- I have a question about climate science or an objection to something I heard you say
- I want to fact-check something someone said to me or sent me about climate change. It doesn’t seem right, but I’m not quite sure why it’s wrong.
- Where can I find the data on global temperature, carbon emissions, sea level rise, and more?
- How will climate change affect the place where I live? What should I be looking for, and what should I be worried about?
- I want to have positive, constructive conversations about climate change. Where do I start?
- What if the people I’m talking to aren’t on board with climate science?
- I’d like to start doing low-carbon video talks too! Any tips?
- I want to take climate action and I want it to count! What’s the most effective thing for me to do?
- My church wants to take action on climate change. Where should we start?
- My school wants to tackle climate change. Any recommendations?
- I’ve figured out how to fix climate change. Can you help me get my idea into the right hands?
- I want to join a climate group! What do you recommend?
- Help! We’re looking for more resources. What do you suggest?
- I’d like to learn more about climate change. What books, podcasts, and documentaries do you recommend?
- I want more! What other resources do you have?
- I want to start a book club on SAVING US, do you have a book discussion guide?
- I’m a student / recent grad and I’m looking for advice on what to study / on my future career. Can you help?
- I’m a student and I’d like to interview you about climate change!
- I’d like to apply for graduate school and work with you at Texas Tech University.
Advice, reviews or endorsements
- Could you provide feedback on this video or website I’ve created?
- I’ve written a book! Would you endorse it?
- Could you please review this essay, letter or petition I’ve written?
- I have a policy or technological solution to climate change. Would you review it?
If your question is not on this list, you are welcome to submit it to our monthly Global Weirding Live! Q&A that starts in Sept 2020. Check the events page for times and dates – but don’t worry if you can’t watch live: the video will be archived on our YouTube and Facebook pages afterwards.
Questions about the science?
“How do we know climate is changing? Why do scientists think it’s humans this time, and not just natural cycles like it’s been before? Wasn’t it warmer way back when? And I thought I heard something about scientists cooking the data–is that true? I’ve heard these or other objections and I want to fact-check them. Can you help?”
Yes, there are many resources that address these questions. For example, we’ve collected all our most frequently asked questions and turned them into super-short Global Weirding episodes that you can watch on YouTube. I have a popular Twitter thread that explains how we know humans are causing climate change today. I’ve also answered dozens of questions on Quora, from “How long do we have to save the earth?” to “Do plastics affect climate change?”
For a good overview of the entire subject, I recommend the What We Know report from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Climate Science, Risks and Solutions website from MIT. If you’d like more scientific detail, please review Skeptical Science’s comprehensive answers to 198 of the most common questions people have about the science. Their responses link directly to the original scientific studies so you can dig as deeply as you’d like. They also list objections by source, if there is a specific person who has said something that you’d like to fact check.
Other good fact-checking resources include Climate Feedback where top scientists “peer-review” news stories and rate them for accuracy, and DeSmogBlog that keeps a list of people by name so you can determine whether a given source is reliable or not.
Finally, if you’re looking for more in-depth information on climate science, I recommend the National Climate Assessment’s Frequently Asked Questions and the entire report on the science of climate change (both of which I helped to write!); The Warming Papers, a compilation of pioneering scientific studies; and the Real Climate blog, written by some of the world’s top climate scientists.
Looking for data?
If you’d like to take a look at the basic data showing how climate is changing, a lot of it is available online. There is a good summary of the basic data at NASA’s Vital Signs and you can find global temperature maps at NASA GISS and easily plot maps or time series of annual average, seasonal, or monthly temperature and precipitation for the world, the U.S., every U.S. state, and most large U.S. cities at NOAA’s easy-to-use Climate At A Glance website.
A wealth of information on carbon emissions by country and atmospheric concentrations has been collected by Our World In Data and data on the radiative forcing to see which gases contribute to human-induced warming and how that’s changed over time is available through NOAA’s Annual Greenhouse Gas Index. For more information on the carbon cycle, see the Second State of the Carbon Cycle report.
Observed sea level rise at tidal gauges around the world (which includes both the movement of land up or down as well as sea level rise – that’s why some of the arrows are going down) is available from NOAA’s Tides and Currents and these zoomable maps from Climate Central let you see how rising seas will flood cities and coastlines around the world.
