For Earth Day, Resources to Communicate the Science of Climate Change

The impacts of human activities—particularly emissions of carbon dioxide, but also including other greenhouse gas emissions, land use, and population growth—are so vast that they will largely control the future of the Earth’s climate system. This future could bring a relatively mild change in climate, or it could deliver an extreme change from today’s climate to entirely different climate conditions that will last many thousands of years. The eventual course of the climate system over millennia will be determined largely by the actions taken this century by governments, businesses, and individuals around the world.

Earth and its residents are entering a new geological epoch—the Anthropocene—in which human activities are a primary force affecting climate. Our actions this century to reduce or increase greenhouse gas emissions will determine whether the Anthropocene is a relatively mild event or a severe transition extending over many thousands of years.

Society is beginning to make important choices regarding future greenhouse gas emissions. Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts over Decades to Millennia considers the projected climate changes and impacts that would occur if greenhouse gases in the atmosphere were stabilized at particular concentration levels. While this book does not recommend or justify any particular stabilization target, it does provide important scientific insights about the relationships among emissions, greenhouse gas concentrations, temperatures, and impacts.

The books from the America’s Climate Choices series address the serious and sweeping issues associated with global climate change, including the science and technology challenges involved, and provide advice on actions and strategies the nation can take to respond. Advancing the Science of Climate Change, Limiting the Magnitude of Future Climate Change, Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change, and Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change are an authoritative set of analyses to inform and guide responses to climate change across the nation.

These books and others from the National Research Council are available to read online at no charge. The catalog pages for these books contain links to videos and other materials that are great teacher resources. If you teach at the undergraduate or graduate level, visit to request an examination copy of these or any other titles that you feel would be appropriate to use as a textbook for a course.

Climate Stabilization Targets Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts over Decades to Millennia

Emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels have ushered in a new epoch where human activities will largely determine the evolution of Earth’s climate. Because carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is long lived, it can effectively lock the Earth…


Advancing the Science of Climate Change Advancing the Science of Climate Change

Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for–and in many cases is already affecting–a broad range of human and natural systems. The compelling case for these conclusions is provided in Advancing the…

Limiting the Magnitude of Future Climate Change Limiting the Magnitude of Future Climate Change

Climate change, driven by the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, poses serious, wide-ranging threats to human societies and natural ecosystems around the world. The largest overall source of greenhouse gas emissions is the burning…


Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change

Global climate change is one of America’s most significant long-term policy challenges. Human activity–especially the use of fossil fuels, industrial processes, livestock production, waste disposal, and land use change–is affecting global average…


Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change

Across the United States, impacts of climate change are already evident. Heat waves have become more frequent and intense, cold extremes have become less frequent, and patterns of rainfall are likely changing. The proportion of precipitation that falls as…


Ocean Acidification Ocean Acidification: A National Strategy to Meet the Challenges of a Changing Ocean

The ocean has absorbed a significant portion of all human-made carbon dioxide emissions. This benefits human society by moderating the rate of climate change, but also causes unprecedented changes to ocean chemistry. Carbon dioxide taken up by the ocean…


National Security Implications of Climate Change for U.S. Naval Forces National Security Implications of Climate Change for U.S. Naval Forces

In response to the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), the National Research Council appointed a committee operating under the auspices of the Naval Studies Board to study the national security implications of climate change for U.S. naval forces. In conducting…

Understanding Earth's Deep Past Understanding Earth’s Deep Past: Lessons for Our Climate Future

There is little dispute within the scientific community that humans are changing Earth’s climate on a decadal to century time-scale. By the end of this century, without a reduction in emissions, atmospheric CO2 is projected to increase to levels that Earth…


Verifying Greenhouse Gas Emissions Verifying Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Methods to Support International Climate Agreements

The world’s nations are moving toward agreements that will bind us together in an effort to limit future greenhouse gas emissions. With such agreements will come the need for all nations to make accurate estimates of greenhouse gas emissions and to monitor…


Modeling the Economics of Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Modeling the Economics of Greenhouse Gas Mitigation: Summary of a Workshop

Models are fundamental for estimating the possible costs and effectiveness of different policies for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There is a wide array of models to perform such analysis, differing in the level of technological detail, treatment…

Monitoring Climate Change Impacts Monitoring Climate Change Impacts: Metrics at the Intersection of the Human and Earth Systems

The stresses associated with climate change are expected to be felt keenly as human population grows to a projected 9 billion by the middle of this century, increasing the demand for resources and supporting infrastructure. Therefore, information to assess…


Global Sources of Local Pollution Global Sources of Local Pollution: An Assessment of Long-Range Transport of Key Air Pollutants to and from the United States

Recent advances in air pollution monitoring and modeling capabilities have made it possible to show that air pollution can be transported long distances and that adverse impacts of emitted pollutants cannot be confined to one country or even one continent….