Reporting on Climate
Change: Understanding the Science
A layperson's explanation of
many of the key concepts and findings
in the 2001 IPCC report. Written and
produced by the Environmental Law
Institute and the Environmental Health
Center with funding from the Energy
Dept's research office.
Global Climate Change
This award-winning, highly
graphic explanatory Web site is
produced by the Exploratorium with
funding from the National Science
Foundation. The Exploratorium is a
Web-savvy San Francisco-based science
Rough Guide to Climate
This inexpensive paperback has
just been published as part of the
commercial Rough Guides series. It is
authored by Robert Henson, a writer on
the communications staff of the
prestigious University Consortium on
Atmospheric Research (UCAR). Henson has
degrees in both meteorology and
journalism, and has worked hard to
produce a complete, unbiased, and
understandable approach to the
Global Warming: The Complete
by John T. Houghton (Cambridge
Univ. Press, 1994 New York) (Paperback) See
also "Overview of the
Climate Change Issue".
The Science of Global
This 20-page text distributed
free in pdf format is by Mike
MacCracken, former head of the U.S.
Global Change Research Program.
BBC News In Depth:
A web-based presentation of
some basic facts about climate change
in easily readable form, with helpful
Government Programs and Labs
Climate Change 2001:
The Scientific Basis
(Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
This is the Bible on climate
science. It is a peer-reviewed,
compendium of all the science, updated
every five years. It is a collaboration
of many hundreds of scientists of
established professional standing in
climate-related disciplines. Wikipedia. Press
Climate Change Science:
An Analysis of Some Key Questions
(National Academies' National Research
Upon taking office, Bush
administration doubters asked the
prestigious (and non-foreign) NAS to
double-check and second-guess the
IPCC's 2001 findings. Result: the NAS
confirmed most of the key
Change Feedbacks (National
Academies' National Research Council,
The climate system is
immensely complex because of the many
"feedbacks" between climate itself, the
oceans, the biosphere, the ice sheets,
and atmospheric phenomena like clouds
and particulates. The report explores
these processes which raise uncertainty
in climate modeling — they could
make global warming better or worse. It
chronicles the many recent advances in
understanding of feedbacks.
Climate Crash: Abrupt
Climate Change and What It Means for
Our Future (National Academies,
The fossil record of ancient
climate suggests that some climate
change happens abruptly, rather than
gradually as our basic models predict.
This report explores some of the many
processes, like ocean currents, which
could cause abrupt change. One
implication is that our generation
could discover that we have less time
than we think to address manmade
Assessment of Climate
This comprehensive study of
the vulnerabilities and potential
impacts of climate change on the U.S.
was mandated by the Global Change
Research Act of 1990. It includes
studies looking specifically at 19
different U.S. regions. Assembled by
hundreds of experts from academia and
elsewhere, it was completed in the late
Clinton administration and partly
suppressed by the Bush
US Climate Change
The coordinating point for all
federal agencies working on climate
science, the CCSP reports to the White
House Council on Environmental Quality
and Office of Science and Technology
Policy via NOAA and the Commerce
NASA Goddard Institute of
One of the largest, oldest,
and best-respected federal labs working
on climate, GISS is headed by Dr. James
Hansen. It is in New York City.
NOAA Geophysical Fluid
Another pioneering climate lab
that specializes in computer modeling
of climate. No longer headed by the
now-retired Dr. Jerry D. Mahlman, it is
keeping a lower public profile these
days. It is near Princeton
NOAA National Climatic
This is the repository
("world's largest") of much of the raw
data about the U.S. and planetary
temperature record and other climate
data. It is in Asheville, North
Carolina. Director: Tom Karl.
Press Contact: Jana
Goldman (NOAA HQ Public
NOAA Climate Monitoring and
This research component of
NOAA conducts all kinds of basic
monitoring programs to compile
long-term series of measurements and
observations of the conditions that may
be involved in climate change. The CMDL
has now been merged into the Global
Monitoring Division of the Earth System
DOE Carbon Dioxide Information
An arm of the Energy Dept.'s
Oak Ridge National Laboratory in
Tennessee, the CDIAC focuses on
research and data collection about
carbon dioxide and the Earth's carbon
cycle. It also tracks other greenhouse
gases through its World Data Center for
Atmospheric Trace Gases.
