If you're interested in some of these articles but can't get past a paywall, just contact me and I can send you copies.
As an ecologist, I regularly use the latest climate science to inform my own research directions and priorities. But what is climate change, how serious is it, and how does it affect you? This page is a primer for anyone interested in learning more about climate change.
If you take nothing else away from this page: Our planet is warming at an ALARMING rate, and scientists who study this for a living (including myself!) are EXTREMELY CONCERNED about the future of humanity and the Earth's ecosystems. This is not just "Greenpeace nonsense" or "tree-huggers in a tizzy". Climate change is not just a pet issue. If we don't fix this, people will be displaced and die. In the millions.
A 2022 study published in the journal Science, warned that the Earth is approaching (or has already begun) several Climate Tipping Points -- points of ecological collapse that, even if we rolled back global warming,
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently released its Sixth Assessment Report.
This paper does a good job going through climate impacts on extreme events.
Make up your mind -- is it global warming or climate change?
This is a sentiment I hear a lot when I listen to my friends and family discuss climate change. A lot of scientists might dismiss this criticism as anti-science, but there are valid worries when it comes to science and changing perspectives. I want to answer these questions in good faith.
As scientists, we are always updating our terminology, methods, and understanding of how the world works. This can be confusing and leads the public to often see climate science in particular as flip-flopping, wishy-washy, and unable to "make up its mind". But science is all about updating our understanding with new evidence and study; as scientists figure out how the world works, it's natural that the way we talk about it will change, too.
Human emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, like carbon dioxide and methane, causes global warming, where these gases act as an insulating blanket to raise the Earth's temperature.
Why does a small increase in global temperatures matter?
Much like your own body, the Earth's ecosystems are delicately balanced. For some, like coral reefs, a degree or two of Celsius can be the same as a difference between 98.6F and a 102F fever. And, just like the human body, an ecosystem can only tolerate so much warming before it starts to deteriorate.
We are seeing this now -- Antarctic ice sheets are melting at record rates, leaving less space for penguins and seals, and contributing to sea level rise. Coral reefs worldwide are under extreme stress from both warming and warming-caused ocean acidification. Mountain glaciers will shrink by one quarter to one half by 2100.
But lots of ecosystems deal with high temperatures, and maybe aren't as delicate as coral reefs and ice floes. What about the deserts and tropical rainforests of the world?
Okay, but the extent of human causes seems overblown to me. Doesn't the Earth go through cycles of warming and cooling anyway?
Things to cover: El Niño and atmospheric oscillations; the Ice Age and cycles of aphelion/perihelion; volcanic eruptions; etc.
Fine, we caused it, and global warming is bad. But can't we just go back to how things were? What's the rush?
In mathematics, there's a concept called a tipping point.