Climate and Ecosystem Change

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Correcting Our Course

As the climate changes, so does the ecosystem. Penn State researchers work to manage the risks of anthropogenic, or human-driven, climate change and the risks it poses.

Researching the Changes

Managing the risks of anthropogenic climate change poses significant challenges both now and in the future. Warmer and more extreme weather events will increase the risk of natural disturbances, increase the burden of pests and pathogens, threaten public health, and expose vulnerabilities in critical infrastructural systems. The burden of climate resilience and adaptation will fall unequally and inequitably, burdening people of color and rural and poor communities disproportionately.

Penn State has the critical mass to become a world leader in climate and ecosystem change. IEE’s commitment to supporting interdisciplinary research in energy and the environment means we have a unique opportunity to identify solutions to these impacts across natural, social, and built systems. 

Major initiatives within this theme include but are not limited to climate variability and change, ecosystem productivity and biodiversity, stressors and resilience, food and water security, and polar science.

    Penn State ranked sixth in the world in SDG 14, Life Below Water; 13th for SDG 15, Life on Land; and 17th in the world for SDG 6, Clean Water and Sanitation in the Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Rankings.

    Climate and Ecosystem Change Research


    Featured IEE Researchers

    Associate Professor of Anthropology, Anthropology
    Professor, Geosciences

    Featured News

    What’s the hype about 5.8%? I’m worried about the other 94.2%

    A recent analysis by the International Energy Agency (IEA) concluded that annual carbon emissions declined by 5.8% in 2020 because of the COVID-19 global pandemic. From a historical perspective, a 5.8% reduction is huge—nothing like it has occurred in our lifetimes. But from a COVID-19 perspective, how can it be so small?

    Growing Impact with Kirk French and climate change on the Hudson S1:E1

    Kirk French talks about his newest project, "Climate Change on the Hudson: A Century After Nanook." In the discussion, Kirk talks about the importance of documenting climate change through film and how revisiting "Nanook of the North" empowered the Inuit to tell their story, even in the face of COVID.

    Mentions: Kirk French, Andrew Carleton

    How we talk about energy

    Penn State engineers wrote a letter, recently published in ACS Energy Letters, that proposed new ways to improve global energy literacy to help combat climate change.

    Mentions: Bruce Logan, Jacqueline O'Connor

    Building Convergence in Climate Science

    IEE and Erica Smithwick hosted a community forum on Building Convergence in Climate Science. A brief introduction was followed by three breakout groups:

    • Mitigation: What efforts exist to reduce or prevent the emission of greenhouse gases?
    • Resilience: From local to global, where can we absorb the stresses of climate change or adapt, reorganize, and evolve?
    • Impacts: What are the biggest impacts of climate change on ecosystems and human societies?

    Each breakout group explored five topics:

    • Convergent Research Opportunities (Thematic): Where do climate researchers have opportunities to align their efforts?
    • Current Penn State Assets: What is available at Penn State to continue work in climate mitigation, resilience, and impact?
    • Barriers to Action: What, if anything, hinders your ability to further your climate work?
    • Recommendations: What do you see as opportunities for climate work at Penn State?
    • Exemplar Success Stories: Where have you seen climate work shine?

     Breakout Group Outcomes

    Communicating Climate in a Complex World

    Four leading experts—an atmospheric scientist, an archaeologist, a coral reef biologist, and a professor of media studies—share their diverse perspectives on what needs to be most urgently communicated about climate change now.

    Join us for an in-depth climate change panel discussion as scientists and journalists relate their experiences communicating their research with the media and other audiences.