US Forest Service Research and Development — Climate Change
USFS has an extensive ongoing R&D program regarding climate change. The program provides long term research, scientific knowledge, expertise, regional resources and tools that can be used to manage, restore, and conserve forests and rangelands.
US Global Change Research
The US is required by a 1990
law to maintain the GCRIO to
disseminate scientific research and
other information useful in preventing,
mitigating, or adapting to the effects
of global change. Unable to disband the
office, the Bush administration has
given it little funding support. Its
online library of key studies and
documents from past years is still
USGS Global Change Science
The US Geological Survey offers information on various climate change topics, publications, news, FAQs, related links, briefings, podcasts, and more.
on Climate Change
The IPCC is the umbrella
organization that articulates not only
the consensus among climate scientists,
but also the breadth of opinion among
them. It assembles and synthesizes the
work of some 2,000 scientists in scores
of disciplines from about 150
countries. Wikipedia. Press
United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate
The UNFCCC is a treaty that
was negotiated at the 1992 Earth Summit
in Rio de Janiero, was ratified by some
189 countries, and went into effect in
March 1994. It initially had no
mandatory controls or deadlines. The
1997 Kyoto Protocol, which did set
mandatory limits, was an add-on to the
UNFCCC. Wikipedia. Press
The WMO is the U.N.-based
international organization for
cooperation among national weather
agencies on all sorts of
weather-related projects, including the
instrument observations at a vast
network of weather stations that
provide basic data on climate. Wikipedia. Press Contact.
UNEP is the administrative
umbrella for most major UN
environmental efforts, including those
on climate change. Their site is a good
place to look for current and upcoming
events, reports, and documents.
National Center for
NCAR is perhaps the greatest
U.S. climate research institution. It
draws not merely post-docs, but
prominent researchers from around the
U.S. and around the globe. It is
federally funded via the National
Science Foundation and administered by
a consortium of universities (UCAR).
NCAR is located in Boulder, Colorado, a
geographic hub for a number of other
climate research institutions.Wikipedia. Press Contact.
Scripps Institution of
Scripps' reputation for
oceanography research is unrivaled. But
few people realize how important a role
the oceans play in climate. Located at
the University of California at San
Diego, Scripps does extensive research
on climate. Wikipedia. Press Contact.
Hadley Centre for
The Hadley Centre is part of
the British government's meteorological
agency (known as the Met Office),
which, although owned by the Ministry
of Defence, was put on a commercial
footing in 1996. Wikipedia. Press
Observatory, Earth Institute at
A major research institute
with over 200 scientists focusing on
all earth sciences, especially strong
on climate-related topics.
Massachusetts Institute of
MIT has several entities
involved in climate research. The
Joint Program on the
Science and Policy of Global Change
is a cross-cutting program that melds
work from MIT's Center for Global Change
Science and the MIT Center for Energy and
Earth and Environmental
Systems Institute, Penn State
Penn State's EESI includes the
Center for Penn State
Ice and Climate Research, the
National Institute for
Climatic Change Research, and
several other centers relevant to
International Research Institute for Climate and Society
The IRI seeks to enhance society's ability to understand, anticipate and manage climate risk in order to improve human welfare. It supports sustainable development by bringing the best science to bear in sectors such as agriculture, food security, water resources, and health. IRI has ongoing projects in Africa, Asia & the Pacific, and Latin America & the Caribbean. January 2007 Climate and Society report, "Climate Risk Management in Africa: Learning from Practice." The IRI also releases monthly precipitation and temperature forecasts for the globe, and its Data Library has more than 300 data sets that can be charted, mapped or downloaded for free via the Web site.
Contacts: Clare Oh, Public Information Officer, The Earth Institute at Columbia University, 212-854-5479 (tel.), 646-415-2479
(mobile); Francesco Fiondella, Communications Officer, International Research Institute for Climate and Society, 845-680-4476 (off.).
Communicating Climate Change
Produced by Oregon Sea Grant at Oregon State University, Communicating Climate Change is a series of taped interviews with leading social scientists on the question of how to communicate about climate change to a broad public. Interviewees as of April 18, 2008, include Anthony Leiserowitz, Susanne Moser, Caron Chess, Baruch Fischhoff and Ed Maibach. While intended for an audience of meteorologists, science journalists, government agency personnel, university outreach specialists, and members of non-governmental organizations, the podcast offers thought-provoking content for lay audiences as well.
