| Central Administration
Science Education Resource Center
| Carleton College
These controlled vocabularies are under development at SERC. They vary widely in terms of refinement and the
degree to which they have been tested with users. None represents a finished product. Caveat emptor.
Climate Literacy Principles
- Life and Climate Are Linked 1. Life on Earth has been shaped by, depends on, and affects climate
- Climate Evolution A. The evolution of organisms can be driven by specific climatological conditions, including but not limited to temperature, humidity, precipitation, and sunlight.
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- Climate Ecosystems B. Changes in one or more of these climate conditions can produce damaging changes in ecosystems.
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- Survival of Organisms / Species C. Changes in environmental conditions can affect the survival of individual organisms as well as entire species.
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- Societies Adapt to Climate D. Human societies have developed interconnected food, energy, transportation, and socioeconomic systems that take advantage of existing climate conditions and, thus, are vulnerable to climate changes.
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- Holocene Societies E. Human systems have developed during an unusually stable period in Earth's climate history.
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- Biologic Impact on Climate F. Life on Earth, including microbes, plants, and animals such as humans, can influence climate substantially and has throughout the evolution of life on the planet.
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- The Nature of Science 2. We increase our understanding of the climate system through observation and modeling
- Weather and Climate Predictability A. Climate science is based on the assumption that Earth's climate
A. Climate science is based on the assumption that Earth's climate system is understandable and, therefore, that many important aspects are predictable.
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- Weather/Climate Differences B. Our understanding of climate differs in important ways from our understanding of weather. Thus, climate scientists' ability to predict climate patterns months, years, or even decades into the future is not constrained by the limitations meteorologists face in forecasting weather on much shorter timescales (days to weeks into the future).
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- Observational Data C. We gain understanding of climate and how it has changed over time from observational data from weather stations, buoys, satellites, radars, ice and ocean sediment cores, tree rings, cave deposits, native knowledge, and other sources.
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- Computer Models D. Observations, experiments, and theory used to construct and refine computer models and develop scientific explanations lead to better understanding of the linkages between the atmosphere-ocean system and how it relates to the overall climate system's behavior. As a result, more reliable projections of future climate changes will develop over time.
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- Our Understanding of Climate E. Fundamental characteristics of the climate system have been researched and are understood well enough to make reasonably accurate predictions about the climate system and, therefore, to support decision making, even though research continues into many aspects of climate change.
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- Sun Drives Earth System 3. The Sun is the primary source of energy for the climate system
- Solar Heat, Energy, Radiation A. Solar energy heats Earth's surface and thus the atmosphere, causing movements of air masses and introducing water in the global water cycle.
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- Daily Variations, Diurnal Cycle B. Daily variations in solar energy over Earth, caused by the planet's spherical shape, influence many weather and climate processes.
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- Axial Tilt C. The tilt of Earth on its axis causes solar energy to fall more directly on different parts of Earth during different times of the year, resulting in seasonal changes.
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- Orbital Cycles D. Gradual changes in Earth's orbit around the Sun over tens of thousands of years alter the spatial distribution and intensity of solar energy received on Earth, causing long-term warming and cooling trends, such as ice ages and the warm periods in between them.
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- Greenhouse Effect, UV, Infrared E. Gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide and water vapor, temporarily trap infrared radiation from the warmed surface of Earth. The additional warmth in the atmosphere created by the greenhouse effect allows liquid water and other life-supporting processes to exist on much of Earth's surface.
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- Fossil Fuel Formation F. Sunlight is the ultimate source of most of the energy used by humans. The energy in fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas and coal comes from energy captured long ago from the sun.
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- Energy Balance G. Earth's climate is remarkably sensitive to changes in the planet's energy balance.
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- Complex Interactions 4. Earth's weather and climate systems are the result of complex interactions
- Energy Flows A. Energy differences within and between the land, ocean, ice cover, and atmosphere result in energy flows that drive weather and climate variations.
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- Feedbacks B. Earth's atmosphere, oceans, land, and ice are dynamic, but change at different rates. Significant changes in any of these are likely to influence all other components of the climate system in complex ways.
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- Water Cycle C. Water cycling on Earth is fundamental to weather and climate.
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- Carbon Cycle D. The carbon cycle influences climate in a variety of ways, including seasonal interactions between the atmosphere, biosphere, and hydrosphere, and the formation and consumption of fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide, an important greenhouse gas, is removed from the atmosphere in the ocean and other parts of the Earth system through biologic and geologic processes.
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- Ocean Atmosphere E. Changes in the oceans impact the atmosphere and climate patterns around the globe. In turn, changes in the atmosphere impact the ocean temperatures and currents. The dominant pattern of natural climate variability - ENSO - provides an example of the dynamic coupling between ocean and atmosphere.
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- Ocean Circulation F. Circulation in and evaporation of water from the oceans regulate the temperature of Earth. Changes in deep ocean circulation in the past have produced large and rare, abrupt changes in climate.