For observed trends and future projections for the United States, see the Fourth U.S. National Climate Assessment Volume 1 and Volume 2, and for Canada, see the Canada’s Changing Climate report. At the Texas Tech Climate Center we also generate high-resolution climate projections for scientific analyses.
For more information, data and resources, see NOAA’s Climate.gov dashboard.
How will climate change affect where I live?
The impacts of climate change depend on where we live. Along the Gulf Coast, rising seas and stronger hurricanes pose the largest threat to people and the economy. Where I live in Texas, natural patterns of drought and flood are being amplified, with record-breaking events now the norm rather than the exception. Through the Great Lakes, Midwest and Northeast, huge increases in heavy precipitation events have slammed cities and countryside alike. In the Rockies, warmer winters mean pests and bugs can live for multiple generations, chewing up millions of acres of forest. Across western North America, wildfires are burning greater and greater areas, and water supply from winter snowpack is drying up. And up in the Arctic, melting permafrost and eroding coastlines are endangering people’s homes and livelihoods.
We have a Global Weirding episode about every region of the U.S. as well as Canada and the Arctic. If you live in the U.S., you can find out more about how climate change will affect you from the U.S. National Climate Assessment.
How can I have a positive, constructive conversation about climate change?
Please start by watching my TED talk and this Global Weirding episode, If I just tell them the facts they’ll get it, right? and read these two short essays, When facts are not enough and Everyone cares about global warming, they just don’t realise it.
These resources explain how the best place to begin a conversation is not with what we disagree on, but with something we agree on: whether it’s jobs and the economy, our kids, our hobbies (cooking, knitting, birding, hunting), the place we live, organizations we’re part of (a church, the Rotary Club), or more: whatever it is that makes you you and that you love, those are great things to bond over!
Then, connect the dots between what we already agree on and how climate change is affecting us and bring up a positive, viable solution the person you’re talking to could get on board with.
By taking this approach, we tackle the two biggest problems we have when talking about climate change: (1) psychological distance – we think climate impacts are far away in space or time, and (2) solution aversion – we don’t think there’s anything we can do to fix the problem that isn’t harmful or painful or contrary to our values or our well-being.
For a short, useful list of the most important ingredients of a constructive conversation, see Rare’s Eight Principles for Effective and Inviting Climate Communication, and for a helpful template on how to have genuine, positive conversations please see Climate Outreach’s Talking Climate Handbook. As I discuss in this webinar, the most effective messenger on climate change is you (friends and family) and talking about climate change kicks off a true positive feedback effect where the more we talk about it, the more concerned we are.
There’s only one caveat: this approach works with everyone but dismissives. Dismissives are the 10% of the population who’ve built their identity on rejecting climate change. They’re the loudest voices and the most determined opponents – and it takes a literal miracle to change their minds. My personal definition of a dismissive is someone who, if an angel from God with brand-new tablets of stone appeared in front of them emblazoned with foot-high letters of flame saying, “global warming is real,” they would reject it. And if they reject that, then what hope do I have at changing their mind?
So if a dismissive confronts me in public, or on social media, I will tell them that what they’re saying isn’t true. But I do it for the sake of everyone else listening, not for them; and if they refuse to engage in a constructive way, I’m done.
We can have constructive conversations with 90% of us – so what are we waiting for? Let’s do it!
What if they’re Christians or conservatives?
It’s helpful to understand what are the religious-y myths we often hear; I summarize them in our most popular Global Weirding episode, What does the Bible say about climate change?
But these arguments are exactly that, myths: and I unpack them further, as well as the faith- and science-based responses to these myths in my NY Times editorial, I’m a climate scientist who believes in God, my interview with Bill Moyers on climate change and faith, and these sermons I gave at evangelical churches recently that you can watch or listen to here.
Check out some of my favourite Christian organizations, including A Rocha International, A Rocha Canada, the Catholic Climate Covenant, Climate Caretakers, Climate Stewards, the Evangelical Environmental Network, Plant With Purpose, Tearfund, Operation Noah, and Young Evangelicals for Climate Action.
