climate change discussion essay

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From the field climate week nyc, you asked: what’s the best way to talk about climate change.

climate change discussion essay

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climate change discussion essay

Hurricane Ida is seen in this image taken aboard the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

More Americans today are worried about climate change than ever before. From 2014 to 2020, the proportion of people who said they felt “alarmed” by global warming nearly tripled, according to research from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. But while public awareness for climate change is at an all-time high, dinner tables and debate stages can still feel boobytrapped with uncomfortable conversations. As part of State of the Planet’s “You Asked” series, Columbia scientists, journalists, and content creators spoke to why that is and how, through thoughtful climate communication, it doesn’t have to be.

The Evolution of Climate Communication

Climate scientist and Columbia Climate School professor Kate Marvel remembers when the main story about climate change had to do with whether or not it existed. Experts not unlike herself were pitted against skeptics on live television with little time for well-meaning discussion. The relatively few stories that did uplift climate science focused on what was happening in the natural world; for mainstream publications—and the majority of their readers—that meant climate change was synonymous with polar bears trapped on melting icebergs or rainforests burning in the Amazon.

Andrew Revkin was an environmental reporter with The New York Times for over 15 years before joining the Earth Institute as the director of the Initiative on Communication and Sustainability. He said the “newsroom norm” of  prioritizing what had happened that day made it difficult for issues with incremental developments and long-term time horizons to get top billing. It is only in the last handful of years, he noted, that climate change has begun to “infuse itself into other coverage,” with reporters writing about its impact on other pressing social issues such as public health and racial justice.

At the same time, climate solutions have become more visible and scalable, resulting in coverage that considershow the crisis can be mitigated, rather than just its consequences. Sabine Marx, former managing director of Columbia’s Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, said this shift has offered a psychological advantage in how the threat of climate change is communicated. “If I know there are steps that I can take towards actionable solutions, then I am much more likely to accept that there’s a problem,” she explained.

Climate communication has also been supported by the proliferation of new forms of media.  Sustainable Development student Lauren Ritchie , for example, founded the online platform The EcoJustice Project to make climate education and action more accessible to her generation.

“Gen Z is eager to learn and trying to get involved,” said Ritchie. “Most of the time, I’m making content based on what I would want to consume.”

Through social media features like Instagram Live, Ritchie provides her tens of thousands of followers with the opportunity to hear firsthand from people experiencing and responding to climate change in their communities.

How To Talk About Climate Change

Whether it is in person, in print, or online, climate communication often begins where it ends—with the audience. Marx explained that the experiences and values of a person inherently shape the way that they choose to engage with climate change, if at all. As a result, what resonates with a financial investor in New England might not be what resonates with a farmer in the Southeast.

“Knowing your audience will allow you to get beyond the information deficit so that you can look at filling a motivation deficit,” said Marx.

With no shortage of prospective audiences, climate communicators are constantly adapting the way that they frame the issue, a process that Marvel has found to be really empowering. “I don’t like feeling like a robot,” she said. “I think if you decide that there’s only one way to communicate about this, and you have to say the same thing over and over, then you’re going to burn out really quickly.”

Journalist Brian Kahn will use any combination of analogies, examples, and recent climate events in his work to connect with his readers—including the ones who send him hate mail. “As long as they’re not threatening my life, I’ll usually respond,” he said. “There’s a surprising amount of common ground between folks where you might not expect it.”

climate change discussion essay

Flooding in the Bronx the day after Ida passed through New York City. Credit: Jim Griffin

While finding common ground does not always equate to changing someone’s mind, Marvel noted that it is often the “human conversations without ulterior motives” that are the most productive. “When I talk about climate change, I want other people to understand this thing that’s really important to me,” she said, “and I want to learn from other people.”

It is a strategy that Marx refers to as “leading to ” climate change, rather than “leading with ” climate change. By starting with what is relatable—raising kids, owning a home, enjoying long walks on the beach—the impacts of climate change can be tethered to the shared reality of what is at stake. “We want to open the door with something that is meaningful to people, something that they care about,” she said.

The Future of Climate Communication

Given that climate communication has changed so much in the last two decades, it can be difficult to predict what will come next for the field as a whole. For Revkin, the future of climate communication will involve convening more stakeholders for in-depth conversations rather than writing for traditional media outlets.

“Climate and sustainability communication is different from telling another good story,” he said. “It’s getting brains into a place and having them think about something they might not otherwise, to collaborate on something that they can do more effectively together than alone.”

Through his “Sustain What?” webcast series, Revkin has already hosted a wide variety of experts to discuss issues ranging from global ecological restoration to the future of nuclear energy . In the last year and a half, he has recorded over 220 episodes that have engaged an estimated one million listeners.

The creation of new shared spaces like the “Sustain What?” webcast series can also function to champion greater diversity in climate discourse—something that Ritchie, Marvel, and Kahn stressed is desperately needed moving forward. “There is so much nuance to climate change,” said Ritchie, “and yet we tend to look at it through this privileged, white lens.”

Marvel agreed. “It’s an existential problem if climate communication is a monolith,” she said. “No one person or group of people is going to be able to talk to all communities, so we need to uplift diverse voices.”

Perhaps then the most important part of climate communication is that it keeps happening in more places with more people, especially in the face of what Kahn referred to as an “epidemic of climate silence” in the United States and around the world.

“People should not be afraid to talk about this stuff,” he said. “Having these conversations—even if they feel hard—is the first step to actually acting, passing climate policy, and getting this work done.”

Watch Elise Gout chat with Andy Revkin, Director of Columbia Climate School’s Initiative on Communication and Sustainability and host of the “Sustain What?” webcast series, on how to talk about climate change. 

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How to talk about climate change: Ask questions

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What’s something that, as a climate-conscious individual, I may not already be doing that I should be (or shouldn’t be doing that I am doing)?

— Moe L. via Twitter

You’re probably not talking about it much. If my guess is correct — that is, you’re not having many conversations about climate change with friends, family, neighbors, and others in your community — my colleague Jennifer Marlon and I hope you’ll consider speaking up more often in the future.

To help you get started, she and I developed a strategy for talking about climate change in a way that will deepen your relationship with the people you care about.

Why it’s important to talk about climate change

But first, why do we want you to talk about it? We talk about what we care about.

What you choose to discuss with your friends and family helps them understand what is important to your community. “Talk” is the fertile field in which cultural change begins; in its absence, it’s impossible for a group of people to solve a problem.

And your words can have more of an effect than you might think.

A few months ago, I heard Marlon talking about “electrifying everything” — the idea that appliances and vehicles that run on fossil fuels ought to be replaced with their electric-powered counterparts, which have the capacity to run on low-carbon electricity.

Around the same time, a natural-gas-fueled HVAC unit died at my house. I decided to replace it with an all-electric heat pump , even though salesmen from two different HVAC companies tried to talk me out of it.

I’m not an HVAC expert, so it was unnerving to listen to sales reps steering me away from making the climate-friendly choice. But I also knew that a respected person in my professional community, Marlon, wouldn’t think getting a heat pump was weird. That helped me to muster my courage, ignore the salesmen, and insist on the heat pump. In other words, a casual conversation helped me to make a decision that will prevent the release of tens of thousands of pounds of carbon pollution during the next 10 years.

Researchers have documented similar social influences on other consumer choices. When our peers purchase hybrid vehicles or put solar panels on their roofs , we become more likely to follow suit.

So talk is powerful — but when it comes to climate change, a surprising number of people aren’t speaking up.

Obstacles to starting conversations about climate change

More Americans than ever are alarmed about climate change , but those of us who are worrying about the problem tend to do so quietly. In fact, two in three Americans say they “rarely” or “never” discuss global warming with friends and family, according to a nationally representative survey conducted in March 2021.

Why don’t more people talk about it? At least a couple of reasons: Global warming is a huge bummer, so maybe it doesn’t feel right to bring it up at mom’s birthday dinner or your best friend’s baby shower.

Many people are also concerned that bringing up the topic will trigger ridicule or even hostility from a person who denies the reality of climate change. Few people would prefer hearing an explosive, fact-free Thanksgiving Day rant from Uncle Rude when they could just enjoy their turkey and mashed potatoes in peace.

But if those of us who care about this issue aren’t willing to risk raising the subject, how do we expect things to change? The good news is, more Americans than you might think are coming around to the reality of climate change. As the chart below shows, when survey respondents are asked to guess the percentage of Americans who believe global warming is happening, they usually underestimate the true number.

The reality: 76% of American adults (93% of Democrats, 58% of Republicans, and 74% of Independents) believe that global warming is happening. That means you’re likely to find plenty of people in your community who are willing to participate in friendly conversations about the problem.

How many adults think global warming is happening

Tips for starting conversations about climate change

Getting started doesn’t have to be awkward. Think about the people in your life who are most likely to care about the problem. For this exercise, your goal is to identify other people who are concerned about global warming — not to argue with those who deny the reality of climate change. You won’t need to prepare a speech or memorize a bunch of facts about climate science.

Instead, think of the conversations as information-gathering missions, with carefully listening as your most important task. You’ll be asking your friends and family questions, probing them for advice and insights from their own experiences, something most people love talking about.

To prepare for those conversations, spend time thinking about what you would most like to learn about from those around you. Grab a piece of paper and draw lines to divide it into three columns.

In the first column, write down any actions you’ve already taken (or are in the process of taking) to conserve energy and resources, pollute less, or contribute to policy change. The items can be anything big or small: switching to LED lightbulbs, helping your kids connect with nature, contacting an elected representative about climate change, and so on.

