There is a debate among those involved in social controversies surrounding climate change about how to refer to the positions that reject, and to people who doubt or deny, the scientific community’s consensus on the answers to the central questions of climate change. Many such people prefer to call themselves skeptics and describe their position as climate change skepticism. Their opponents, however, often prefer to call such people climate change deniers and to describe their position as climate change denial.
The Earth’s climate is changing rapidly. Scientists trying to find out what’s causing climate change work like detectives, gathering evidence to rule out some suspects and to ascertain just who is responsible. It’s clear, based on over a century of scientific investigation, that humans are responsible for most of the climate change we’ve seen over the last 150 years.
There is virtually unanimous scientific agreement about climate change. Yet due to both the inherent complexity of the topic and the social controversies surrounding it, confusion and doubt often persist. Here are four central questions about climate change, together with brief answers based on the current best scientific understanding of climate change and links to more detailed information.
From a science education perspective, one major thing that can be done about climate change is to support education efforts that help individuals and societies make informed decisions about climate change. Climate science must be integrated as practical knowledge into society so that understanding the complex physical and biological interconnections are relevant to decision-making in social, economic, political, cultural, and educational systems.
Climate change is already affecting the planet and society and will continue to do so for generations to come. The physical and chemical changes of human activities are being felt in natural ecosystems on land and at sea, on farms and ranches, and in cities and suburbs, but the changes are not happening uniformly. Differences in how regions are affected by varying degrees of warming, precipitation, and changes of animal and plant species are likely to get even more extreme as climate change continues. Some areas may actually get a bit cooler for a while!
The Earth’s climate is constantly changing. Seasonal changes throughout the year are one form of climate change, and the climate changes over hundreds of thousands of years as the Earth’s orbit changes the amount and intensity of energy received from the Sun. As the National Center for Atmospheric Research explains, climate change is different from the changes in weather from day to day.
There is virtually unanimous scientific agreement about climate change. Yet due to both the inherent complexity of the topic and the social controversies surrounding it, confusion and doubt often persist.
The Texas state board of education will adopt new social studies textbooks in November, 2014. The decisions they make will affect Texas classrooms for years to come, and are likely to change how textbooks are written for use in other states as well.