To understand why conservative Christians in the U.S. – and to a lesser extent in Canada, Australia and the U.K. – reject climate science, read this brilliant article, How Fossil Fuel Money Made Climate Denial the Word of God, as well as Evangelicals for Climate Action.
Looking for advice on low-carbon video talks?
I’ve worked hard the last few years to transition the majority of my talks and presentations, and even some interviews and panels, to online virtual low-carbon events. It isn’t as easy as looking people in the face, but with a little practice you can get comfortable with it!
To help, I’ve invested in a few key pieces of equipment. Here’s a list, with links to the products I bought. You can see what it looks like in this interview I did with Fox News here. Really, anything like this is fine – these are just the choices I went with based on budget and quality.
- A collapsible backdrop (I use a reversible one that can be gray or white, but there are a lot of options out there!)
- Standing acoustic sound-absorbing panels to absorb the echos
- Flat acoustic panels to lay on the desk in front of me (if you’re on a tight budget, these are more important than the standing ones – they also double as a cat bed; and if you need something immediately, just use some pillows instead! they work nearly as well but are just a bit harder to keep out of the camera)
- A respectable webcam, worth paying a bit more than the cheap version.
- Very basic audio equipment – sometimes Apple earbuds, which I balance on an upside down glass in front of me so they can’t be seen (the upside down part is important for sound quality – I learned that the hard way!), sometimes a stand mic
- One or more LED lights, preferably adjustable so you can make it warmer or cooler. There are some good options at various scales here. Obviously you want one to illuminate from the front, and there are some good options you can literally just clip to the top of your computer screen. If you want to go the extra mile, add two or more side lights. In my home studio I have two lights at 90o, two at 45o, and one in front.
- I also tilt my glasses down slightly when I want to avoid reflection (though a lot of times I don’t bother) – it works like a charm
Looking at your audience is super-important. Practice looking right at the camera, not down at the screen. It may feel strange but you will get used to it. The webcam should be at the height of your eyes. If you’re using a laptop, put some books under it to raise it until the webcam is at the level of your eyes.
Audience engagement is also very important. There are several great apps to do this but I use Poll Everywhere. It is a simple internet-based audience polling program that I put right into my slides. It lets me survey people in real time to get their opinions, perspectives, and responses to what I’m talking about. I’ve used it all over the world: since it’s internet-based, it doesn’t matter if I’m in Texas talking to a group in India! I also like using Poll Everywhere even in person because it allows people to respond anonymously (not everyone feels comfortable standing up at a mic) and up-vote the questions they want me to answer at the end.
At the receiving end, if you are talking to a group of people, make sure their room has adequate speakers and a good projector. I like it if they have a camera facing the audience so I can see people as I talk, but it is not a deal-breaker if they don’t have it.
This may seem obvious, but it makes sense to put a few precautions in place before you speak so you won’t recreate the best photobomb ever. I can’t aspire to those heights, but I’ve had my share of cats and toddlers make sudden appearances when I thought they were locked away (the former) or safely in bed (the latter). Children, pets, family members, sudden noises – think about what could interrupt your talk and make sure either they or you are behind a shut door and everyone in the house is warned that you’re streaming. And if it does happen – well, we’re all human! Laugh and move on.
Choose streaming software that you are familiar with and that allows you to share your screen. I have used it all, and it’s all pretty good. Adobe is the hardest to set up but it is a workhorse: it will deliver a quality video feed even on minimal wifi speed. Zoom is quick and easy, and connects multiple people through a simple interface. In my experience, it works great 99% of the time but fails catastrophically and inexplicably the 100th time. Skype is basic and functional, though video quality is sometimes limited. BlueJeans and Join.me have both been fine in my experience. Professional services like GoToMeeting and WebEx are solid. The only two programs I recommend avoiding are Skype Business and Microsoft Teams, especially if you have a Mac.
And after you’re finished, ask yourself: what worked best that I should do again? What could I have done better or what’s something different I could try next time? If you recorded the talk (because why not, if appropriate, and share it with others on youtube?), grit your teeth and give it a watch to help answer these questions.
