The Climate Change Song

This project began as an outgrowth of ETS alumnus David Shelley’s action plan. The Climate Change Song was inspired by Dr. David Shelley's experience with climate change education at the Old-Growth Bottomland Forest Research and Education Center (OGBFREC) at Congaree National Park. Initially co-written with Congaree NP intern Chris Ramaglia, the song has developed over the years into a resource for use with a variety of internal and external audiences.

David presented the song at the ETS course in Anchorage Alaska, in October of 2015. The NASA Earth Science Education lead, who was in attendance, inquired about setting the music to video that would feature some NASA images and visualizations, and arranged funding for the project to proceed. Many thanks to all those who have listened and responded and supported this effort!

Download The Climate Change Song - Part 1 

Download The Climate Change Song - Part 2
Download The Climate Change Song - Part 3

We hope you find the song enjoyable and that the video, audio and related resources prove helpful for you and other interpreters/educators, who wish to use it with the public, educators and/or students.

About the Song

As with some traditional ballads, the entire song may be too long to be sung or absorbed all at once. The song is divided, however, into several parts so that folks can select verses as appropriate for their purposes:

  • Part I: Definitions (verses 1-3)
  • Part II: Effects (verses 4-6)
  • Part III: Science (verses 7-9) and
  • Part IV: Responding to Climate Change (verses 10-18) Verses 10-12 are “IVa: So Now What?,” verses 13-15 are “IVb: Start Small,” and verses 16-18 are “IVc: Think Big”

pdfClimate Song Lyrics

The melody for The Climate Change Song was adapted from “I’ll Twine Mid the Ringlets,” which was published in 1860 with music by J.P. Webster and words by Maud Irving. The original tune was hugely popularized through an adaptation recorded as “Wildwood Flower” by the Carter Family in 1928. Today “Wildwood Flower,” is a canonical standard in the old-time / Southern Appalachian folk music repertoire. The tune is used here in accordance with the United States Copyright Office, which notes “…all works published in the United States before January 1, 1923, are in the public domain.” (https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ15a.pdf).

David ShelleyDr. David C. Shelley has served as the OGBFREC education coordinator since 2006, and has participated in the Earth to Sky partnership since 2010. Chris Ramaglia worked at Congaree National Park as a resource education ranger and a University of South Carolina Masters of Earth and Environmental Resource Management student from 2010 to 2012.

In 2016, generous support from the NASA Earth Science Division helped develop music videos for Parts I, II, and III of the song. Other Earth to Sky partners are continuing to work on a video presentation of Part IV (Responding to Climate Change). The lyrics in the pdf above have been edited very slightly after audio recording in the summer of 2016.

Individuals are invited to fit the words to other tunes or rhythms that may suit their audience. We would love to share with others how this song and the videos are used! Please feel free to share your experiences and recordings or performances via the Earth to Sky listserv or contact  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Climate Change Song Lyrics

Note: within the text below, apostrophes precede the syllable of the first strong downbeat of each line. A few lines also require triplets to maintain the cadence.

CHORUS

Climate ‘change is real, it’s happening around the world today.

Its ef’fects are measured, seen, and felt in many different ways.

And no ‘matter what we’d like to wish, pretend, or just ignore,

We’ve got ‘lots to learn and do—hey now that’s what this song is for.

Part I: Definitions

Verse 1:

So we’ve ‘all heard of climate change, but what now does that mean?

Perhaps ex’plaining terms would be a place to start so it should seem.

You see now ‘climate is not weather. Do you know the difference yet?

Mark Twain said, “Climate is what you expect, and weathers what you get.”

Verse 2:

Weather ‘does describe the scene outside any time of day or night.

Is it ‘sunny, cloudy, windy, raining, hot, cold or just right?

Weather ‘changes day and night and from each season to the next.

But the ‘climate is the natural range of change that you expect.

Verse 3:

The limits ‘of the climate are outlined by weather extremes,

Things like ‘heat waves, cold snaps, droughts and storms of all varieties.

Well, one ‘heat wave, by itself, it doesn’t mean a thing, my friend,

But now ‘nine heat waves in ten years sure do make a climate trend.