In the second column, write down actions you haven’t taken yet but would be willing to do. Maybe you’ve been wanting to eat more plant-based meals or volunteer with an environmental group but haven’t yet changed your shopping habits or found the right group. Here’s a great list of other pro-climate actions you could consider.

Finally, use the third column to write down anything you’re not willing to do. Maybe you travel a lot for work and have no way to avoid it. That’s OK. Sometimes the system has to change before individuals can access sustainable options.

Jennifer Marlon chart

Now review your columns. Congratulate yourself on any items you’ve listed in column one. Then turn to column two. The items on this list are the fodder for your conversations with your friends and family.

For example, if you’ve been wanting to add more meatless meals to your diet, you can ask your friends who are great cooks for their favorite meat-free dishes. Or if you’re voting in an election, you might ask your friends if they want to go with you and make it a social event.

In this way, you will be building a network of trusted people who you can turn to for support and answers.

As people in your network are offering advice, make sure to listen first. Eventually, you’ll likely have an opportunity to explain why you’re interested in eating less meat, voting more regularly, or the like. When the moment is right, you might find them turning back to you when they find themselves in a similar position. And engaging in these conversations will help set a norm in your social group that it’s worth doing something about the climate.

As you get more comfortable talking about climate change, you can also revisit the list in column three. Do you see anything that you’d consider moving to column two if you had support from someone else? For example, you might feel intimidated by the idea of calling an elected official to express your views on climate change. But what if your politically minded children filled you in on their experiences making those calls and offered you some tips? Would that change anything?

After you’ve taken action, talk about it. You thought your friend’s veggie taco recipe was delicious, so tell her. You and your friends voted for the mayoral candidate who supports public transit — and she actually won. Brag about it. You installed an all-electric heat pump? Show it off to everyone who visits your home. And then keep asking questions — and talking. By itself, talk won’t save the climate. But it’s a good place to start.

 — Sara and Jenn

P.S. Thanks to our colleagues at the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication who participated in a brainstorm that informed this column.

Jennifer R. Marlon, Ph.D., is a research scientist at the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, publisher of this site and one of the organizations that led the surveys cited above.

Tom Toro  is a cartoonist and writer who has published over 200 cartoons in The New Yorker since 2010.

Got a question about climate change? Send it to  [email protected] . Questions may be edited for length and clarity.

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climate change discussion essay

The Center for Global Studies

Climate change argumentation.

Carmen Vanderhoof, Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education, Penn State

Carmen Vanderhoof is a doctoral candidate in Science Education at Penn State. Her research employs multimodal discourse analysis of elementary students engaged in a collaborative engineering design challenge in order to examine students’ decision-making practices. Prior to resuming graduate studies, she was a secondary science teacher and conducted molecular biology research. 

  • Subject(s):  Earth Science
  • Topic:  Climate Change and Sustainability
  • Grade/Level:  9-12 (can be adapted to grades 6-8)
  • Objectives:  Students will be able to write a scientific argument using evidence and reasoning to support claims. Students will also be able to reflect on the weaknesses in their own arguments in order to improve their argument and then respond to other arguments.
  • Suggested Time Allotment:  4-5 hours (extra time for extension)

This lesson is derived from Dr. Peter Buckland’s sustainability  presentation for the Center for Global Studies . Dr. Peter Buckland, a Penn State alumnus, is a postdoctoral fellow for the Sustainability Institute. He has drawn together many resources for teaching about climate change, sustainability, and other environmental issues. 

While there are many resources for teaching about climate change and sustainability, it may be tough to figure out where to start. There are massive amounts of data available to the general public and students need help searching for good sources of evidence. Prior to launching into a search, it would be worthwhile figuring out what the students already know about climate change, where they learned it, and how they feel about efforts to reduce our carbon footprint. There are many options for eliciting prior knowledge, including taking online quizzes, whole-class discussion, or drawing concept maps. For this initial step, it is important that students feel comfortable to share, without engaging in disagreements. The main idea is to increase students’ understanding about global warming, rather than focus on the potential controversial nature of this topic.

A major goal of this unit is to engage students in co-constructing evidence-based explanations through individual writing, sharing, re-writing, group discussion, and whole group reflection. The argumentation format presented here contains claims supported by evidence and reasoning (Claims Evidence Reasoning – CER). Argumentation in this sense is different from how the word “argument” is used in everyday language. Argumentation is a collaborative process towards an end goal, rather than a competition to win (Duschl & Osborne, 2002). Scientific argumentation is the process of negotiating and communicating findings through a series of claims supported by evidence from various sources along with a rationale or reasoning linking the claim with the evidence. For students, making the link between claim and evidence can be the most difficult part of the process.

Where does the evidence come from?

Evidence and data are often used synonymously, but there is a difference. Evidence is “the representation of data in a form that undergirds an argument that works to answer the original question” (Hand et al., 2009, p. 129). This explains why even though scientists may use the same data to draw explanations from, the final product may take different forms depending on which parts of the data were used and how. For example, in a court case experts from opposing sides may use the same data to persuade the jury to reach different conclusions. Another way to explain this distinction to students is “the story built from the data that leads to a claim is the evidence” (Hand et al., 2009, p. 129). Evidence can come from many sources – results from controlled experiments, measurements, books, articles, websites, personal observations, etc. It is important to discuss with students the issue of the source’s reliability and accuracy. When using data freely available online, ask yourself: Who conducted the study? Who funded the research? Where was it published or presented? 

What is a claim and how do I find it?

A scientific claim is a statement that answers a question or an inference based on information, rather than just personal opinion.               

How can I connect the claim(s) with the evidence?

That’s where the justification or reasoning comes in. This portion of the argument explains why the evidence is relevant to the claim or how the evidence supports the claim.


Learning context and connecting to state standards.

This interdisciplinary unit can be used in an earth science class or adapted to environmental science, chemistry, or physics. The key to adapting the lesson is guiding students to sources of data that fit the discipline they are studying.

For  earth science , students can explain the difference between climate and weather, describe the factors associated with global climate change, and explore a variety of data sources to draw their evidence from.  Pennsylvania Academic Standards  for earth and space science (secondary): 3.3.12.A1, 3.3.12.A6, 3.3.10.A7.    

For  environmental science , students can analyze the costs and benefits of pollution control measures.  Pennsylvania Academic Standards  for Environment and Ecology (secondary): 4.5.12.C.          

For  chemistry  and  physics , students can explain the function of greenhouse gases, construct a model of the greenhouse effect, and model energy flow through the atmosphere.   Pennsylvania Academic Standards  for Physical Sciences (secondary): 3.2.10.B6.      

New Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Connections

Human impacts and global climate change are directly addressed in the NGSS.  Disciplinary Core Ideas  (DCI): HS-ESS3-3, HS-ESS3-4, HS-ESS3-5, HS-ESS3-6.     

Lesson 1: Introduction to climate change

  • What are greenhouse gases and the greenhouse effect? (sample answer: greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane contribute to overall heating of the atmosphere; these gases trap heat just like the glass in a greenhouse or in a car) 
  • What is the difference between weather and climate? (sample answer: weather is the daily temperature and precipitation measurements, while climate is a much longer pattern over multiple years)

Drawing of the greenhouse effect  – as individuals or in pairs, have students look up the greenhouse effect and draw a diagram to represent it; share out with the class

  • Optional: figure out students’ beliefs about global warming using the Yale Six Americas Survey (students answer a series of questions and at the end they are given one of the following categories: alarmed, concerned, cautious, disengaged, doubtful, dismissive).

Lesson 2: Searching for and evaluating evidence

  • Compare different data sources and assess their credibility
  • Temperature
  • Precipitation
  • Storm surge
  • Ask the students to think about what types of claims they can make about climate change using the data they found (Sample claims: human activity is causing global warming or sea-level rise in the next fifty years will affect coastal cities like Amsterdam, Hong Kong, or New Orleans).

Lesson 3: Writing an argument using evidence

  • Claim – an inference or a statement that answers a question
  • Evidence – an outside source of information that supports the claim, often drawn from selected data
  • Reasoning –  the justification/support for the claim; what connects the evidence with the claim
  • Extending arguments –  have students exchange papers and notice the strengths of the other arguments they are reading (can do multiple cycles of reading); ask students to go back to their original argument and expand it with more evidence and/or more justification for why the evidence supports the claim
  • Anticipate Rebuttals  – ask students to think and write about any weaknesses in their own argument

Lesson 4: Argumentation discussion  

  • rebuttal  – challenges a component of someone’s argument – for example, a challenge to the evidence used in the original argument
  • counterargument  – a whole new argument that challenges the original argument
  • respect group members and their ideas
  • wait for group members to finish their turns before speaking
  • be mindful of your own contributions to the discussion (try not to take over the whole discussion so others can contribute too; conversely, if you didn’t already talk, find a way to bring in a new argument, expand on an existing argument, or challenge another argument)  
  • Debate/discussion  – In table groups have students share their arguments and practice rebuttals and counterarguments
  • Whole-group reflection  – ask students to share key points from their discussion

Lesson 5: Argumentation in action case study

Mumbai, india case study.

Rishi is a thirteen year old boy who attends the Gayak Rafi Nagar Urdu Municipal school in Mumbai. There is a massive landfill called Deonar right across from his school. Every day 4,000 tons of waste are piled on top of the existing garbage spanning 132 hectares (roughly half a square mile). Rishi ventures out to the landfill after school to look for materials that he can later trade for a little bit of extra money to help his family. He feels lucky that he gets to go to school during the day; others are not so lucky. One of his friends, Aamir, had to stop going to school and work full time after his dad got injured. They often meet to chat while they dig through the garbage with sticks. Occasionally, they find books in okay shape, which aren’t worth anything in trade, but to them they are valuable.