My dad was scheduled to meet with his mentor, Maurice, a while back, but due to coronavirus decided it would be best to do so virtually. “You know what?” he told me, “meeting virtually was better – we could see and hear each other more clearly and it was so much easier.” My dad is in his 70s. Maurice is in his 90s. So – if they can do it, you can too!
I want to take climate action. What’s the most effective thing I can do?
When it comes to climate action, our mind often jumps right to what we can do to reduce our personal carbon footprint: change our light bulbs, recycle, eat more plants or get an electric car. While personal changes are important, if we want to change the system (which we do — so that the best choices for everyone are no longer the hardest or most expensive but rather the easiest and the most affordable) then, as Bill McKibben says, “the most important thing an individual can do is not be such an individual.”
What does that mean? Well, rather than focusing on your carbon footprint, think about your climate shadow: how you influence those around you by using your voice and your actions to inspire change. These changes can even be contagious, in a good way!
Where can you start? As this very helpful summary explains (don’t be put off by the image of a distraught-looking Leonardio DiCaprio; keep reading), according to the social science of change, the most effective things an individual can do are:
- Start a conversation about solutions and what people can do (don’t know where to start? Give my TED talk a watch.)
- Join a climate group (I have a list here) to boost your impact
- Make your money count by choosing your financial institutions carefully (start here)
- Keep elected officials accountable at the city, state/province and national scale
- Inspire your place of work or school to take action
- Ask news outlets and journalists to report on climate (for example, here’s a program for broadcast meteorologists)
- Make personal changes yourself (there’s an app that can help) but don’t stop there: share them, to make them contagious
For me, flying is the biggest part of my carbon footprint; that’s why I’ve transitioned the majority of my talks to virtual low-carbon events. For you, it might be how much meat you eat or how much food you throw out or how you commute.
There are many practical steps we can all take to reduce our carbon footprint. I drive a plug-in car, we bought solar panels from a local company, Mission Solar, I’ve reduced our food waste and replaced our light bulbs, I replaced the freezer with racks for drying clothes, and our meals include a lot more fish and plants, less beef. For more ideas, read Cooler, Smarter.
But don’t forget that the most important things you can do when it comes to climate change are:
• Talk about it!
• Join an organization that amplifies your voice, and
• Advocate for system-wide change
To learn more about the importance of system-wide change, read these two brilliant essays, I don’t care if you recycle by Mary Annaise Heglar and Lifestyle changes aren’t enough to fix the planet by Michael Mann. Then to learn more about the big picture on the system-wide changes that are needed, watch How empowering women and girls can help fix climate change by Katharine Wilkinson, and then watch our Global Weirding episode on big climate solutions and check out Project Drawdown’s amazing list of 100 climate solutions.
My church wants to act on climate. Where should we start?
Here are a few ideas. For more, please check out Cool Congregations, EcoChurch, EcoCongregations, the World Evangelical Alliance’s Creation Care Task Force, the World Council of Churches’ Care for Creation and Climate Justice page, the Big Church Switch, and the Reformed Church of America’s Creation Care page.
- Talk about climate change! For ideas, explore the content and sermon resources available from Interfaith Power and Light, Web of Creation, the Catholic Climate Covenant, the Evangelical Environmental Network and A Rocha International.
- Looking to engage your youth group? Check out these five recommendations.
- Create a “green team” of like-minded people who can explore these ideas and help implement them
- Model good stewardship: do an energy audit of your building and figure out how to reduce your carbon footprint and your energy bills. In the US and the UK, Colby May from LIT consulting specializes in energy audits for churches … and sometimes he even has grants to help!
- Share resources: which light bulbs are most efficient? Do you have a solar panel installer you’d recommend? What’s it like to drive an electric car?
- Encourage action: provide a plug for electric vehicles and secure bike racks for people to bike to church
- Make potlucks and coffee hours zero-waste and emphasize plant-based foods
- If resources and space are available, consider planting a reflection garden with trees. If they plant fruit trees this could be a great resource for local wildlife as well
- Support organizations that care about climate action. Ask them for materials you could use, campaigns or needs you could help promote, or prayer requests you could share share. Invite them to do a webinar or a Q&A with your group or congregation so people can learn more about what they do and the impact they are having. Here are just a few: A Rocha International, A Rocha Canada, the Catholic Climate Covenant, Climate Caretakers, Climate Stewards, the Evangelical Environmental Network, Plant With Purpose, Tearfund, Operation Noah, and Young Evangelicals for Climate Action.
