What is Climate Literacy?

Climate Literacy is short for Climate Science Literacy, which is an understanding of human impacts on climate and the impacts of climate on human systems.

The guide Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Sciences lists the following criteria for a climate-literate person:

• understands the essential principles of Earth’s climate system,

• knows how to assess scientifically credible information about climate,

• communicates about climate and climate change in a meaningful way, and

• is able to make informed and responsible decisions with regard to actions that may affect climate.


The seven essential principles of climate science are as as follows:

• the Sun is the primary source of energy for the Earth’s climate system,

• climate is regulated by complex interactions among components of the Earth system,

• life on Earth depends on, is shaped by, and affects climate,

• climate varies over space and time through both natural and man-made processes,

• our understanding of the climate system is improved through observations, theoretical studies, and modeling,

• human activities are impacting the climate system, and

• climate change will have consequences for the Earth system and human lives.


The suite of nine lab exercises in the Climate Literacy Labs cover the seven principles of climate sciences and the associated 39 concepts.  Click on the graphic below to open or download an Acrobat version of the table.

Skip to toolbar