One day Rishi was out to the market with his mom and saw the sky darken with a heavy smoke that blocked out the sun. They both hurried home and found out there was a state of emergency and the schools closed for two days. It took many days to put out the fire at Deonar. He heard his dad say that the fire was so bad that it could be seen from space. He wonders what it would be like to see Mumbai from up there. Some days he wishes the government would close down Deonar and clean it up. Other days he wonders what would happen to all the people that depend on it to live if the city shuts down Deonar.

Mumbai is one of the coastal cities that are considered vulnerable with increasing global temperature and sea level rise. The urban poor are most affected by climate change. Their shelter could be wiped out by a tropical storm and rebuilding would be very difficult.

Write a letter to a public official who may be able to influence policy in Mumbai.

What would you recommend they do? Should they close Deonar? What can they do to reduce air pollution in the city and prepare for possible storms? Remember to use evidence in your argument.  

If students want to read the articles that inspired the case study direct them to:


  • Lines of Evidence  video  from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine  
  • Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network  (CLEAN) 
  • Climate maps  from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Sources of data from  NASA
  • Explore the original source of the  Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences (PNAS) study

Differentiated Instruction

  • For visual learners – use diagrams, encourage students to map out their arguments prior to writing them
  • For auditory learners – use the lines of evidence video
  • For ESL students – provide them with a variety of greenhouse gases diagrams, allow for a more flexible argument format and focus on general meaning-making – ex. using arrows to connect their sources of evidence to claims
  • For advanced learners – ask them to search through larger data sets and make comparisons between data from different sources; they can also research environmental policies and why they stalled out in congress 
  • For learners that need more support – print out excerpts from articles; pinpoint the main ideas to help with the research; help students connect their evidence with their claims; consider allowing students to work in pairs to accomplish the writing task 

Argument write-up  – check that students’ arguments contain claims supported by evidence and reasoning and that they thought about possible weaknesses in their own arguments. 

Case study letter  – check that students included evidence in their letter.


Duschl, R. A., & Osborne, J. (2002). Supporting and promoting argumentation discourse in science education.

Hand, B. et al. (2009) Negotiating Science: The Critical Role of Argumentation in Student Inquiry. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

McNeill, K. L., & Krajcik, J. (2012). Claim, evidence and reasoning: Supporting grade 5 – 8 students in constructing scientific explanations. New York, NY: Pearson Allyn & Bacon.

Sawyer, R. K. (Ed.). (2014). The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

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Home / For Educators: Grades 6-12 / Climate Explained: Introductory Essays About Climate Change Topics

Climate Explained: Introductory Essays About Climate Change Topics

Filed under: backgrounders for educators ,.

Climate Explained, a part of Yale Climate Connections, is an essay collection that addresses an array of climate change questions and topics, including why it’s cold outside if global warming is real, how we know that humans are responsible for global warming, and the relationship between climate change and national security.

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Climate Change Basics: Five Facts, Ten Words

Backgrounders for Educators

To simplify the scientific complexity of climate change, we focus on communicating five key facts about climate change that everyone should know. 

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Why should we care about climate change?

Having different perspectives about global warming is natural, but the most important thing that anyone should know about climate change is why it matters.  

climate change discussion essay

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A civil discourse on climate change

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In a small auditorium, about 100 people sit listening to a speaker who is out of frame

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A new MIT initiative designed to encourage open dialogue on campus kicked off with a conversation focused on how to address challenges related to climate change.

“Climate Change: Existential Threat or Bump in the Road” featured Steve Koonin, theoretical physicist and former U.S. undersecretary for science during the Obama administration, and Kerry Emanuel, professor emeritus of atmospheric science at MIT. A crowd of roughly 130 students, staff, and faculty gathered in an MIT lecture hall for the discussion on Tuesday, Oct. 24. 

“The bump is strongly favored,” Koonin said when the talk began, referring to his contention that climate change was a “bump in the road” rather than an existential threat. After proposing a future in which we could potentially expect continued growth in America’s gross domestic product despite transportation and infrastructure challenges related to climate change, he concluded that investments in nuclear energy and capacity increases related to storing wind- and solar-generated energy could help mitigate climate-related phenomena. 

Emanuel, while mostly agreeing with Koonin’s assessment of climate challenges and potential solutions, cautioned against underselling the threat of human-aided climate change.

“Humanity’s adaptation to climate stability hasn’t prepared us to effectively manage massive increases in temperature and associated effects,” he argued. “We’re poorly adapted to less-frequent events like those we’re observing now.”

Decarbonization, Emanuel noted, can help mitigate global conflicts related to fossil fuel usage. “Carbonization kills between 8 and 9 million people annually,” he said.

The conversation on climate change is one of several planned on campus this academic year. The speaker series is one part of “ Civil Discourse in the Classroom and Beyond ,” an initiative being led by MIT philosophers Alex Byrne and Brad Skow. The two-year project is meant to encourage the open exchange of ideas inside and outside college and university classrooms. 

The speaker series pairs external thought leaders with MIT faculty to encourage the interrogation and debate of all kinds of ideas.

Finding common ground

At the talk on climate change, both Koonin and Emanuel recommended a slow and steady approach to mitigation efforts, reminding attendees that, for example, developing nations can’t afford to take a developed world approach to climate change. 

“These people have immediate needs to meet,” Koonin reminded the audience, “which can include fossil fuel use.”

Both Koonin and Emanuel recommended a series of steps to assist with both climate change mitigation and effective messaging:

  • Sustain and improve climate science — continue to investigate and report findings.
  • Improve climate communications for non-experts — tell an easy-to-understand and cohesive story.
  • Focus on reliability and affordability before mitigation — don’t undertake massive efforts that may disrupt existing energy transmission infrastructure.
  • Adopt a “graceful” approach to decarbonization — consider impacts as broadly as possible.
  • Don’t constrain energy supply in the developing world.
  • Increase focus on developing and delivering alternative responses  — consider the potential ability to scale power generation, and delivery methods like nuclear energy.

Mitigating climate risk requires political will, careful consideration, and an improved technical approach to energy policy, both concluded.

“We have to learn to deal rationally with climate risk in a polarized society,” Koonin offered.

The audience asked both speakers questions about impacts on nonhuman species (“We don’t know but we should,” both shared); nuclear fusion (“There isn’t enough tritium to effectively scale the widespread development of fusion-based energy; perhaps in 30 to 40 years,” Koonin suggested); and the planetary boundaries framework (“There’s good science underway in this space and I’m curious to see where it’s headed,” said Emanuel.) 

“The event was a great success,” said Byrne, afterward. “The audience was engaged, and there was a good mix of faculty and students.”

“One surprising thing,” Skow added, “was both Koonin and Emanuel were down on wind and solar power, [especially since] the idea that we need to transition to both is certainly in the air.”

More conversations

A second speaker series event, held earlier this month, was “Has Feminism Made Progress?” with Mary Harrington, author of “Feminism Against Progress,” and Anne McCants, MIT professor of history. An additional discussion planned for spring 2024 will cover the public health response to Covid-19.

Discussions from the speaker series will appear as special episodes on “The Good Fight,” a podcast hosted by Johns Hopkins University political scientist Yascha Mounk.

The Civil Discourse project is made possible due, in part, to funding from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations and a collaboration between the MIT History Section and Concourse , a program featuring an integrated, cross-disciplinary approach to investigating some of humanity’s most interesting questions.

The Civil Discourse initiative includes two components: the speaker series open to the MIT community, and seminars where students can discuss freedom of expression and develop skills for successfully engaging in civil discourse.

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  • 10 November 2023

Earth just had its hottest year on record — climate change is to blame

  • Carissa Wong

You can also search for this author in PubMed   Google Scholar

Extreme-heat events affected places including Texas in the past year. Credit: Brandon Bell/Getty

You have full access to this article via your institution.

The past 12 months were the hottest on record. Some 7.3 billion people worldwide were exposed, for at least 10 days, to temperatures that were heavily influenced by global warming, with one-quarter of people facing dangerous levels of extreme heat over the past 12 months, according to a report by the non-profit organization Climate Central, based in Princeton, New Jersey.

“These impacts are only going to grow as long as we continue to burn coal, oil and natural gas,” says Andrew Pershing, vice-president for science at Climate Central.

climate change discussion essay

Cities must protect people from extreme heat

Researchers have previously estimated the influence of climate change on specific extreme weather events, a process known as climate attribution. Now, scientists have calculated the impact of human-induced climate change on daily air temperatures in 175 countries and 920 cities from November 2022 to the start of October 2023.

They found that the average global temperature over the past 12 months was 1.32 ºC above that during the pre-industrial baseline period of 1850 to 1900, surpassing the previous record of 1.29 ºC that was set from October 2015 to September 2016 (see ‘Heating planet’). The finding comes as the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service predicted that 2023 will be the hottest calendar year on record, with the average temperature up to October being 1.43 ºC above the pre-industrial average.

Heating planet. Chart showing global mean temperature rising since 1970.

Source: Climate Central

“This is the hottest temperature that our planet has experienced in something like 125,000 years,” says Pershing.