- Find out how climate change is affecting people in your community and see what you can do about it. Climate change is the great threat multiplier: it takes issues like poverty, hunger, insecurity, and more, and makes them worse.
- Climate Stewards USA has a new carbon footprint calculator for churches called 360carbon. It’s free to use and gives congregations the power to measure and reduce their footprint as part of their commitment to climate justice.
My school wants to take climate action. Where should we start?
- Talk about it! Include climate change in your classes and programs. Talking about climate change in school changes parent’s minds.
- Join your local Fridays for Future climate strike!
- Found or join a club with others who share your interests so you can brainstorm and work together.
- Calculate how much energy your school uses. Set a goal for how much you want to reduce it and figure out what you can do to achieve that goal.
- Find out if your school could be powered by renewable energy and, if so, what you’d need to do to make that happen.
- Reduce food waste and offer plant-based options at the cafeteria.
- Try carrying around your trash for a week to raise awareness of how much we throw out.
- Plant trees and keep track of the how much the tree is growing as a way to help see how much carbon it is taking up.
- Encourage biking by providing secure bike racks, creating bike lanes through the parking lots, and providing bike safety courses.
I’ve found the solution to global warming. Will you help me?
Climate change is a complex issue and will require a complex network of solutions across many disciplines in order to reach sustainable goals, like those described by Project Drawdown. Very few people – including me! – have access to the resources required to bankroll big ideas, so we have to build our work in steps.
I would encourage you to start with the peer-reviewed publication process to gain input and feedback into your idea. Then, if it is marketable, you can work up from small grants and demonstrations of concept into larger projects with more visibility. Organizations like the Climate Co-Lab are designed to help with potentially viable ideas and there are many prize competitions like the Keeling Curve and the EarthShot Prize you could enter.
I wish you the best of luck in your work to address this critically important issue!
Climate organizations I recommend
One of the most effective ways we can use our voice to advocate for change is by joining an organization that shares our values and put our weight behind their calls for action at the city, state, province, corporate, or national level. Here are some suggestions, organized by topic.
Don’t see your favourite group? Use the contact page on this website to send me a recommendation!
For parents and kids
- Science Moms
- Mom’s Clean Air Force
- Our Kid’s Climate (they have lists of other groups by country)
- Mother’s Out Front
- Australian Parents for Climate Action
For young people
- The Climate Initiative
- Sunrise Movement (USA)
- Fridays For Future
- Young Evangelicals for Climate Action
For grandparents and the third generation
- A Rocha
- Evangelical Environmental Network
- Catholic Climate Covenant (USA)
- Creation Justice Ministries
- Dayenu (Jewish)
- Green Muslims
- Interfaith Power and Light
- Buddhist organizations
- The Loka Initiative
For hikers, gardeners, birders and other nature-lovers
- The Nature Conservancy
- Conservation International
- The Garden Club of America
- Sierra Club
- National Wildlife Federation
- Conservation Northwest (USA)
- Beyond Plastics (USA)
- Earth Justice (USA)
- Environmental Defense Fund
- Union of Concerned Scientists
- National Resources Defense Council
Arts and crafts
- The Climate Museum
- Arts and Climate Change with Nicole Kelner (newsletter)
- The Tempestry Project (knitting)
- Invisible Dust
- Museums & Climate Change Network
Resources for families
Parents and families – if you’re looking for resources for your kids, here are some ideas. Please also check out my recommendations for books, podcasts, and documentaries below.
1. Skype A Scientist brings a real live scientist right into your home. They typically only do classrooms but they’re opening it up to families now so check them out!
2. Our Global Weirding show has over 30 short episodes appropriate for kids of all ages (and parents too). Bonus activity: we are turning them into PBS Learning Units so if you want to design discussion questions and/or an activity to go with an episode, send them along and if we use them we’ll give you full credit!
3. There are already many fantastic units on PBS Learning Media for all ages and subjects. And don’t forget our PBS Digital Media sister series on YouTube, from Hot Mess to Gross Science. There’s plenty to keep kids entertained there!
