil fuel industry must be supported and included in the clean energy transition. Countries that are feeling the worst impacts of climate change need help to build climate resilience and preserve their way of life. Minority communities deserve equal access to the decision-making table, so their voices can be heard.
As the world's second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the United States plays a key role in the fight against climate change. We already know where most of our emissions are coming from, but we need to implement innovative policies and support lifestyle changes. Also, as a world superpower, we need to lead by example. The world will emulate us. So why not be bold? Let's pursue
solutions aggressively. Let's hold ourselves and our allies to higher standards. Let's promote a fairer, more equal future while we strive for a greener one. This moment is our chance to transform our world into something better.
Below are some general resources that will help you understand climate science, climate change, and climate impacts. There are resources on teaching others about climate change, and you can access several different government websites that will connect you with different climate programs, data, and research tools.
Models and Simulations
Below are several models and simulators that will help you understand the impacts of climate change as well as how different policy decisions can impact our planet's future. The En-Roads simulation model, for example, allows you to experiment with different policy actions to see how effective they are at mitigating the progression of climate change. There are also useful calculators that enable users to assess their personal contribution to greenhouse gas emissions so that they can determine what lifestyle changes they should consider.
Free policy simulation model that allows users to design their own scenarios to limit future global warming
Free simulator that helps people understand the long-term climate impacts of GHG emissions and the importance of countries' emission reduction pledges
Free simulator that allows users to see the interactions of policy decisions on a nation's food system, such as reducing GHG emissions
Global Change Analysis Model
A Representative Concentration Pathway-class model that can be used to simulate and explore scenarios, policies, and emissions targets
Model that explores cost-effective emission control strategies to tackle local air quality and GHG emissions simultaneously to maximize benefits
Climate Policy Simulator
Simplistic model that simulates different policy options according to selected value judgements
The Very Simple Climate Model
Simplistic model that illustrates the relationship between CO2 levels in the atmosphere and corresponding rise in global temperatures
GHG Equivalencies Calculator
EPA calculator which can be used to understand emissions from cars, households, and power plants
Ecological Footprint Calculator
Tool to determine how many "Earths" are required to maintain users consumption levels
Carbon Footprint Calculator
Tool to determine individual, household, trip, or events emissions based on provided information
Website where you can calculate emissions from plane travel, environmental impact, and emission reduction by lifestyle changes
Offset Your Flight
Carbon offset calculator for airplane travel using United
Databases and Browsers
I've collected several databases and browsers with resources on climate data, climate change impacts, policy. Whether for research or personal discussions about climate change, these resources will provide you the necessary information on climate change and its impacts to become a climate leader.
State Climate Summaries
Resource for state-level climate information, including observed and projected climate trends and impacts
NCEI Map Viewer
Comprehensive map viewer of oceanic, atmospheric, and geophysical data from the National Centers of Environmental Information
IPCC Data Distribution Center
Climate, socio-economic, and environmental data provided by the IPCC for researchers, governments, and the general public
Climate Data Initiative
Collection of datasets related to coastal flooding, food resilience, water, human health, energy infrastructure, and other topics
Global Change Information System
GCIS coordinated and integrates information about changed in the global environment and related societal effects
Global Climate Dashboard
Visualization tool of historical and projected climate change indicators, such as temperatures, carbon dioxide levels, and sea level
Eyes on the Earth Interactive
NASA application that allows users to monitor the planet's vital signs via NASA's satellites and missions
Global Monitoring Laboratory Data Viewer
NOAA data mapper displaying information on aerosols, meteorology, solar radiation levels, and more
IEA Data and Statistics
IEA data browser on energy, emissions, prices, and SDGs
Methane Tracker Database
Interactive database of country and regional estimates for methane emissions and abatement options
Climate trends and variability measured at near real-time
Climate Impact Map
Visualization of climate impacts on the US under different scenarios
Future Urban Climate Map
Visualization tool that compares the future climates of US cities to other cities around the world should climate change proceed as expected
Sea Level Rise Map
Map viewer that visualizes community-level impacts from coastal flooding or sea level rise
Emissions Factor Database
IPCC data library providing information on emission factors and other parameters that can be used for estimating GHG emissions and removals
Database of energy and climate policies from countries around the world
Below are some publications and reports from the IPCC, US agencies, and other organizations. Most of the included publications are reports on climate change and its impacts, discussing them from a broader perspective. There exist hundreds of tailored climate research papers that address specific questions, which you will have to find elsewhere. Google Scholar is a good starting point!
Bill Nye provides a simple, quick explanation of climate change and its impacts.
This is another quick rundown of the causes of climate change and its effects on the planet.
This is another video that looks at the fossil fuel industry and explains its connection to the changing global climate. In addition to discussing climate change impacts, this video also looks at some potential solutions.
Many people believe certain climate change myths because they sound scientific. Fossil fuel special interests hire "scientists" to create a false debate around the causes and impacts of climate change. This video looks at some common myths and debunks them.
We can all play a part in mitigating our own personal carbon footprint. Many simple actions, such as eating less meat, require little effort or changes in lifestyle! This video explains some strategies to consider if you want to reduce your personal carbon footprint.
Climate change will have disproportionate negative impacts on minority communities. These communities are often in locations more susceptible to impacts like rising sea levels or increasing temperatures. Additionally, they lack the quality infrastructure, financial means, and political power to effectively respond to climate change. This video delves into this social problem.
This video focuses on two of the main ways to address climate change: mitigation and adaptation. The video looks at how climate change is affected communities around the US and how these communities are dealing with its impacts.