Climate change is already happening, and human activity is affecting global climate now, according to the new National Climate Assessment. Events like wildfires, sudden intense rains, heat waves, flooding, drought and hotter temperatures will only get worse if we don't control greenhouse gases, scientists predict.
How can people better understand climate change, and its impact today and for the future? Climate literacy includes learning the "basic concepts of regional and global climate systems, the dynamics and interconnections of the components of the Earth system, natural climate cycles, and the evidence for and implications of human-induced climate change," according to the Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN).
Explore CLEAN's Climate Literacy Essential Principles at Howtosmile.org's Climate topic section, to find hands-on activities linked with each of the seven principles:
1. The Sun is the primary source of energy for Earth's climate system.
2. Climate is regulated by complex interactions among components of the Earth system.
3. Life on Earth depends on, is shaped by, and affects climate.
4. Climate varies over space and time through both natural and man-made processes.
5. Our understanding of the climate system is improved through observations, theoretical studies, and modeling.
6. Human activities are impacting the climate system.
7. Climate change will have consequences for the Earth system and human lives.
Charting the rise in regional temperatures over decades, as in this map from the National Climatic Data Center, is one way scientists are measuring climate change and its impact. Explore what's happening to the climate with Howtosmile.org activities like What's the Difference Between Weather and Climate, Automotive Emissions and the Greenhouse Effect, and How Greenhouse Gases Absorb Heat.
Want to take environmental action at home, at school, or with your community group? Check out Howtosmile.org activities like Chemical Footprint and Pollution and Waste Audit: Making Responsible Decisions About Waste. Think really big and set up a schoolwide or community-wide climate science event, with a series of stations from the activity Making Connections: What You Can Do To Help Stop Global Climate Change.