5. Finally, for the high school kids and adults who want to do a deep dive into climate change, Denial101x is an online course that is free for all with amazing videos and interviews with nearly every top expert in the field.
Which books, podcasts and documentaries do you recommend?
There are lots of great books and podcasts and documentaries I recommend. For books, I recommend starting with A Thinking Person’s Guide to Climate Change and then check out more than 30 titles on my Amazon List here that cover a broad range of topics from geoengineering and climate solutions to personal actions and attitudes.
For podcasts, I suggest:
- Warm Regards, a podcast about the warming planet hosted by my colleague Dr. Jacquelyn Gill, a paleoecologist at the University of Maine
- No Place Like Home, a podcast that gets to the heart of climate change hosted by my friends Mary Anne Hitt & Anna Jane Joyner
- Outrage and Optimism, a podcast from former UN Chief Christiana Figueres that aims to inform, inspire, and help you realize that this is the most exciting time in history to be alive
- How to Save a Planet, a podcast with journalist Alex Blumberg and scientist and policy nerd Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson that asks the big questions: what do we need to do to solve the climate crisis, and how do we get it done?
- America Adapts, a podcast explores the challenges presented by adapting to climate change, the global movement that has begun to drive change, and the approaches that are already working, hosted by adaptation expert Doug Parsons
- Mothers of Invention, a podcast on feminist climate change solutions from (mostly) women around the world hosted by Ireland’s first female president Mary Robinson and comic Maeve Higgins
- Climate One, a forum for candid discussion among climate scientists, policymakers, activists, and concerned citizens that I’ve appeared on a few times
- Climate Conversations, a podcast produced by MIT Climate, a hub for all the scientific work being done on climate change across the university and MIT Energy Initiative, a podcast that hosts conversations about the future of energy
- Costing the Earth, a BBC podcast about climate change that covers a diverse range of topics from building golf courses on sand dunes to climate changes’ effects on human and animal fertility
- Green Docs, a podcast dedicated to helping expectant mothers and the world at large understand how our changing environment, and climate change specifically, is threatening pregnancies and our general health.
There are also many great documentaries about climate change you can watch. Here are just a few:
- Years of Living Dangerously
- Chasing Ice and Chasing Coral
- Before the Flood
- Merchants of Doubt
- Behold the Earth
- Decoding the Weather Machine
- Polar Extremes
- Carbon Nation
- Kiss the Ground
- Ice on Fire
- An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
Looking for more content?
We have over 30 Global Weirding episodes online, as well as this little cartoon explaining global warming. I’ve also collected many of my short interviews and over 100 full-length lectures on my YouTube playlists and Vimeo channel. They include everything from my latest presentations to the first TV interview I ever did. All of these video resources are available to stream to your class or organization or to share on social media, no permission needed.
I also archive many of my essays, interviews, and videos on the Posts page here. You can sort them by topic including faith, communication, and science.
Book discussion guides
We currently have two book discussion guide templates. View this Google Doc, divided by section, to see an adapted guide from A Rocha USA. This second book discussion guide was created as a collaboration between West Kootenay Climate Hub and Castlegar United Church (British Columbia, Canada), by Judeth Betts, Shemmaho Goodenough, and Laura Sacks.
Advice to students and recent grads
If you are a student concerned about climate change and wondering what to study, my answer might surprise you: I recommend that you study whatever it is that you enjoy and you are good at! Why? Because you are unique. You have a set of abilities and talents that no one else has. So study what you love, what you’re passionate about, and use the skills you acquire to help solve climate change.
I work with people whose degrees are in engineering, ecology, education, english, and economics; philosophy and psychology; advertising, communication, and technical writing; political science and publishing; biology, chemistry and physics; natural resources and agriculture; journalism and public relations. I’ve even worked with artists, lawyers, medical professionals, business experts, and musicians. When it comes to climate solutions, we need everyone. So be who you are, and add your hand to the effort!
In terms of potential careers, including applications to graduate school, I have four suggestions.
