Climate Science Sources for the Non-Scientist


Living in the Information Age, it is often overwhelming to search for information you need and knowing it is a trustworthy source. This is especially true for climate related science information for communicators to reach broad public audiences. Scientists assess and correct each other's work through peer-review, yet the conclusions in peer-reviewed literature are often spread across many dense, expensive journal articles. Sources that synthesize, condense, and translate this science are critical, and need to come from trustworthy sources to ensure that processes and/or conclusions aren't misrepresented.

The Science Partnership Committee of the National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation (NNOCCI) is made up of scientists and science communicators actively working in the field of climate and ocean change research. At the request of NNOCCI members and additional science communicators, we have compiled useful resource groups of Distilled Science Websites, Videos, and Regional Data Sources. These are trustworthy sources that provide science in an accessible format to non-science experts and should help science communicators be more confident and more effective in their own climate and ocean change communications.

Distilled Science Websites

The first resource we recommend is the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Summary for Policymakers. It is an overview of the entire 2014 IPCC research document—a synthesis of the latest peer-reviewed science on every aspect of climate and ocean chemistry change—produced by over 10,000 scientists from around the world. The summary is written in plain language, has highlighted boxes emphasizing main points for each section, and graphics to help visualize some of the more in-depth science.

Next, we recommend the Smithsonian: Making Sense of Climate Change webpage. It has reference articles and multimedia as well as a six-part video series that walks through the vastness of climate change starting with ‘what climate is’, to ‘how humans interact with climate’, to ‘how climate has changed over time’, and’ what humans can do to be part of the solution to current climate disruption’.

We also recommend Real Climate. This website has been continually updated since 2007 with the latest climate research and climate communication materials. It is laid out in sections starting for “Complete Beginners”, “Those with Some Knowledge”, “Informed, but in Need of More Detail”, and “Informed, but seeking serious discussion of common contrarian talking points”. It provides both links to other reliable websites as well as a discussion forum where you can interact with other site users.

Distilled Science Videos

If you want the most up-to-date picture of what is happening in climate science, check out Climate Science: What's New? My OneNOAA Science Seminar – 07/2018. In this 45-minute video, climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe reviews the latest science in a very accessible manner. She is a great communicator and these OneNOAA science seminars are generally very good places to find not only solid science but science being communicated in an understandable way.

A great video to give you a good picture of what climate is, how climate has changed over time, and how humans are currently disrupting climate is the History of Climate on Earth. This 11-minute SciShow video narrated by Hank Green is a cheeky view of science that is both informative and engaging. A good place to start exploring climate with people new to the issue, or those wishing to brush up on prior science education.

Finally, Global Weirding is a YouTube channel featuring Dr. Katharine Hayhoe. In this space, she talks about climate issues through various lenses from the Arctic to developing countries and geoengineering to natural cycles. Dr. Hayhoe uses solid science communication techniques (including metaphors like the Heat-trapping Blanket) to make climate issues accessible to multiple audiences.

Regional Data Sources

The world’s climate is changing, and with continued scientific understanding of the many interwoven processes there is an overwhelming amount of information to process. Fortunately, teams of scientists around the globe work to understand the climate of specific topics and areas. This provides numerous places to find regions specific climate information. This regional information is both easier to share with others in your community and provides greater connection to climate processes with more local, actionable issues. For the United States, the National Climate Assessment (NCA) is produced every four years by the United States Global Change Research Program produces. The NCA is a great interactive tool providing images, videos, graphics, and succinct scientific sound bites for ten regions in the U.S. including a section specifically on ocean impacts.

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