Climate Change for Astronomers

Astronomers are in a unique position to help people understand the danger of climate change and what we can do about it. This book is intended to help astronomers be better educators and communicators about the causes and consequences of climate change and better advocates for solutions. It discusses the science of climate change as relevant to astronomy, including topics such as the Earth’s past to its potential future. It also explores how we can communicate about a divisive and emotionally charged topic in ways that can overcome common misconceptions and disinformation so as to inspire and motivate. The book further discusses how climate change is impacting astronomy as a profession, as well as ways that astronomy can reduce its carbon emissions. Key features of the book include: Science topics astronomers need to know to understand climate change better; Methods for teaching climate change in college-level astronomy courses Strategies for effectively communicating climate change in informal education settings; Discussion of how astronomers can be advocates for solutions without compromising their roles as scientists. The book is written for astronomers, by astronomers. All of the chapters were penned by authors (or co-authors) who have backgrounds in astronomy and are now working in areas of climate science, education, and advocacy. We’re hardly experts in all of the fields of study discussed in this book, so where possible we have brought in experts from other fields—e.g., climate scientists, engineers, and professional communicators—to help with the writing or to fact-check. The book has benefited greatly from their knowledge. While (hopefully!) this book will be useful for people who are not professional astronomers, it is assumed that you have some experience in astronomy and are comfortable with undergraduate-level physics (e.g., that you know what an MeV is). What this book is: It is designed to help you be a better educator, communicator, and advocate regarding climate change and its solutions. What this book is not: By and large it is not a deep dive into the details of climate science; e.g., how temperature anomalies are calculated. Other resources (e.g., the Princeton Primers) are already available. Nor does it include relevant astronomy topics such as astrobiology and exoplanets. The science content for these subjects can also be found elsewhere. The subject of climate change is enormous and is evolving rapidly—particularly in the context of solutions and public engagement. The book is 527 pages, but even with the size of this book, there is much that had to be left out. Hopefully, this book (and the references therein) can provide a gateway to understanding each topic more deeply. That said, it is important to remember that you don’t have to be an expert in all of these areas to be an effective advocate!

For more details, please contact Travis Rector.