CHORUS

Part II: Effects

Verse 4:

A changing ‘climate means life’s rhythms beat quite unpredictably.

If living ‘things can’t cope, adapt, or move, then they will die, you see.

So now the ‘plants don’t know just when to grow green leaves or flowers blue,

And ani’mals must struggle to find new homes and food and water too.

Verse 5:

Living ‘things don’t just adjust to climate change all by themselves,

So the ‘landscape, soil, and water cycle must adjust as well.

Because the ‘climate drives how rivers rise to flow and shape the ground,

And how ‘glaciers melt and sea level does rise the world around.

Verse 6:

Climate ‘change does also impact humans and society,

How our ‘populations find resources and security.

Public ‘health, globalization, infrastructure, public lands,

Poverty, com’merce, and energy and are some issues at hand.

CHORUS

Part III: Science

Verse 7:

Scien’tists who study this methodically use observations:

Satel’lites, tree heights, ships logs, ice cores, bird flights, deforestation,

Also ‘coal mine yields and soybean fields, plankton and models, too…

And ‘then after they analyze, their work gets peer reviewed.

Verse 8:

Now it’s ‘true that through the Eons climate changes naturally,

But many ‘lines of scientific evidence do all agree,

And the ‘science clearly shows the recent scope and rate of change

Are nothing ‘like Earth has seen before and well beyond the normal range.

Verse 9:

This recent ‘climate change is caused by burning fossil fuels, yes.

Burning ‘gas and oil and coal does make our atmosphere a mess.

Greenhouse ‘gasses, largely CO2, are building up in place,

Trapping ‘heat from sun’s rays that once was reflected back to space.

CHORUS

Part IV: Responding to Climate Change

Part IVa: So Now What

Verse 10:

Well in ‘some ways ain’t it great that Mother Nature’s not to blame?

If we were ‘powerless, then all this mess would be a different game.

But if we ‘are to blame, then we can change, and act strong in defiance—

Through mitig’ation, adaptation, communication, and good science.

Verse 11:

Good science ‘means we must support and use good research all around,

Data’sets, analysis, and models peer-reviewed and sound.

Communi’cation means engaging folks takes thought and work and care

To inform and ‘inspire long-term choices that are just and fair.

Verse 12:

Adap’tation means that for some changes, we must plan to cope.

Miti’gation means we reduce greenhouse gasses around the globe.

If climate ‘change was sinusitis, if not something more exotic,

Adaptation’s ‘rest and Tylenol, mitigation’s the antibiotic.

CHORUS

Part IVb: Start Small

Verse 13:

Well this ‘all may seem quite daunting, and in some ways that is true,

But we’ve ‘got to hope we’ve still got time to change the things we do—

Things like ‘how we choose to use our water, stuff, and energy,

And think a’bout all that we waste and what we throw away, you see.

Verse 14:

So main’tain your car, don’t drive to far, consolidate your trips,

Weather’ize your house, adjust your thermostat, and fix your drips,

Insu’late your water heater and do turn it down a bit,

Expand the ‘margins and use both sides of the paper when you print.

Verse 15:

Use e’lectricity efficiently, and unplug things when you’re done.

Fill the ‘washing machine and dishwasher quite full before they’re run.

Think on ‘what you buy and where it’s from and how it’s boxed or wrapped.

To re’duce your trash re-use, recycle, and compost your scraps.

CHORUS

Part IVc: Think Big

Verse 16:

Now it’s ‘true these little things we do add right up from the start

To make a ‘total whole that’s bigger than the sum of all the parts,

But we ‘can’t just stop…[pause]…right there and grow complacent and lazy

We can think ‘bigger yet and get engaged in civics, now, you see.

Verse 17:

Find out a’bout your rights and options to contribute and comment

For plans and ‘meetings and reviews of policies and documents,

So our ‘long-term health and wealth is truly responsible, you see,

With some 'sense and balance of climate accountability.

Verse 18:

So get out’side, engage yourself, your work, voice, heart, mind, time and hands.

Take good ‘care of your local community, the people and the land.

Doing ‘this will cultivate true hope and really show your brilliance,

Because ‘healthy land and people have true climate change resilience.

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