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- Greenhouse Gases G. Relatively small increases in amounts of greenhouse gases-such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides and some refrigerants-can magnify the greenhouse effect.
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- Non-Linear Processes H. Interactions between components of the Earth's climate system result in changes to the system and produce emergent phenomena unique to the system. Human beings are an integral part of Earth's climate system. Human activities such as fossil fuel burning or deforestation can affect climate and alter the equilibrium of the climate system.
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- Natural Variability and Change 5. Earth's weather and climate vary over time and space
- Weather, Meteorology A. Weather is understood as the atmospheric conditions at any given time or place. Such conditions include temperature, precipitation, humidity, air pressure, cloudiness, and wind speed and direction.
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- Climate, Atmospheric Conditions B. Climate is understood as the atmospheric conditions (i.e., weather variables) averaged over a long period of time (season, year, or longer) and over a large area (region, continent, or larger).
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- Frequency, Duration, Magnitude C. Weather and climate variations, such as the seasons or El NiÃ±os and La NiÃ±as, can be described by their duration, magnitude or frequency. These variations range from a fraction of a second to many years.
C. Weather and climate variations, such as the seasons or El Niños and La Niñas, can be described by their duration, magnitude or frequency. These variations range from a fraction of a second to many years.
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- Temperature Patterns D. The temperature of a specific place on Earth's surface tends to rise and fall in a somewhat predictable pattern every day and over the course of a year.
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- Solar Intensity Variations E. Differences in the intensity of sunlight warm Earth's surface and produce daily, seasonal and long-term variations in temperature.
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- Climate Always Changes F. Earth's climate has changed in the past, is currently changing, and is expected to change in the future.
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- Recent Climate Changes G. The consensus of scientific opinion is that the natural processes driving Earth's long-term climate changes cannot entirely explain the rapid changes observed in recent decades, nor do they solely predict those projected for coming decades.
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- Human Activities and Change 6. Evidence indicates human activities are impacting the climate system
- Humans Part of Climate System A. Human beings are an integral component of Earth's climate system.
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- Human Activities B. Human activities have affected the land, oceans and atmosphere and have altered regional and global climate. These activities include burning fossil fuels, releasing chemicals into the atmosphere, reducing the amount of forest cover, and rapidly expanding farming, development and industrial activity.
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- Environmental Impacts C. Some changes resulting from human activities have decreased the capacity of the environment to support various species.
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- Burning Fossil Fuels D. The increased burning of fossil fuels since the start of the industrial revolution has increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Because carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for many years (hundreds to thousands of years) before being removed by natural processes, this has contributed to Earth's warming.
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- Increased Temperatures E. The preponderance of scientific evidence indicates that the observed increase in global average temperatures since the latter part of the 20th century is very likely due to documented increases in human-induced greenhouse gas concentrations, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels.
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- Impacts of Anthropogenic Warming F. Evidence indicates that changes in many physical and biological systems are linked to human caused warming.
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- Making Decisions 7. Earth's climate system is influenced by complex human decisions involving economic costs and social values
- Decisions, Choices A. Decisions about human activities that affect climate and climate change should involve weighing scientific evidence against uncertainties about future economic growth, energy use, ecosystem integrity, costs and opportunities, probabilities and risks, moral values, and cultural norms.
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- Informed Decision-Making B. Identification and understanding of facts and assumptions about climate change are essential to informed decision making to solve related problems.
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- Reduce Vulnerability/Enhance Resilience C. Climate information can be used to reduce the vulnerability/enhance the resilience of human communities and ecosystems; the importance of continuing to improve understanding of climate system is crucial.
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- Pros and Cons of Industrialization D. Industrialization has the potential to improve the quality of life in the short-term but also creates long-term challenges, including increased energy demand and the resultant adverse impacts on ecosystems and the climate system.
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- Atmospheric Connectivity E. The atmosphere covers the entire surface of Earth; thus, activities that effect climate (e.g., energy use leading to greenhouse gas release into the atmosphere) in one region affect human beings and other species worldwide.
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- Generational Decisions F. Decisions of one generation both provide opportunities and limit the range of possibilities open to the next generation.
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- Decision Levels G. Decisions about energy use and adapting to the effects associated with climate change are made at all levels, from the individual to the global.
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- Mitigation/Adaptation H. Individuals as well as community, government, business and industry leaders can contribute to climate mitigation and adaptation.
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- Strategies for Reducing Human Impact I. Slowing or reversing human impact on climate change trends might be accomplished by combining short-term strategies -- such as conservation, more efficient use of resources, and the switch from carbon-intensive energy to renewable sources -- with long-term investments in technology research and implementation, and by adopting sustainable development strategies, such as building alternative energy infrastructure and a 'green' economy.
I. Slowing or reversing human impact on climate change trends might be accomplished by combining short-term strategies -- such as conservation, more efficient use of resources, and the switch from carbon-intensive energy to renewable sources -- with long-term investments in technology research and implementation, and by adopting sustainable development strategies, such as building alternative energy infrastructure and a “green” economy. 101:46 101:54 end