Most of this warming, about 1.28 ºC, results from human-induced climate change, with natural variation caused by processes such as the current ocean-warming El Niño event contributing much less, says climate researcher Friederike Otto at Imperial College London.

By analysing daily air-temperature data and using computational models, the team calculated the effect of climate change on temperatures worldwide using a measure called the Climate Shift Index (CSI). The CSI scale runs from −5 to 5; a value of zero means there is no detectable influence of human-caused climate change on daily temperatures, whereas a positive value indicates how much more likely climate change made the observed temperature. A negative value means climate change made the observed temperature less likely.

climate change discussion essay

Earth’s hottest month: these charts show what happened in July and what comes next

The researchers found that 7.3 billion people worldwide were exposed, for at least 10 days, to temperatures that were strongly affected by climate change. In the first half of the past 12 months, tropical regions across South America, Africa and southeast Asia experienced the most days with temperatures that were strongly attributable to climate change, defined as having a CSI value of 3 or higher. These effects were felt even more strongly in the second half of the year-long period.

In Jamaica, the country where global warming was found to have had the greatest impact on daily temperatures, people experienced temperatures that were made over 4.5 times more likely by climate change. Guatemala and Rwanda also experienced temperatures that were made more than four times more likely by climate change.

The researchers also estimated the extent to which 700 cities with populations of at least one million experienced extreme heat over the past 12 months, defined as daily temperatures that are expected to occur less than 1% of the time in that location. They did this by comparing recent temperature data with data collected over a reference period of 1991–2020.

Unbroken heat. Chart showing top ten cities which recorded longest extreme heat streaks in 2023.

The team found that 156 cities in 37 countries experienced five or more consecutive days of extreme heat, with 144 cities experiencing temperatures that were made at least 2 times more likely by climate change. Houston, Texas, had the longest heat streak of 22 days. The next most-affected cities were Jakarta; New Orleans, Louisiana; Tangerang, Indonesia; and Qujing in China, all of whose inhabitants faced at least 16 days of extreme heat in a row (see ‘Unbroken heat’). Worldwide, 1.9 billion people, or 24% of the population, endured five consecutive days of extreme heat.

Extreme heat, along with flooding and droughts, is often deadly and displaces thousands of people. “By continuing to burn fossil fuels the way we do, it’s a massive violation of the really basic human rights of the vast majority of the planet,” says Otto.

El Niño, which is projected to last until at least April 2024, will push temperatures even higher next year, says Pershing.

climate change discussion essay

Extreme heat harms health — what is the human body’s limit?

The study clearly provides robust evidence for the science of climate-change attribution, says climate researcher Cecilia Conde at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City.

“This is a really appreciated effort,” says climate researcher Karsten Haustein at Leipzig University in Germany. “It’s great in that this approach can provide continuous updates on the hottest 12 months, not just the hottest [calendar] year, so that hopefully helps to raise awareness of climate change’s impacts each month.”

Joyce Kimutai, a meteorologist at Kenya Meteorological Department in Nairobi, says the analysis underscores the urgent need for countries to take action. She adds that at the United Nations COP28 climate summit later this month, the world needs to make progress on phasing out fossil fuels and implementing the ‘loss and damage’ fund through which rich countries have agreed to help low-income countries cope with the social and physical devastation caused by climate change.

Nature 623 , 674-675 (2023)


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Lesson of the Day

Explore 7 Climate Change Solutions

In this lesson, students will use a jigsaw activity to learn about some of the most effective strategies and technologies that can help head off the worst effects of global warming.

Migrating cranes flying near Straussfurt, Germany. Climate change and biodiversity are “more deeply intertwined than originally thought,” one of the leaders of a new report said. <a href="">Related Article</a>

By Natalie Proulx

Lesson Overview

Earlier this summer, a report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change , a body of scientists convened by the United Nations, found that some devastating impacts of global warming were unavoidable. But there is still a short window to stop things from getting even worse.

This report will be central at COP26 , the international climate summit where about 20,000 heads of state, diplomats and activists are meeting in person this week to set new targets for cutting emissions from coal, oil and gas that are heating the planet.

In this lesson, you will learn about seven ways we can slow down climate change and head off some of its most catastrophic consequences while we still have time. Using a jigsaw activity , you’ll become an expert in one of these strategies or technologies and share what you learn with your classmates. Then, you will develop your own climate plan and consider ways you can make a difference based on your new knowledge.

What do you know about the ways the world can slow climate change? Start by making a list of strategies, technologies or policies that could help solve the climate crisis.

Which of your ideas do you think could have the biggest impact on climate change? Circle what you think might be the top three.

Now, test your knowledge by taking this 2017 interactive quiz:

climate change discussion essay

How Much Do You Know About Solving Global Warming?

A new book presents 100 potential solutions. Can you figure out which ones are top ranked?

After you’ve finished, reflect on your own in writing or in discussion with a partner:

What solutions to climate change did you learn about that you didn’t know before?

Were you surprised by any of the answers in the quiz? If so, which ones and why?

What questions do you still have about solving climate change?

Jigsaw Activity

As you learned in the warm-up, there are many possible ways to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. Below we’ve rounded up seven of the most effective solutions, many of which you may have been introduced to in the quiz above.

In this jigsaw activity, you’ll become an expert in one of the climate solutions listed below and then present what you learned to your classmates. Teachers may assign a student or small group to each topic, or allow them to choose. Students, read at least one of the linked articles on your topic; you can also use that article as a jumping-off point for more research.

Climate Change Solutions

Renewable energy: Scientists agree that to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change, countries must immediately move away from dirty energy sources like coal, oil and gas, and instead turn to renewable energy sources like wind, solar or nuclear power. Read about the potent possibilities of one of these producers, offshore wind farms , and see how they operate .

Refrigerants: It’s not the most exciting solution to climate change, but it is one of the most effective. Read about how making refrigerants, like air-conditioners, more efficient could eliminate a full degree Celsius of warming by 2100.

Transportation: Across the globe, governments are focused on limiting one of the world’s biggest sources of pollution: gasoline-powered cars. Read about the promises and challenges of electric vehicles or about how countries are rethinking their transit systems .

Methane emissions: You hear a lot about the need to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but what about its dangerous cousin, methane? Read about ideas to halt methane emissions and why doing so could be powerful in the short-term fight against climate change.

Agriculture: Efforts to limit global warming often target fossil fuels, but cutting greenhouse gases from food production is urgent, too, research says. Read about four fixes to earth’s food supply that could go a long way.

Nature conservation: Scientists agree that reversing biodiversity loss is a crucial way to slow climate change. Read about how protecting and restoring nature can help cool the planet or about how Indigenous communities could lead the way .

Carbon capture: Eliminating emissions alone may not be enough to avoid some of the worst effects of climate change, so some companies are investing in technology that sucks carbon dioxide out of the air. Learn more about so-called engineered carbon removal .

Questions to Consider

As you read about your climate solution, respond to the questions below. You can record your answers in this graphic organizer (PDF).

1. What is the solution? How does it work?

2. What problem related to climate change does this strategy address?

3. What effect could it have on global warming?

4. Compared with other ways to mitigate climate change, how effective is this one? Why?

5. What are the limitations of this solution?

6. What are some of the challenges or risks (political, social, economic or technical) of this idea?

7. What further questions do you have about this strategy?

When you’ve finished, you’ll meet in “teaching groups” with at least one expert in each of the other climate solutions. Share what you know about your topic with your classmates and record what you learn from them in your graphic organizer .

Going Further

Option 1: Develop a climate plan.

Scientists say that in order to prevent the average global temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, the threshold beyond which the dangers of global warming grow immensely, we will need to enact all of the solutions you learned about — and more. However, the reality is that countries won’t be able to right away. They will have to consider which can have the biggest or fastest impact on climate change, which are the most cost-effective and which are the most politically and socially feasible.

Imagine you have been asked to come up with a plan to address climate change. If you were in charge, which of these seven solutions would you prioritize and why? You might start by ranking the solutions you learned about from the most effective or urgent to the least.

Then, write a proposal for your plan that responds to the following questions:

What top three solutions are priorities? That is, which do you think are the most urgent to tackle right away and the most effective at slowing global warming?

Explain your decisions. According to your research — the articles you read and the quiz you took in the beginning of the lesson — why should these solutions take precedence?

How might you incentivize companies and citizens to embrace these changes? For some ideas, you might read more about the climate policies countries around the world have adopted to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Option 2: Take action.

Thinking about climate change solutions on such a big scale can be overwhelming, but there are things you can do in your own life and in your community to make a difference. Choose one of the activities below to take action on, or come up with one of your own:

Share climate solutions via media. Often, the news media focuses more on climate change problems than solutions. Counteract this narrative by creating something for publication related to one or more of the solutions you learned about. For example, you could submit a letter to the editor , write an article for your school newspaper, enter a piece in one of our upcoming student contests or create an infographic to share on social media .

Make changes in your own life. How can you make good climate choices related to one or more of the topics you learned about? For example, you could eat less meat, take public transportation or turn off your air-conditioner. Write a plan, explaining what you will do (or what you are already doing) and how it could help mitigate climate change, according to the research.

Join a movement. This guest essay urges people to focus on systems, not themselves. What groups could you get involved with that are working toward some of the solutions you learned about? Identify at least one group, either local, national or international, and one way you could support it. Or, if you’re old enough to vote, consider a local, state or federal politician you would like to support based on his or her climate policies.

Want more Lessons of the Day? You can find them all here .