Journalists delving into climate change are likely to be bombarded by news releases, reports and offers of interviews with selected "experts" from a bevy of environmental groups. They can be useful in highlighting the latest developments in scientific research and in surveying the responses by government or business. However, it's important to remember that these are not disinterested groups, and the completeness and even accuracy of information conveyed varies.
Just as skeptics tend to inflate normal scientific back-and-forth into a great debate or even a hoax, environmentalists often portray climate change as a looming apocalypse for the entire planet which only immediate, drastic action can avert. Some groups do a better job than others in acknowledging there are still uncertainties about some of the science, but many — in the interests of prompting action — tend to stress only the most extreme outcomes among the range of possible impacts.
The best way to gauge the state of scientific knowledge about climate change — or any scientific issue, for that matter — is to keep up with the latest findings published in peer-reviewed journals. While technical reports in journals may not be easy for many journalists to parse, there are more accessible reports assessing the state of scientific knowledge, such as the IPCC's mentioned above, which summarize peer-reviewed research in less technical language and provide context for individual findings. And, unlike some journals, the IPCC report is free.
Skeptics and Contrarians
Sierra is perhaps the largest
and most politically active of U.S.
membership-based environmental groups.
Their long-established climate change
program is focused on grass-roots
organizing and policy advocacy.
Pew Center on Global
The Pew Center on Global
Climate Change is supported by the Pew
Charitable Trusts, which is ultimately
based on the family fortunes of the
descendants of the founder of the Sun
Oil Co. The Pew climate program is a
centrist, non-profit advocacy
organization "working to create a
policy environment that leads to the
adoption of mandatory federal limits on
emissions that contribute to global
warming." Pew works intensely with
Fortune 500 companies. Wikipedia. Press
The Climate Institute, founded
in 1986, is possibly the oldest
single-issue group focused on climate
change. Its style is more informational
than advocacy-driven, and large
conferences and symposia are
NRDC is a litigation- and
science-oriented national environmental
group with a membership of 1.2 million.
Wikipedia. Press Contact.
CAN is actually a coalition of
over 365 NGOs worldwide pushing for
action on climate change. They follow
international climate treaty
negotiations closely. Press
Greenpeace is a media-savvy
advocacy group historically focused on
environmental, anti-nuclear, and energy
issues. It has both a U.S.-based and a
worldwide organization. They specialize
in direct-action and investigative
research. Wikipedia. Newsroom. Press
Pew Campaign on Global Warming
This is another initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts (also see the Pew Center above). Press Contact.
As scientific evidence has accumulated that the planet is warming and that humans are behind it, many previous skeptics have been won over. There remains a vocal cadre of critics, however, at least some of whose arguments have shifted over the last several years from outright denial that the earth is warming to insisting it's unrelated to human activity — and even if it is, likely nothing much to worry about.
Some of the most vocal skeptics have done relatively little recent peer-reviewed scientific research on the topic, and some have had their voices amplified via financial support from industries opposed to any government regulation or taxation of greenhouse gas emissions. Others do have training and experience, at least in some aspects of the wide-ranging issue, and are not bankrolled by industry. But overall, their number represents a distinctly minority position in the ongoing and normal colloquy among scientists about the evidence of climate change and its likely impacts.
Climate-change modeling is less certain in forecasting impacts on a regional scale, and in assessing warming's role in extreme weather like hurricanes. But the regional resolution of the models is improving, and the 2007 IPCC report offered more detail than previous ones. Researchers also are busily assessing regional vulnerabilities to possible climate-change scenarios. So while there remain more robust debates in these areas, new research is constantly adding new layers of understanding. One needs to try to stay current on the latest published studies, on who's doing them and who's funding them.
There are a number of climate-change skeptics, less-often quoted perhaps than some more vocal ones discussed later, who have more substantial climate science research publications and who have accepted little or no fossil industry and advocacy group money. These typically include:
- John R. Christy at Univ. of Alabama, who pointed out that satellite temperature observations did not match those from the network of surface instruments (after years of high-level scientific discussions, the differences were eventually reconciled, mostly as a satellite calibration error).
