Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Science

U.S. Global Change Research Program
Posted on: 2/28/2009 - Updated on: 4/24/2023

Posted by

Jessica Hitt



To protect fragile ecosystems and to build sustainable communities that are resilient to climate change—including extreme weather and climate events—a climate-literate citizenry is essential. Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Science is an interagency guide that provides a framework and essential principles for formal and informal education about climate change.

This climate science literacy guide identifies the essential principles and fundamental concepts that individuals and communities should understand about Earth’s climate system. It presents information for individuals and communities to understand Earth's climate, impacts of climate change, and approaches for adapting and mitigating change. Principles in the guide can serve as discussion starters or launching points for scientific inquiry. Such understanding improves our ability to make decisions about activities that increase vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and to take precautionary steps in our lives and livelihoods that would reduce those vulnerabilities. The guide can also serve educators who teach climate science as part of their science curricula.

This guide is available in both English and Spanish (attached below).


U.S. Global Change Research Program. (2009). Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Science. Retrieved from CAKE

Affiliated Organizations

The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) coordinates and integrates federal research on changes in the global environment and their implications for society. The USGCRP began as a presidential initiative in 1989 and was mandated by Congress in the Global Change Research Act of 1990 (P.L.