Natalie Proulx joined The Learning Network as a staff editor in 2017 after working as an English language arts teacher and curriculum writer. More about Natalie Proulx

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climate change discussion essay

Fascinating Topics to Write about Climate Change

  • Climate Change, Deserts, and Glaciers
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  • The Influence of Climate Change on the Spread of Infectious Diseases

Climate Change Essay Questions

  • Does Climate Change Have an Impact on Entrepreneurs?
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  • Does Energy Consumption Affect Climate Change?
  • Is Forced Solidarity a Barrier to Climate Change Adaptation?
  • Is It True that Risk Communication Reduces Cooperation in Climate Change Mitigation?
  • Is Risk Perception a Barrier to Climate Change Mitigation Behavior?
  • What Is the Connection between Global Warming and Climate Change?
  • What Impacts Does Climate Change Have on Agriculture in North East Central Europe?
  • What Policy Challenges Do National Governments Face When Addressing Climate Change?
  • What Is the Root Cause of Climate Change?
  • What Are the Dangers of Global Warming and Climate Change?
  • What Does Climate Change Mean for Developing-Country Agriculture?
  • What Motivates International Climate Change Mitigation Technology Transfer?
  • What Are the Economic Implications of Climate Change?
  • What Drives Farmers’ Climate Change Adaptation?
  • What Natural Forces Are Responsible for Climate Change?
  • What Issues Are Involved in Creating an International Climate Change Organization?
  • What Is the Role of Human Activity in Causing Climate Change?
  • Which Incentives Does Regulation Provide for Climate Change Adaptation of Network Infrastructure?
  • Why Does Climate Change Affect Us?
  • Why Does Climate Change Pose a Risk to the African Continent?
  • Why Does Economic Analysis Support Strong Climate Change Action?
  • Why Should People Be Concerned About the Assumed Event of Climate Change?
  • Why Haven’t More Cleantech Funds Been Established in Sweden as a Result of the Climate Change Debate?
  • Why Should We Be Concerned About Climate Change?
  • Will African Agriculture be Able to Withstand Climate Change?
  • Will a Carbon Tax Reduce the Impacts of Climate Change?
  • Will Climate Change Have an Impact on Agriculture?
  • Will Climate Change Have a Massive Social Impact on Poor Asian Cities?
  • Will Religion and Faith Provide a Solution to Climate Change?

20 Ways to Encourage Students to Respond ...

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Climate Action

Science, solutions, solidarity, for a livable planet .

photocomposition: the illustration of the format of a lightbulb with a solar panel and a wind turbine inside of it, with green leaves and small clouds at the back of it

COP28: Climate action can’t wait

This year’s UN climate change conference, COP28, is a pivotal opportunity to correct course and accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis. COP28 is where the world will take stock of progress on the  Paris Agreement  – the landmark climate treaty concluded in 2015 – and chart a course of action to dramatically reduce emissions and protect lives and livelihoods.

photocomposition: the united nations secretary-general in black and white, speaking in a microphone, with a blue background

“It’s time for change.”

“We cannot address climate catastrophe without tackling its root cause: fossil fuel dependence,” the UN Chief said in response to a report showing increasing fossil fuel production.

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For our common future

There are steps every one of us can take for a healthier planet. Act now, speak up and show leaders that people are ready for change.

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How to speed up the shift to renewable energy

Read about five critical actions to transform our energy systems and end our reliance on fossil fuels, the main cause of climate change.

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The facts on climate and energy

Climate change is a hot topic – with myths and falsehoods circulating widely. Find some essential facts here and share them.

Countries must commit to triple renewables capacity, double energy efficiency and bring clean power to all, by 2030. And they must also commit to phasing out fossil fuels, with a clear time frame aligned to the 1.5-degree limit.” ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, United Nations Secretary-General ( 20 November 2023 )

Secretary-General Portrait

Watch, Listen and Share

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How to communicate for climate action and solutions

How can communications spur action on climate change? How can we communicate science, hope and solutions in a way that resonates with audiences? How do we counter denialism, paralysis and doomism? Watch Melissa Fleming , UN Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, Katharine Hayhoe , climate scientist, and Jeremy Heimans , co-founder and chairman of Purpose explore these crucial questions and more. Moderated by Ginger Zee , chief meteorologist and climate lead at ABC News. Watch here

climate change discussion essay

Clean energy trends to power the world

Energy is at the heart of both the causes and the solutions to the climate crisis. Wangari Muchiri , director of Africa Wind Power, and Bruce Douglas , CEO of the Global Renewables Alliance discuss clean energy advances, solutions and some of the challenges of the energy transition. Moderated by John Timmer , Senior Science Editor at Ars Technica. Watch here

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Tackling climate mis- and dis-information

Vanessa Nakate , climate activist and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Paul Goodloe , meteorologist at The Weather Channel, and Jake Dubbins , co-founder of the Conscious Advertising Network discuss how to shape a healthier information ecosystem. Moderated by Charlotte Scaddan , UN Senior Adviser on Information Integrity. Watch here

Posters for Climate Action

climate change discussion essay

Climate issues

Restoring nature’s resources for climate action

Illustration about food, jobs and renewable energy

What does it mean? Why is it important? And are we on track?

Illustration with two speech bubbles

Powering a safer future

Why shift to renewables like wind and solar? Find out here.

Latest News

climate change discussion essay

Anticipatory action... in action in Viet Nam

In Vietnam, the potentially devastating effects of Typhoon Noru in 2022 were significantly mitigated by the anticipatory actions of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Leveraging early warning systems, the FAO consulted with local communities to distribute watertight drums, provide cash transfers, and enact a comprehensive communication plan. These proactive measures not only ensured safety but also bolstered food security and resilience, emphasizing the crucial role of early warning in disaster preparedness.

climate change discussion essay

Panama taps solar energy to heat water and reduce deforestation

In Panama, with support from the Global Environment Facility and UNEP, the Hato Chami school is harnessing solar energy to heat water, promoting sustainable practices, combatting deforestation, and reducing dependency on fossil fuels. This effort dovetails with a broader national strategy to implement solar thermal technology, which could significantly diminish CO2 emissions and save millions on fuel costs.

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From ashes to riches: Profiting from peatland in Indonesia

Farmers in the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan on the island of Borneo are adapting their agricultural techniques with a more climate-friendly approach by ending the burning of land thanks to an initiative by Indonesia’s Peat and Mangrove Restoration Agency (BRGM), with support from the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS).

People across Asia and the Pacific are convening virtually this week to take the pulse of climate action, explore possibilities for action and showcase ambitious solutions.

Asia-Pacific Climate Week

Asia-Pacific Climate Week 2023 takes place in Johor Bahru, hosted by the government of Malaysia, and provides a platform for policymakers, practitioners, businesses and civil society to exchange on climate solutions, barriers to overcome and opportunities realized in the region. The 2023 regional climate weeks are being held to build momentum ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference COP28 and the conclusion of the first global stocktake.

13 Nov 2023

Johor, Malaysia

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UN Climate Change Conference (COP28)

With global temperatures hitting record highs, and extreme weather events affecting people around the globe, this year’s UN climate change conference, COP28, is a pivotal opportunity to correct course and accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis. COP28 is where the world will take stock of progress on the Paris Agreement – the landmark climate treaty concluded in 2015 – and chart a course of action to dramatically reduce emissions and protect lives and livelihoods.

30 Nov 2023

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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Human Rights Day

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the landmark document that enshrines the inalienable rights that everyone everywhere is entitled to as a human being. Climate change poses a serious risk to several human rights, including the rights to life, water, food, and health. Under human rights law, States have an obligation to prevent the foreseeable adverse effects of climate change and protect those most affected by climate impacts.

10 Dec 2023

Climate action starting now

Everyone has a role in climate action. At the United Nations, we are calling on people everywhere to work together to solve climate challenges and realize the commitments of the 2015 Paris Agreement. This website keeps up with actions taken by governments, businesses, civil society, youth and more in every part of the world.

It’s our planet, and while we know it is in crisis, we also know that solutions are in reach. Progress is already well underway, from more green energy to more secure food supplies. And the benefits are clear as well, such as green jobs, clean air and sounder economies. A more sustainable, prosperous world is in reach. Join us in taking action to claim it, starting now.

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Climate initiatives

The Climate Action Summit, convened in 2019, brought together representatives of governments, businesses and civil society that resulted in an array of initiatives to further climate action. These initiatives, comprised of coalitions of participants from the public and private sectors, are going forward and are producing results.

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500+ Words Climate Change Essay

Climate change refers to the change in the environmental conditions of the earth. This happens due to many internal and external factors. The climatic change has become a global concern over the last few decades. Besides, these climatic changes affect life on the earth in various ways. These climatic changes are having various impacts on the ecosystem and ecology. Due to these changes, a number of species of plants and animals have gone extinct.

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When Did it Start?

The climate started changing a long time ago due to human activities but we came to know about it in the last century. During the last century, we started noticing the climatic change and its effect on human life. We started researching on climate change and came to know that the earth temperature is rising due to a phenomenon called the greenhouse effect. The warming up of earth surface causes many ozone depletion, affect our agriculture , water supply, transportation, and several other problems.

Reason Of Climate Change

Although there are hundreds of reason for the climatic change we are only going to discuss the natural and manmade (human) reasons.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

Natural Reasons

These include volcanic eruption , solar radiation, tectonic plate movement, orbital variations. Due to these activities, the geographical condition of an area become quite harmful for life to survive. Also, these activities raise the temperature of the earth to a great extent causing an imbalance in nature.