Background. Rolodex entry.
- Richard Lindzen at MIT, who publishes extensive research on atmospheric dynamics and circulation.
Bio, publications, contact info. Wikipedia.
- Bill Gray, at Colorado State University's Tropical Meteorology Project. One of the acknowledged gurus of short-term hurricane forecasting, Gray has weighed in not only on the question of whether climate change is causing more and bigger hurricanes (he says no) but also on whether human emissions are causing global warming — a question beyond his immediate research field. Profile (paid archive).
A project of Patrick J. Michaels, a University of Virginia climatologist and one of the most often-quoted climate-change contrarians. The Report claims to be "The web's longest running climate change blog." Michaels, the chief editor, has shifted in recent years from denying human-induced greenhouse warming to downplaying its importance. His predecessor publication, World Climate Review, was funded in part by the Western Fuels Association. Michaels' Web site and CV (MS Word document or plain text file) do not appear to list all the funding sources for his latest work (for example, at least $100,000 in 2006 from the coal-fired Intermountain Rural Electric Association; see AP story and letter). A research professor in environmental sciences at U.Va., Michaels also is listed as a senior fellow with the libertarian Cato Institute. He's published several books on climate and many op-eds, and he's readily available for interviews, but apparently has published relatively little recent peer-reviewed climate research. (His U.Va. Web site lists no published research since 2001, but a recent CV (MS Word document or plain text file) lists some 30 publications from 2002 through 2006, not all in peer-reviewed journals.)
After the Virginia governor recently declared that the state does not appoint climatologists, Michaels amended his claim to be the Virginia state climatologist. He now identifies himself as the "AASC-designated state climatologist at the University of Virginia," referencing the American Association of State Climatologists. See stories on this here and here.
and Evangelical Views
Michaels' Cato Institute page.
New Hope Environmental Services, Inc. SourceWatch.
Wikipedia. Greenpeace/ExxonSecrets. Ross
Gelbspan. Phone: (434) 924-0549. E-mail:
SEPP is the creation of atmospheric physicist S. Fred Singer, professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and founding director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service in the 1960s. SEPP produces a Web site, meetings, and op-eds challenging the scientific mainstream view that human greenhouse emissions are significantly changing climate. He argues that that view is alarmist, questions the reliability of computer models, and asserts that warming will be inconsequential or modest at best — a view decidedly at odds with the latest conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Along with Michaels, one of the most-quoted skeptics, Singer has published books, op-eds, and letters in scientific journals on climate change, but little peer-reviewed climate research in recent years. Also listed as a research fellow with the Independent Institute, Singer deferred to his lawyer when asked to disclose individual and organizational funding sources for SEPP. While currently listing consultancies with oil and auto companies on his online resume, Singer says the money came two decades ago and supported work on oil pricing; he says he does not solicit money now from fossil-fuel interests,
though climate activists like Ross Gelbspan offer evidence that suggests otherwise. An example is evidence suggesting $10,000 grants from ExxonMobil in both 1998 and 2000. Singer bio and publications.
A policy advocacy organization dedicated to free enterprise and limited government, CEI generally espouses a market-oriented, anti-regulatory agenda and opposes the mandatory emission controls of the Kyoto Protocol. Myron Ebell, CEI's director of energy and global warming policy, rivals Michaels and Singer for highest-profile skeptic, and judging from his CEI online bio seems to relish the criticism lobbed his way by environmental activists. CEI's 20th annual program online (2004) does not identify individual donors, but says 52 percent of its revenues came from foundations, 31 percent from corporations and 16 percent from individuals. ExxonMobil, alleged by environmental activists to be a longtime underwriter, recently announced it no longer funds CEI. SourceWatch.
Sen. James Inhofe
Ranking minority member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. Inhofe is one of the most outspoken skeptics in Congress. In speeches on the Senate floor, he has called the threat of what he characterizes as "catastrophic climate change" the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." He has challenged the existence of a scientific consensus and attacked scientists whose research is prominently cited in the IPCC reports, and in 2006 directed his ire at Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" and accused news media of hyping "alarmism." Much of his material is written by his communications director, Marc Morano, former staff writer for conservative CNSNews, and former reporter and producer for Rush Limbaugh's television show as well as the syndicated TV newsmagazine "American Investigator."