First, always put your best foot forward. Make sure your resume or CV looks professional. Pay close attention to the layout and content. Ensure it highlights all your relevant experience. Ask a few people you respect to review it and give you feedback. If you are applying for positions in different fields, consider having several versions of your cover letter and resume that are tailored to that particular area. When I receive a letter from a potential graduate student, it always impresses me if they have done their research and can explain exactly why they want to work with me, as opposed to a different professor or a different university. If you are asked to do a virtual meeting or interview using a camera, make sure you are dressed appropriately and have a professional background in a quiet location (i.e. not a coffee shop, or somewhere with people or pets running around, or an unmade bed behind you).
Next, do your research. Identify a few people who might have a position or a job you are interested in and you could see yourself applying for either in the near future or in a few years, and reach out to them via email. Do not reach out to their supervisor or boss: reach out to them. Keep your email short and very professional. Ask if they might have 30 minutes sometime in the next month to give you an informational interview via zoom or phone.
If they reply in the affirmative, prepare your questions in advance. Be organized and concise. Ask them what you want to know. For example: what is their own educational background? What led them to apply for their job? What does a typical day for them look like? What projects are they currently working on? What do they love best about what they do? What is most challenging about what they do? And finally, what advice would they give to their younger self, 10 years earlier, and what advice would they give to you?
Afterwards, don’t forget to send a very short thank you note expressing your appreciation for their time. If their work interested you, ask them to please think of you if any opportunities come up in their organization and attach a professional-quality resume or CV.
Third, if this is an option for you, look for internship opportunities at organizations you’d be interested in working with. Many of them have these opportunities already. If you can’t find them, try emailing someone to ask whether this might be an option. You could also ask about them during the informational interviews I describe above.
And fourth, make sure you check the job listings regularly. Make a note of the organizations whose websites you want to check on a regular basis, and look for and sign up for job boards that post those types of jobs. Build a professional Linked In profile and use that platform’s job recommendations as well.
I hope these suggestions help! I regret I am not able to provide personalized career advice and I cannot provide any information on positions with The Nature Conservancy other than what is already listed on their Careers page. However, I wish you the very best of luck and I am so glad you want to join us in the fight against climate change.
Advice for future graduate students
Thanks for reaching out to me as you consider this big step in your career. Graduate school offers an unparalleled opportunity to delve deeply into your chosen field, refining your skills and expanding your knowledge to establish yourself as an authority on a topic that ignites your passion.
Before committing to such a rigorous and time-consuming endeavor, I highly, highly recommend that you take the time to determine whether you need a graduate degree to accomplish your goals. Sometimes, graduate school can be more of a hindrance than a help. I still remember working with an environmental firm who told me that they “never hired PhDs because no one could understand what they said.” So don’t assume that you have to have a graduate degree to succeed! But if you do want to become an expert in a professional or academic area, then this might be a good pathway to consider.
If you’re sure that graduate school is the next best step for you, the first thing to do is to make sure you’ve identified what your passion is. If you’re unsure, attend some professional webinars in that area to learn what people are talking about; look for an internship; or try working in a field you think you might be interested in, and see if it really clicks with you. See the FAQ above for more advice on exploring different fields of study to see if they interest you. If the first one you choose doesn’t, don’t be afraid to change direction and explore other areas until you find what you’re truly excited about. Graduate school is a long, hard slog and if you aren’t motivated by your passion, it will be very difficult to get through the tough times.
Once you’ve discovered what you are uniquely interested in, then it’s time to start looking for professors whose work aligns with your interests and goals. You can find a lot of academics on Twitter and LinkedIn, but also check out Google Scholar to search for peer-reviewed studies on the topic you want to study. This will help you learn about the field and find the professors and researchers who are most active in it. Be specific: for example, if you want to study bioengineering solutions to renewable energy storage challenges, don’t just look up “climate solutions”. You want to find the people who are studying the sub-field you want to work in, not the general area.
When you have a relatively short list of the researchers who are doing the work you are interested in, then it’s time to find out more about them. Which universities do they work at? Are they currently accepting students? (Many professors will put this on their websites.) Are they even in a position to take on graduate students? (Some researchers, particularly if they are not tenure-track or tenured professors at universities, do not accept students.) Will you have the qualifications and the resources to attend that university if they accept you? If the logistics of any of these don’t work for you, strike them off your list.