Human Reasons

Man due to his need and greed has done many activities that not only harm the environment but himself too. Many plant and animal species go extinct due to human activity. Human activities that harm the climate include deforestation, using fossil fuel , industrial waste , a different type of pollution and many more. All these things damage the climate and ecosystem very badly. And many species of animals and birds got extinct or on a verge of extinction due to hunting.

Effects Of Climatic Change

These climatic changes have a negative impact on the environment. The ocean level is rising, glaciers are melting, CO2 in the air is increasing, forest and wildlife are declining, and water life is also getting disturbed due to climatic changes. Apart from that, it is calculated that if this change keeps on going then many species of plants and animals will get extinct. And there will be a heavy loss to the environment.

What will be Future?

If we do not do anything and things continue to go on like right now then a day in future will come when humans will become extinct from the surface of the earth. But instead of neglecting these problems we start acting on then we can save the earth and our future.

climate change discussion essay

Although humans mistake has caused great damage to the climate and ecosystem. But, it is not late to start again and try to undo what we have done until now to damage the environment. And if every human start contributing to the environment then we can be sure of our existence in the future.

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Climate Change: Evidence and Causes: Update 2020 (2020)

Chapter: conclusion, c onclusion.

This document explains that there are well-understood physical mechanisms by which changes in the amounts of greenhouse gases cause climate changes. It discusses the evidence that the concentrations of these gases in the atmosphere have increased and are still increasing rapidly, that climate change is occurring, and that most of the recent change is almost certainly due to emissions of greenhouse gases caused by human activities. Further climate change is inevitable; if emissions of greenhouse gases continue unabated, future changes will substantially exceed those that have occurred so far. There remains a range of estimates of the magnitude and regional expression of future change, but increases in the extremes of climate that can adversely affect natural ecosystems and human activities and infrastructure are expected.

Citizens and governments can choose among several options (or a mixture of those options) in response to this information: they can change their pattern of energy production and usage in order to limit emissions of greenhouse gases and hence the magnitude of climate changes; they can wait for changes to occur and accept the losses, damage, and suffering that arise; they can adapt to actual and expected changes as much as possible; or they can seek as yet unproven “geoengineering” solutions to counteract some of the climate changes that would otherwise occur. Each of these options has risks, attractions and costs, and what is actually done may be a mixture of these different options. Different nations and communities will vary in their vulnerability and their capacity to adapt. There is an important debate to be had about choices among these options, to decide what is best for each group or nation, and most importantly for the global population as a whole. The options have to be discussed at a global scale because in many cases those communities that are most vulnerable control few of the emissions, either past or future. Our description of the science of climate change, with both its facts and its uncertainties, is offered as a basis to inform that policy debate.


The following individuals served as the primary writing team for the 2014 and 2020 editions of this document:

  • Eric Wolff FRS, (UK lead), University of Cambridge
  • Inez Fung (NAS, US lead), University of California, Berkeley
  • Brian Hoskins FRS, Grantham Institute for Climate Change
  • John F.B. Mitchell FRS, UK Met Office
  • Tim Palmer FRS, University of Oxford
  • Benjamin Santer (NAS), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • John Shepherd FRS, University of Southampton
  • Keith Shine FRS, University of Reading.
  • Susan Solomon (NAS), Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Kevin Trenberth, National Center for Atmospheric Research
  • John Walsh, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
  • Don Wuebbles, University of Illinois

Staff support for the 2020 revision was provided by Richard Walker, Amanda Purcell, Nancy Huddleston, and Michael Hudson. We offer special thanks to Rebecca Lindsey and NOAA for providing data and figure updates.

The following individuals served as reviewers of the 2014 document in accordance with procedures approved by the Royal Society and the National Academy of Sciences:

  • Richard Alley (NAS), Department of Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University
  • Alec Broers FRS, Former President of the Royal Academy of Engineering
  • Harry Elderfield FRS, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge
  • Joanna Haigh FRS, Professor of Atmospheric Physics, Imperial College London
  • Isaac Held (NAS), NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory
  • John Kutzbach (NAS), Center for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin
  • Jerry Meehl, Senior Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research
  • John Pendry FRS, Imperial College London
  • John Pyle FRS, Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge
  • Gavin Schmidt, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Emily Shuckburgh, British Antarctic Survey
  • Gabrielle Walker, Journalist
  • Andrew Watson FRS, University of East Anglia

The Support for the 2014 Edition was provided by NAS Endowment Funds. We offer sincere thanks to the Ralph J. and Carol M. Cicerone Endowment for NAS Missions for supporting the production of this 2020 Edition.


For more detailed discussion of the topics addressed in this document (including references to the underlying original research), see:

  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 2019: Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate [ ]
  • National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), 2019: Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda [ ]
  • Royal Society, 2018: Greenhouse gas removal [ ]
  • U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), 2018: Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States [ ]
  • IPCC, 2018: Global Warming of 1.5°C [ ]
  • USGCRP, 2017: Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume I: Climate Science Special Reports [ ]
  • NASEM, 2016: Attribution of Extreme Weather Events in the Context of Climate Change [ ]
  • IPCC, 2013: Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) Working Group 1. Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis [ ]
  • NRC, 2013: Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises [ ]
  • NRC, 2011: Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts Over Decades to Millennia [ ]
  • Royal Society 2010: Climate Change: A Summary of the Science [ ]
  • NRC, 2010: America’s Climate Choices: Advancing the Science of Climate Change [ ]

Much of the original data underlying the scientific findings discussed here are available at:



Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time. It is now more certain than ever, based on many lines of evidence, that humans are changing Earth's climate. The Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences, with their similar missions to promote the use of science to benefit society and to inform critical policy debates, produced the original Climate Change: Evidence and Causes in 2014. It was written and reviewed by a UK-US team of leading climate scientists. This new edition, prepared by the same author team, has been updated with the most recent climate data and scientific analyses, all of which reinforce our understanding of human-caused climate change.

Scientific information is a vital component for society to make informed decisions about how to reduce the magnitude of climate change and how to adapt to its impacts. This booklet serves as a key reference document for decision makers, policy makers, educators, and others seeking authoritative answers about the current state of climate-change science.

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Everything begins with an idea!

Climate Change Essay Topics

The climate of our planet has rapidly been changing since the industrial revolution that started in the 19th and 20th centuries. As a result, there have been numerous discussions surrounding the warming of the planet simply known as Global warming. Climate change essay topics are meant to be informative to the intended audience. Additionally, they are supposed to sensitize readers about the impending dangers of climate change. The main theme behind climate change essay topics revolves around global warming, pollution and climate change.

Climate change essay topics follow a similar format to persuasive or argumentative essays. In fact, they hold a similar theme of moral persuasion to the target audience. These essays have an introduction, a thesis statement, body and conclusion or call to action. Additionally, you may be required to provide credible sources from where you obtained your information. Citing these sources are easy if you have done academic essays before. However, the write essay ideas can help you structure your article in an easy way.

Best Climate Change Essay Topics

Coming up with the appropriate essay topic for your assignment can prove to be challenging. However, we have compiled a list comprising of the best climate change essay topics to help you. The following are climate change essay topics proposal examples.

  • Measures we can take to curb the threat of climate change and its adverse effects.
  • Explain the major issues facing the world with respect to global warming
  • A case study of the adverse effects of climate and weather change on the world
  • Is global warming the same as climate change?
  • What major risk does Australia face with regards to its famous coral reefs
  • Explain the various measures that Canada enacted to combat the threat of global warming.
  • Does global warming have any ramifications on the economy, especially in third world countries and developing countries?
  • Is it possible to quantify the existence of the Bermuda triangle?
  • Explain the relevance of biodiversity in a given food chain and ecosystem
  • How does biodiversity support the existence of other organisms in a given ecosystem?
  • Can global warming alter landforms and water bodies?
  • Explain the role that carbon dioxide plays on climate change
  • A brief review of the causes of global warming in the environment
  • Explain the role of greenhouse gases in warming of the planet
  • Is it time that we declared global warming a global pandemic?
  • Explain measures that governments and environmental preservation groups should take to protect the environment
  • How to enact long term policies to aid in the fight against global warming
  • A review of how the United States is contributing to global pollution and methods it is using to fight it
  • What is the leading cause of the warming of the planet?
  • How important are the artics to climates and weather patterns in the world?
  • Animals are migrating further north in search of colder environments. Explain why global warming might lead to the extinction of certain species of animals
  • The politics and economy of global warming; A review of the difficulties faced in the fight against global warming and pollution
  • Pesticides and herbicide; A case study of the effects of prolonged use of chemicals in farming and animal keeping.
  • Explore the various adaptations and responses of both animals and plants as a result of climate change
  • Africa has inadequate resources to develop health-related infrastructure. As a result, some countries find it challenging for their waste products. What are the effects of pollution in such countries?
  • Explore the future of the planet amid increased global warming concerns
  • Hurricanes and forest fires are a result of global warming. Explore other adverse effects of global warming across the world
  • Biodiversity is affected by pollution, weather, and climate change. Explain the relevance of biodiversity in a given food chain and ecosystem
  • What is assisted migration; Relate it to global warming and explain various measures that can be used to stop it.
  • Explain gases such as methane and carbon dioxide contribute to the warming of the planet

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Climate Change Essay

500+ words essay on climate change.

