As with all topic areas on WIkipedia, climate articles should be based on reliable secondary sources. When writing an article, choosing high-quality sources is critical to ensure:
Articles related to climate often bring in knowledge from multiple disciplines including various sciences, economics, business, and geography. The general minimum standard for quality of sourcing is described in Wikipedia:Identifying reliable sources. When discussing science, it is recommended to use more rigorous sources as described in Wikipedia:Identifying reliable sources (science). Note that any statements about human health must meet a high standard for sourcing known as MEDRS.
Text from publications with Wikipedia-compatible licensing can be copied into Wikipedia with attribution in the edit summary and use of an attribution template. See Wikipedia:Adding open license text to Wikipedia.
IPCC reports are highly reliable as they capture international scientific consensus. We have a useful cheat sheet on citations for IPCC reports.
These reports are some of the best available about solutions to limit climate change, not just about the causes and effects of warming. The most recent is the Sixth Assessment Report (2021-2023). The more of this report that we can get into Wikipedia, the better. While IPCC reports are the gold standard for quality sourcing, they are written in an extremely dense and academic style which makes them difficult to read. They often use terminology that Wikipedia's readers would probably not understand.
Other United Nations bodies such as the United Nations Environment Programme are also top-quality sources on climate change. Unlike the IPCC, other UN bodies may make policy recommendations. They also tend to be easier to read and summarize.
- Our World in Data has excellent articles, maps, and graphs, released under a Wikipedia-compatible license (CC-BY 4.0). Official website. Many of these graphs and maps have already been uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, so it's easy to take them from there and insert them into Wikipedia articles.
- Carbon Brief has excellent analyses and IPCC report summaries
- There are a large number of (paywalled) encyclopedias published, including Oxford Research Encyclopedias - Climate science (which has a browsable table of contents, perhaps good for finding new articles to work on)
University-level textbooks and books published by academic publishers such as university presses are generally excellent sources. They often explain basic concepts that IPCC reports do not. Books from non-academic publishers are of more variable quality.
Books from Cambridge University Press are available for free to qualified editors at the Wikipedia Library. These books include Introduction to Modern Climate Change (2021) by Andrew E. Dressler. If you do not qualify to borrow from the Wikipedia Library, you can request a book chapter at Wikipedia:WikiProject Resource Exchange/Resource Request.
Research tip for US libraries in particular: search for 'libguides' and 'climate change' to find library guides on the topic.
Articles in scholarly journals can be either primary or secondary. Secondary articles are known as reviews and include systematic reviews and literature reviews. When doing a Google Scholar search, you can filter search results to show review articles only.
Papers that report on research conducted by the authors of the paper are primary sources and should be used judiciously, if at all. Primary research papers present new findings, but they do not indicate the degree to which those findings have been accepted by the scientific community. News reports that cover the announcements of new research findings have this issue as well. We rely on secondary and tertiary sources to put new research findings into perspective.
In addition to reporting on new primary research, news outlets often report about individual projects ("Company X is deploying the largest solar farm in Australia to date!") and novel technologies ("Company X is exploring how to solve climate change through CO2-capturing balloons/ toilets for cows / space-based solar power!"). Wikipedia articles that are based on news reports often resemble a disjointed science news feed and give undue weight to highly specific projects and ideas. To avoid this phenomenon, use sources that cover the topic of the article at a more general level.
In the climate change topic area, editors make frequent use of reports.
- Unfortunately, the Visual Editor does not have a handy form for reports. Instead, you can insert a Cite report template.
- When citing reports, each citation must specify a page number or range unless the report is very short. Typically the easiest way to do this is to insert a citation to the report and then add Template:Rp with the page number or range.