Help a layperson better understand the current science of climate change
May 18, 2013 11:52 AM   Subscribe

I would like to become much better educated on the subject of climate change, with the ultimate goal of making work that explains specific aspects of climate science for a lay audience. To that end, can you recommend to me:
- books/articles/podcasts/websites covering:
----current predictions of climate change
----explanations of how climate processes interact
----discussions of specific changes that would need to take place to prevent the worst-case scenarios
----histories of the study of climate change
-authors or organizations that you'd consider leading experts

For the record, I'm a (very) non-scientist with time on my hands. I've seen An Inconvenient Truth and the Our Choice app, and I've read lots of the we-need-to-be-more-worried articles. I'm less interested for the moment in the politics/public policy/state-of-journalism debates (excepting those you'd consider essential reading). Let's say I'm trying to move from a sort of generalized anxiety about climate change to a set of specific fears…

Thank you!
posted by AndNeverWell to Science & Nature (10 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The latest IPCC report and their website would be the latest and greatest consensus from the international scientific community, and as a bonus, are easy to digest. Track down some of their sources and you'll be reading for weeks.
posted by cakebatter at 12:00 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Real Climate is an excellent source, both in terms of their own writing and their links to other sources.

As far as reading expert opinion, it is all fairly accessible from the IPCC webpage.
posted by hydropsyche at 12:01 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer:

I know it's a political site but they do try very hard to be simple, accurate and up to date.
posted by BenPens at 12:05 PM on May 18, 2013

Best answer: Today's This American Life radio program on NPR was all about climate change and American politics. Very interesting.
posted by bebrave! at 12:06 PM on May 18, 2013

Best answer: Check out the Azimuth Project.
posted by lambdaphage at 1:01 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Firstly, good luck and best wishes for your project! There's a dire need for more good climate science communicators IMO, especially given what they're up against.

Nthing the latest IPCC report as a starting point. It's big, but it's written in accessible terms, and whenever you want to dig deeper you can chase up the references. You can start with the "summary for policymakers" for a broad-level overview.

Also seconding RealClimate. I find it useful for keeping up with developments rather than as background information, but if you read it for a while you'll start to get a feeling for the "shape" of the field -- what's known, what's disputed, where the cutting edges are. For both current news/analysis and categorized background information, Skeptical Science is good.

A recent documentary: Thin Ice. A nicely done (if quite brief) round-up of the current state of the science, as presented by some of the people actually working on it. Very watchable (or at least I found it so).

Finally: as a non-scientist diving into the science you may well find the sheer amount of information a bit overwhelming. I say this as a scientist who often finds it a bit overwhelming. Climate is a huge and complex topic, so take your time and don't get bogged down in the nitty gritty at first.
posted by pont at 1:07 PM on May 18, 2013

Best answer: The PC game Fate Of The World is designed exactly for this purpose. It's really good, but not free sadly.
posted by cromagnon at 2:52 PM on May 18, 2013

Best answer: Mike Hulme's book Why We Disagree About Climate Change is a great start for some insight on the the anthropology and social aspects of climate change, including why it's so hard for us to address it through policy and politics. Hulme is one of the world's foremost climate scientists who has recently gotten more into the social aspects of climate change.

Global Warming Gridlock by David Victor is an excellent summary of the international politics and political economy of climate change. Victor is a professor of law and politics and has been closely involved in climate negotiations for decades.

Again on the social side, in 1998 scholars Steve Rayner and Liz Malone published the definitive social scientific guide to climate change, a four-volume set entitled Human Choice and Climate Change. Once you're sufficiently read up on the science of climate change, and asking yourself why in the hell we're not doing anything even remotely close to sufficient to address it, this series will help explain some of the principal political, social, and technological challenges.

As for the basic science itself, the IPCC reports are considered authoritative, but they're a bit of a bear to read as they're extraordinarily long and rather technical. The textbook The Climate Crisis: An Introduction is written by IPCC lead authors and is written as a distillation of the IPCC's key findings on the processes driving climate change and their possible outcomes going forward.

The latter book is the most direct answer to your question, but the former three are far more important (in my view). Though there remains trenchant 'denialism' of climate science, mostly on the right and in industries that find themselves threatened by aggressive climate change action, the science of climate change is at this point fairly well established and accepted. What's less clear is exactly how best to go about dealing with it, in light of the incredible complexity of the social, political, and economic issues that are at stake.

Good luck - and make sure to post your work to projects once it's complete!
posted by narcotizingdysfunction at 4:52 PM on May 18, 2013

Best answer: Part of the reason that the climate change "debate" seems so confusing is that there is an entire industry of denialists devoted to obfuscating and confusing the issue, and these people have money behind them, often from conservative think tanks. To start to get a handle on why the two sides aren't equal, and how the denialists aren't interested in truth, and aren't arguing in good faith, see Desmog Blog
posted by w1nt3rmut3 at 6:11 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow, this is great stuff, and 100% of it is new to me. Thank you all!
posted by AndNeverWell at 11:07 PM on May 18, 2013

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