Climate change is a major global challenge today, and the world is becoming more vulnerable to this change. Climate change refers to the changes in Earth’s climate condition. It describes the changes in the atmosphere which have taken place over a period ranging from decades to millions of years. A recent report from the United Nations predicted that the average global temperature could increase by 6˚ Celsius at the end of the century. Climate change has an adverse effect on the environment and ecosystem. With the help of this essay, students will get to know the causes and effects of climate change and possible solutions. Also, they will be able to write essays on similar topics and can boost their writing skills.

What Causes Climate Change?

The Earth’s climate has always changed and evolved. Some of these changes have been due to natural causes such as volcanic eruptions, floods, forest fires etc., but quite a few of them are due to human activities. Human activities such as deforestation, burning fossil fuels, farming livestock etc., generate an enormous amount of greenhouse gases. This results in the greenhouse effect and global warming which are the major causes of climate change.

Effects of Climate Change

If the current situation of climate change continues in a similar manner, then it will impact all forms of life on the earth. The earth’s temperature will rise, the monsoon patterns will change, sea levels will rise, and storms, volcanic eruptions and natural disasters will occur frequently. The biological and ecological balance of the earth will get disturbed. The environment will get polluted and humans will not be able to get fresh air to breathe and fresh water to drink. Life on earth will come to an end.

Steps to be Taken to Reduce Climate Change

The Government of India has taken many measures to improve the dire situation of Climate Change. The Ministry of Environment and Forests is the nodal agency for climate change issues in India. It has initiated several climate-friendly measures, particularly in the area of renewable energy. India took several steps and policy initiatives to create awareness about climate change and help capacity building for adaptation measures. It has initiated a “Green India” programme under which various trees are planted to make the forest land more green and fertile.

We need to follow the path of sustainable development to effectively address the concerns of climate change. We need to minimise the use of fossil fuels, which is the major cause of global warming. We must adopt alternative sources of energy, such as hydropower, solar and wind energy to make a progressive transition to clean energy. Mahatma Gandhi said that “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not any man’s greed”. With this view, we must remodel our outlook and achieve the goal of sustainable development. By adopting clean technologies, equitable distribution of resources and addressing the issues of equity and justice, we can make our developmental process more harmonious with nature.

We hope students liked this essay on Climate Change and gathered useful information on this topic so that they can write essays in their own words. To get more study material related to the CBSE, ICSE, State Board and Competitive exams, keep visiting the BYJU’S website.

Frequently Asked Questions on climate change Essay

What are the reasons for climate change.

1. Deforestation 2. Excessive usage of fossil fuels 3. Water, Soil pollution 4. Plastic and other non-biodegradable waste 5. Wildlife and nature extinction

How can we save this climate change situation?

1. Avoid over usage of natural resources 2. Do not use or buy items made from animals 3. Avoid plastic usage and pollution

Are there any natural causes for climate change?

Yes, some of the natural causes for climate change are: 1. Solar variations 2. Volcanic eruption and tsunamis 3. Earth’s orbital changes

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Rising climate risks require changes in insurance markets to protect taxpayers and homeowners

Erosion seen on the ocean side of Davis Park, Fire Island,...

Erosion seen on the ocean side of Davis Park, Fire Island, looking west, in October. Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost

Two recent reports show how flooding disasters pose increasing threats to millions of Americans, especially among communities least equipped to handle the steep costs and risks of climate change. These reports, by the Congressional Budget Office and the First Street Foundation, underscore the intersection of climate change and fiscal responsibility, particularly for communities of different economic and demographic profiles.

On Long Island, numerous homeowners have endured flood insurance premium spikes over the past two years, with future annual increases up to 18%. Fire Island continues to suffer costly erosion from one storm to another, illustrating the risks from rising sea levels and flooding afflicting coastal communities nationwide.

Examining flood risks across diverse communities, the nonpartisan CBO concluded that premiums must reflect actual risks — and costs of rebuilding — to protect property owners and taxpayers whose tax dollars subsidize the National Flood Insurance Program.

The CBO reports that the NFIP has hiked rates nationwide to keep up with growing payouts versus premiums due to increased exposure from climate disasters. In 12 states, the average premium has more than doubled; about 68% of New York policyholders are seeing rate hikes of varying degrees.

Long Island Reps. Andrew Garbarino, Nick LaLota and Anthony D’Esposito are among congressional leaders of bipartisan efforts to arrange more affordable payment options for federal NFIP policyholders. But more affordable doesn’t equal less risk.

The report by the First Street Foundation, a nonprofit focused on weather risk research, confirms the growing financial risks associated with climate change. Underpricing climate risks in the real estate market creates an unrealistic “climate bubble” through taxpayer subsidies that often flow to wealthier homeowners, affecting the affordability and insurability of millions of properties. Climate change, combined with rising construction and reinsurance costs, has outpaced price increases that regulators allow insurers to pass along to policyholders, making entire markets uninsurable.

The property insurance industry is already starting to pull back coverage in high-risk areas, most notably Florida and Louisiana. Though state regulatory policies suppress some insurance price spikes, rising claim costs are causing increased rates for homeowners, reducing property values and ownership affordability. State-backed “insurers of last resort” are increasingly the only option, but even they are raising rates due to heightened risks.

Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan federal budget watchdog, has testified before Congress about the NFIP, which provides subsidies for construction in risk-prone areas, making it seem economically “safe” to build and rebuild in medium and high-risk areas by reducing costs to developers. This has led to unwise development that contributes to catastrophic outcomes and increased costs for taxpayers.

More frequent coastal natural disasters take a disproportionate toll on poor and disadvantaged communities. A 2021 Redfin analysis found that the aggregate value of properties at high flood risk in formerly redlined districts was $107 billion, 25% more than the home value in other districts.

Policy options we advocate include:

  • Improve flood mapping and risk analysis to determine risks and associated rates.
  • Combine risk-based rates with subsidies based on need.
  • Focus on mitigation and risk reduction, which we call “presponding” to predictable natural disasters.
  • Encourage private flood insurance competition to provide more options for homeowners and reduce the burden on the NFIP.

The reports reveal a disconcerting trend: Flood risks are more prevalent in economically disadvantaged communities, insurance costs are rising for everyone, and the NFIP is ill-equipped for the challenges ahead. This should concern communities of all income levels and demographic profiles, because all taxpayers feel the pain as the federal government allocates costly emergency disaster aid all-too-routinely these days.

This guest essay reflects the views of Steve Ellis, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense.

This guest essay reflects the views of Steve Ellis, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan budget watchdog.

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Climate anxious? Here’s how you can turn apprehension into action

Worrying about the future can be debilitating. Experts say these three things can help

In recent years, the term “ climate anxiety ” has gone from obscure to familiar, underscoring a growing awareness of how witnessing escalating climate disasters affects our mental health .

“Climate anxiety”, and the more acute “climate trauma” and “climate grief” are phrases that, as Dr Sarah Lowe, a psychologist researching climate and mental health at Yale University, explains, encapsulate our varied emotional and cognitive reactions to a rapidly changing environment. A striking 2021 study from the University of Bath underscored the depth of this concern: half of the youth respondents admitted feelings of fear, sadness, powerlessness and guilt regarding our planet’s ecological trajectory, with a staggering 75% finding the future “frightening”.

Amid this overwhelming anxiety, the question is: how can we transform our apprehensions into actionable solutions?

Enter collective action. Lowe’s own studies indicate that working with others towards productive ecological goals channels our concerns constructively and is also therapeutic. “What we found was that climate change anxiety was associated with higher depression symptoms only for those students who were not engaged in collective action. For those who were engaged in collective action, climate change anxiety was actually not associated with depression,” Lowe says.

So how can we take collective action and channel our anxiety for good? Here’s what the experts say.

Build social cohesion, to help your community weather adversity

Engaging more deeply with our own communities is an accessible, invaluable way to begin the process of building social cohesion and resilience to stressors like natural disasters, says Dr Britt Wray, who studies climate and mental health at Stanford University School of Medicine, and is the author of Gen Dread , a newsletter about taking action while experiencing climate grief. Communities with robust social ties – “where people learn how to follow and lead each other and achieve shared goals”, she says – weather adversity much better than places where bonds are weaker. Just think of how much easier it is to talk to neighbors you’re already friendly with, versus total strangers from down the block.

Dr Amruta Nori-Sarma, who researches the intersection of environmental exposure and mental health at Boston University School of Public Health, says her studies consistently show that strong community bonds amplify resilience during severe weather events, such as extreme heat. In apartments and neighborhoods with strong communities, individuals proactively check on one another, ensuring resources are accessible to all and safeguarding each other’s wellbeing.

A growing body of research is exploring the relationship between social capital and individuals’ ability to promote and coordinate collective action in communities. To harness this power, Wray says we need to invest in building relationships: for example by getting to know our neighbors, getting off of our devices and going into shared physical space where we can relate to people, such as working together at community centers, public gardens and local markets. This not only buffers us in times of adversity, but provides the co-benefit of reducing loneliness. “It’s really about doing what humans do best,” says Wray. “We are social creatures.”

Dispel the silence about climate crisis with open discussion

Because the climate crisis is a serious and often politicized topic, talking about it can carry a certain taboo. Those experiencing climate anxiety may worry they will commit a social faux pas by discussing it or be dismissed as overly pessimistic.

Yet dispelling the silence around the climate crisis is an excellent way to step into collaboration and action with those around us, especially because more people on both sides of the political spectrum support pro-climate legislation than most of us assume; research shows Americans underestimate the national population’s concern for the state of the climate and support for major climate mitigation policies by a striking 80-90%.