Now, it’s time to reach out to the names still on your list. When you write to a professor, be specific, personal, and genuine. Do not be vague or generic. Share your passion, explain why it interests you, highlight your experience and skills and how it relates to their work, and tell them what you hope to achieve by working with them and why they, as opposed to anyone else, would be the perfect advisor for you.
I’m not currently accepting new graduate students at Texas Tech University while I am serving as Chief Scientist for The Nature Conservancy. However, if you are interested in our university, I’d also recommend checking out our list of over 50 faculty affiliated with our Climate Center.
Wherever you decide to apply, this approach will help you stand out from most grad school applicants and boost your chances of the professor taking you seriously. By following these tips, you’ll avoid the most common errors I see and you’ll be well positioned for the beginning of a successful grad school experience.
My endorsement policy
As an author, I am very aware of the blood, sweat, tears and passion that go into preparing a manuscript. I also know how important it is to receive endorsements for your effort. I wish I could provide endorsements, but I am currently unable to do so.
If you would like to send me a copy of the book anyways, you are very welcome to. I enjoy reading nearly everything except climate fiction (real life is bad enough) and once I’ve read a book I am happy to add it to my list of recommendations in the future if I think it is worth reading.
My review policy
I love that people want to share their ideas on climate change with me, as we all need to work together to tackle this global challenge and I believe that each one of us has something unique that we can contribute! However, I receive dozens of requests each month to review and/or endorse ideas for climate solutions as well as new essays, videos, books, projects, letters or petitions, websites and proposals. I’m truly sorry that I am usually unable to accept.
I can only consider requests that are well thought out and directly relevant to my expertise in climate communication, high-resolution climate projections, regional impacts, faith-related communication, and/or relate to geographic areas that are close to my heart and home. The product also must have a clearly-defined audience that is relevant to my own interests and is commensurate with the request being made for my time.
I am not an expert in technological solutions, I am not able to endorse political statements or positions, and I generally am not able to sign letters or petitions unless they are directly relevant to my specific areas of expertise above.
If you would like my review of a technical or scientific manuscript, you are welcome to include my name as a suggested reviewer when you submit it for peer review and publication. While I am happy to provide reviews on topics relevant to my expertise as part of a formal peer review process conducted by a journal, a federal agency, or a recognized institution or organization, I am not able to provide informal reviews prior to submission.
As a climate scientist, there are many requests I receive that are not related to my specific areas of expertise (e.g. focusing on agriculture or technology or the policies of a country that I have little knowledge or experience of). As such, I would not be able to provide much help moving your idea forward. In addition, many requests are generic, in the sense that any climate scientist would be able to respond to them.
While I must regretfully decline those requests, all is not lost, there are a lot of other scientists who might be better suited to help you than me! I have assembled a list of more than 3,200 scientists who do climate on Twitter that I would encourage you to review in order to find someone whose expertise and/or geographic location more closely matches what you’re looking for feedback on. Click here and read the top answer for instructions on how to search a Twitter list by keywords.
If your product is not a scientific study or a technical manuscript and you are confident (1) that your project meets the criteria above; (2) that it has already been carefully reviewed to the best of your ability and current resources; (3) that you know and can explain exactly what you want to accomplish with it, including what it will achieve, who it will reach, and what currently unmet need it will fill; (4) and that I, rather than any other climate scientist, am uniquely suited to comment on your effort and provide targeted feedback that would take you to the next level, then please feel free to send your request to Laura via our contact page, including a brief description of why you’re certain I’m the best person to review it, as opposed to another climate scientist, and she’ll let you know if I’m able to do so!
I’m a student and I’d like to interview you!
You are welcome to submit your request to Laura via my contact page. However, due to the volume of requests I receive, I’m truly sorry I am only able to accept a few of them.
What I have found, though, is that nearly all of the questions you have for me I’ve already answered in interviews I’ve done, like this one or this one, or by our Global Weirding videos: so please feel free to use anything you find there.
I also have a huge list of climate scientists here on Twitter. Please consider asking one of them – I know many of them would be happy to chat.
And if you’re looking for a scientist to join your classroom for a virtual Q&A or talk, please see the Skype A Scientist program. It is fantastic!