Sourcewatch, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy, says CNS and Morano were the first source in May 2004 of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth claims against John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election and in January 2006 of similar attacks against Vietnam war veteran John Murtha. Morano squared off with reporters and NASA Goddard's James Hansen at SEJ's 2006 conference, and he publishes a blog on the Senate E&PW Committee website.
Phone: 202-224-6176. SourceWatch/Congresspedia.
for Sifting Disinformation from
The John Ray
Chaired by Sir John Houghton,
former Chair of the IPCC.
Originators of the "What Would
Jesus Drive?" Campaign
Publishers of Creation
RealClimate: Climate Science
from Climate Scientists
Don't let the blog format of
this site distract you from the
substance of the articles it contains.
When somebody is spinning the latest
climate story, RealClimate posts
authoritative, research-based articles
in language accessible to lay readers
while the controversy or deception is
still fresh in headlines. The site is a
collaborative effort of at least 11
scientists actively working on climate
research — with Michael Mann of
Penn State (author of the famous
"hockey stick" graph of global
temperature adopted by the IPCC)
playing a principal role.
Climate Science Watch:
Promoting Integrity in the Use of
Climate Science in
This site focuses mainly on
efforts by the Bush administration and
other political forces to distort or
censor climate science produced by
government programs or with government
funding. It is produced with foundation
funds via the Government Accountability
Project by whistleblower Rick Piltz,
who revealed White House re-writes of
Center for Media &
The iconoclastic CMD has been
in the anti-spin biz for years (they
wrote "Toxic Sludge Is Good for You"
and produce "Spin of the Day"). This
wiki project amounts to a nearly
encyclopedic data file on the
backgrounds and finances of many of the
groups and spokespeople on the
anti-regulatory front, with special
emphasis on climate-change denialists.
If you want to know if a source is
straight or bogus, go here and look
Smoke, Mirrors &
Hot Air: How ExxonMobil Uses Big
Tobacco's Tactics to "Manufacture
Uncertainty" on Climate
A Jan. 3, 2006, report done
for the Union of Concerned Scientists
by independent journalist Seth Shulman.
It documents in detail a
"disinformation campaign" on climate
science, funded to the tune of $16
million by ExxonMobil between 1998 and
Integrity in Science
Project (Searchable Database of
Sources), Center for Science in the
This database of scientists
produced by the CSPI focuses on
identifying possible conflicts of
interest, especially when these
conflicts are undisclosed by the
scientists themselves. It is a good
place to discover whether a scientist
has ties to, or funding from, an
industry whose interests are affected
by that scientist's research —
whether on climate change or any other
This searchable database site,
run by Greenpeace US, focuses on
backgrounding and mapping out the large
and complex network of climate-change
denial organizations and front groups
funded by ExxonMobil. (Full use of site
requires Flash 7 player.)
This site, while cast in blog
form, includes a searchable database of
climate-change denialists. It is run
and funded by Canadian PR magnate Jim
Hoggan, founder of James Hoggan &
Associates, "to clear the PR pollution
that is clouding the science on climate
change." Timely counter-spin.
The Heat Is
This blog-style site is
regularly maintained by
Pulitzer-winning former journalist Ross
Gelbspan, author of two books about
fossil-fuel industry funding of climate
Skeptics: A Primer, Environmental
ED, an environmental group,
assembles the basic facts about the
disinformation campaign in a clear and
quickly readable form, but also covers
some new ground.
A turnabout on some of the
databases above, ActivistCash is
operated by the anti-regulatory front
group Center for Consumer Freedom. Much
of the information comes from the IRS
form 990s filed by environmental
nonprofit organizations. It also
includes information on individual
activists and pro-environmental
celebrities. Accuses ideological
enemies of "false science."
Climate Change: A Guide for the Perplexed
New Scientist magazine takes a shot at debunking 26 common global-warming myths.
Birdwatcher's Guide to
Produced by the American Bird
Conservancy and National Wildlife
Federation, the guide offers analysis
of how global climate change may affect
some bird species.
World View of Global Warming
Photographer Gary Braasch's website is a non-commercial archive of global warming photo-documentation and information since 2002.
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