This issue guide was prepared for the National Issues Forums Institute in collaboration with the Kettering Foundation and the North American Association for Environmental Education. The Environment and Society Series is designed to promote meaningful, productive deliberation, convened locally and online, about difficult issues that affect the environment and communities.
All around is evidence that the climate is changing. Summers are starting earlier and lasting longer. Heat waves are becoming more frequent and intense. Dry regions are getting drier and wet regions are seeing heavier rains. Record cold and snowfalls blanket some parts of the country, while record fires ravage forests across the West.
The effects are being felt across many parts of the United States. Farmworkers in California's Central Valley, snow-weary New England business owners, crab fishermen in Alaska, and cattle ranchers across the Great Plains have all seen uncommon and extreme weather. Occasional odd weather and weather cycles are nothing unusual.
But the more extreme and unpredictable weather being experienced around the world points to dramatic changes in climate -- the conditions that take place over years, decades, and longer.
Climate disruptions have some people worried about their health, their children, their homes, their livelihoods, their communities, and even their personal safety. They wonder about the future of the natural areas they enjoy and the wild animals and plants that live there. In addition, there are growing concerns about our national security and how climate change might affect scarce resources around the planet and increase global tensions.