While 65% of Americans surveyed by Yale University researchers say the issue of global heating is personally important to them, 66% of Americans say they “rarely” or “never” discuss global warming with family and friends. “How can we really organize and step into shared collective goals around something that we are not articulating, verbalizing and externalizing?” asks Wray. In order to take action, we must first share our interest in doing that work together. In the words of the atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe, “the most important thing you can do to fight climate change is to talk about it.”

composite image of snowy scene overlaid on water

Stay abreast of international issues and apply what you learn locally

In many developed nations, eco-anxiety discussions are often localized, overlooking the immediate threats faced by other parts of the world in favor of what’s looming in our own backyards.

Namra Khalid, a Pakistani cartographer, lives at the forefront of the climate crisis. Her data visualization work crowdsourcing and compiling detailed maps of Karachi is helping the city prepare for and prevent future flooding disasters. “In 2015 we had a heatwave in which over 2,000 people died in the city. Last year, we had the worst possible floods in Pakistan. Thirty-three million people almost became homeless,” Khalid says.

For Khalid, addressing the climate crisis isn’t just a concern; it’s an existential imperative. “I don’t think it’s an option to either channel [climate distress] productively or not. It’s a matter of survival. Nobody else is going to stand up for us unless we do,” she says.

Khalid’s call to action is twofold: raising awareness and learning resilience. She urges those in the global north to be cognizant of climate disasters in developing nations and advocate for aid and investment into regions confronting disaster, and also to glean lessons from their experiences.

“It’s a good point to start learning from what is happening here, because today it’s [in Pakistan] and tomorrow it’s also going to be a global problem,” she says. By widening our lens and learning from global experiences, we can better channel our anxieties into informed action. From advocating for global climate initiatives we can shift to preparing for our own local climate challenges. “We live on the same planet,” says Khalid.

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New Study Identifies the Greatest Threat to Wildlife across North America and Canada: People

BU biology student studied more than 600,000 wildlife rehabilitation center records to look at the human impact on wild animals, from lead poisonings to window strikes to vehicle collisions

Photo: Zoomed in shot shows a small, baby gray squirrel being held and fed milk with a small eye dropper.

Wildlife rehabilitators see the greatest range of species of any organization in the country, giving them a unique insight into animal health—and providing a massive knowledge bank for researchers. Photo by MoniqueRodriguez/iStock

Amy Laskowski

You see posts like these on neighborhood Facebook pages all the time: “An owl just flew into my window and appears stunned! Help!” or “I found a baby squirrel on the ground after the wind storm last night. Who do I call?” The answer is a local wildlife rehabilitation center —licensed individuals and organizations that take in hundreds of thousands of sick and injured wild animals nationwide each year. Wildlife rehabilitators see the highest number and greatest range of species of any government or nonprofit organization in the country, giving them unique insight into animal health—and making them great bellwethers of what’s happening in the broader environment.

A few years ago, biologist Tara Miller (GRS’22)—then working with Defenders of Wildlife—met Wendy Hall, cofounder of the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge in Wilmington, N.Y. Hall mentioned some weird occurrences she had noticed in her job over the last few years: black vultures in the Adirondacks, unusual since they are typically a southern species, and earlier “baby seasons” in many species, which researchers have linked to climate change. Miller was intrigued by the idea of using animals’ presence in rehab centers to study the impact of people and climate change on North America’s wildlife.

Miller (who uses they/them pronouns) is the lead author of a first-of-its-kind study that compiled hundreds of thousands of records from 94 wildlife centers across the United States and Canada to investigate the threats facing more than a thousand wildlife species by region—including which threats affect which animals and how effective wildlife rehab centers are at treating their patients. The Boston University-led team hopes their study, published in Biological Conservation , will help inspire safety interventions and inform the conversation about incorporating wildlife into disaster management plans.

The report includes examples of bald eagles sickened by lead poisoning , sea turtles entangled in fishing gear, and big brown bats colliding with buildings. In other words, human activities often have a devastating impact on wildlife, says Miller. What’s more, the researchers showed that more animals were admitted to wildlife rehab centers following some climate change-linked extreme weather events.

“A lot of what we found in the research isn’t going to shock anyone, but you want to be able to tell people, ‘It’s not just this one animal. This is happening across the country,’” Miller says. “I think that was what was so cool about the work we were able to do with this huge dataset: tie together what rehabbers across the country are seeing and validate it. We were able to find a lot of these trends for the big picture of how humans are impacting wildlife.”

A lot of what we found in the research isn’t going to shock anyone, but you want to be able to tell people, ‘It’s not just this one animal. This is happening across the country.’ Tara Miller

The Major Threats to Wildlife

Miller started in BU’s Urban Biogeoscience and Environmental Health (BU URBAN) program in 2018. Funded by the National Science Foundation, BU URBAN trains PhD students in biogeoscience, environmental health, and statistics, giving them the foundation to enter careers in academia, government agencies, NGOs, and the private sector.

The program requires internships, so in the summer of 2019, Miller began contacting wildlife centers, which varied in size from those rescuing a few hundred animals a year to groups helping tens of thousands. Miller asked what trends they noticed and what questions they would like answered through any report. 

“I had phone calls with rehabbers where they would have to jump off because they had a baby squirrel they had to go feed, or, one time, someone had a porcupine autopsy they had to get back to,” Miller says. “People were so generous with their time and of their data, and so enthusiastic about this whole project.”

Until recently, most wildlife rehab records existed only in binders and file cabinets, which made them inaccessible to researchers. But slowly, over the last decade or so, centers have started to digitize their documents, thanks in part to software such as the Wildlife Center of Virginia’s WILD-ONe patient database system for wildlife rehabilitators. WILD-ONe was formed, in part, to help identify wildlife diseases and pathogens—such as West Nile virus or avian flu—that might impact human and livestock health. The software was the biggest data source for Miller’s paper; two of the paper’s coauthors, Karra Pierce and Edward Clark, Jr., work at the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

“This was a gigantic dataset, with more than 600,000 observations,” says Richard Primack , a BU College of Arts & Sciences professor of biology, who was Miller’s PhD advisor and a coauthor on the paper. Primack says he encourages all of his students to consider what questions they want their data to address. In Miller’s case, the big question was, “What are the major threats to wildlife?”

The data revealed that 40 percent of animals were sent to rehab centers because of injuries classified under the “human disturbances” category. These included vehicle accidents, building collisions, and fishing incidents. “Forty percent of the animals showing up to wildlife rehab centers, largely because of human activity that has negatively impacted them?” Miller asks incredulously. “We need to ask how we can change our policies and behaviors to impact animals less.”

Seasonally speaking, the researchers found vehicle collisions were highest from May to July and disproportionately affected reptiles. Pesticide poisonings increased in the spring, summer, and early fall, a time of more agricultural and construction activity. Lead poisonings (most common in animals like bald eagles) tended to be seen in the winter, after hunting season. Many hunters still use lead ammunition when deer hunting, which will then poison scavengers like bald eagles and vultures when they go in for a snack on a carcass.

In the video above, animals make their way across the Parley’s Canyon wildlife overpass in Utah. According to BU researchers, wildlife underpasses and overpasses can help animals cross a highway safely and reduce car accidents. Video courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Through their discussions, many rehabbers told Miller they knew they weren’t catching all cases of lead and pesticide poisoning since the testing is so expensive and they can’t send every suspected case out.

The researchers also found more animals arrived at rehab centers the week after extreme weather events than the week before—following hurricanes and floods in southern Florida, for example. They have also seen more animals admitted after big storms in recent years, “possibly due to the increasing intensity and frequency of extreme weather events,” the study says.

“We are seeing the impacts of these climate change–driven extreme weather effects on animals,” Miller says. “So, should we be thinking about that in terms of disaster and response plans? Do we need to boost state funding to centers to be able to care for animals after these big events?”

About one-third of the animals brought into wildlife rehab centers are eventually released back into the wild, though this number varies significantly among species. “For example, pelicans are injured but then are often released [68 percent], whereas bald eagles have a very low chance of being released [20 percent],” Primack says. “This presents a very interesting question of why the threats to wildlife are so different between these two groups of large birds.”

Recommending New Policy, Based on the Data

The team hopes their study can be used by wildlife rehab centers when they apply for grants and funding, and can convince communities to make some fairly easy changes to protect animals. Wildlife underpasses and overpasses across roads can help deer and turtles cross a highway safely (also reducing car accidents), adding decals and other patterns to windows can save birds, and educating the public on how to phase out lead fishing gear and hunting ammunition can cut down on poisoning in scavengers. Some states also have lead ammunition buy-back programs, Miller says. These changes will help humans too. Deer-car collisions are not only expensive to fix, but can also be deadly for all parties.

After graduating in May 2022 from BU, Miller started work as a policy research specialist at the University of Virginia’s Repair Lab , studying and developing policy solutions to coal dust pollution that affects predominantly Black communities near coal export terminals in coastal Virginia. “Tara is now focused on applied work helping people, using many of the skills acquired as a grad student while investigating wildlife health on a continental scale,” Primack says. “It’s really pretty fantastic.”

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation Research Traineeship–funded Boston University graduate program in Urban Biogeoscience and Environmental Health.

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Photo of Amy Laskowski. A white woman with long brown hair pulled into a half up, half down style and wearing a burgundy top, smiles and poses in front of a dark grey backdrop.

Amy Laskowski is a senior writer at Boston University. She is always hunting for interesting, quirky stories around BU and helps manage and edit the work of BU Today ’s interns. She did her undergrad at Syracuse University and earned a master’s in journalism at the College of Communication in 2015. Profile

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