Systemic science-based citizens informing on the causes and consequences of climate change

Climate impacts
Non-impact specific
IPCC category
Institutional: Government policies and programmes, Social: Educational options, Social: Informational
Photo by Tom Herman


Since climate change is an exceptionally wide subject and uncertainty is one of its basic characteristics, literacy of the population is not a one-off action. It includes following the latest knowledge on the climate change, its causes and consequences.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the leading international organisation dealing with climate change. It was founded in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), with the objective of securing for the whole world clear scientific information on the state of the climate and on the effects of the climate change on the nature, society and economy. IPCC does not perform research or monitoring; their principal task is to secure cooperation of as large a number as possible of scientists dealing with these topics, and to publish regularly the consolidated knowledge. So far, IPCC has published 5 assessment reports in the preparation of which thousands of scientists from various disciplines collaborated. The assessment reports have summaries for decision makers, and comprehensive iconography. Over almost 40 years of the IPCC activity tangible results have been achieved as well as an almost unique level of cooperation within the scientific community, and all of that around an extremely complex and uncertain subject.

However, there is a question – how many decision makers in the world, or Croatia or Italy have read the IPCC summaries for decision makers? Can it be at all expected that common citizens will read those reports? Where are reports for wider population? To how many languages have summaries been translated? There are no systematic translations in Croatia, or Italy, or most of the other countries. Today, when the voices of climate sceptics have almost completely been silenced by the clear signals of the warmest years ever that have been passing for the past 20 years before the eyes of 7.6 billion Earthlings, we can conclude that the result of the IPCC work should be  channelled through national and local scientific communities which have to be given a clear mandate to include those findings into their disciplines.

Since 2019, 5 leading world organisations dealing with climate change research have been publishing joint annual report – United in Science Reports. So far 2019 and 2020 reports have been published. The reports are coordinated by the WMO, and other participants are the Global Carbon Project, IPCC, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO), UNEP, and the UK Met Office. The reports are also presented in the form of a short video, communication tool with potentially largest reach.

For more than 25 years WMO has been publishing annual statements on the State of the global climate. Those statements are based on the national data provided by the state hydro-meteorological services, as well as international organisations. Since 2016 the WMO has been publishing those statements together with the UN and they now include socio-economic effects as well. The statements are available at the WMO web pages in 6 official UN languages. Currently 2019, 2018, 2017, and 2016 statements are available. As in the case of the United in Science, in the past few years these statements are also presented in the form of short videos.

As the first step towards informing and literacy on climate change we suggest watching the following 2-3 minute long videos. 

United in Science 2020 

United in Science 2019

WMO: New climate predictions assess global temperatures in coming five years

WMO: State of the Climate 2019

WMO: The Global Climate 2015-2019

 A splendid global initiative has been launched on October 10, 2020, headed by TED, a non-profit organisation, called Countdown. The objective of this initiative is to support and speed-up the application of solutions to the climate crisis. The launch of this initiative was marked by an on-line conference during which more than 50 speakers for more than 5 hours shared their views and experience. This platform is an exceptionally valuable contribution to awareness raising, informing and education since it contains, apart from presentations from the on-line conference, numerous other information materials, starting with  tools for beginners, proposals for joining organised fight against the climate change within the TED family, and announcements of numerous other local and future global events

For informing various groups of stakeholders, the new UN platform on climate events Climate Hub 360, launched in view of the COP 26, can also be of interest.

In September 2020 an initiative was launched form the business sector as well; Facebook has opened the page Climate Science Information Center. Given the almost 3 billion active Facebook users this is certainly an important initiative, although it remains to be seen how objective this reporting will be.

In Croatia, information can be found on the web site of the Ministry of economy and sustainable development, and on a special domain dedicated to climate adaptation. In Italy, at the national level the Italian Society for climate sciences (SISC) aims at promoting the dialogue among scientists, policy makers, businesses and citizens to support actions in the interests of the society and the environment), while we can point out an example at the regional level, where Emilia Romagna has created a Regional Forum which, among others, has the objective to inform and educate citizens and support policy makers regarding  climate change.

Costs and benefits

Scientifically-based informing of the population can have its operational realisation through TV, radio and Internet programmes since those are media that reach best the population of a country. Local TV and radio stations should pay more attention to local contributions to and consequences of the climate change.

The key events, such as annual WMO reports, United in Science reports, IPCC reports, results of climate science and alike should be accompanied by brief coverages (such as the video on the state of the global climate) within evening news in all countries, parties to the Paris Agreement. The key role here is played by governments and politics. Science does not have the power to spread information that would be useful for all. So far it hasn’t been its task, either. This activity would have the largest reach and, possibly, the strongest immediate effect on awareness raising.

Media promotion of topics dealing with causes and consequences of the climate change and its systematic implementation in the years and decades to come require good preparation of new journalist/media personnel and, after that, systematic maintenance of news and specialised programmes. We are unable to assess the total costs of such a multiannual innovation. In any case, as many such products as possible should be prepared at the global level, with translation provided in all languages.

Implementation time and lifetime

The preparation of journalist and media personnel for such thematically innovative programmes could take around one year, in each country where it is applied. After that TV and radio programmes of that type would go on as long as the climate change problem is relevant.

Source for more detailed information