May the 4th be with you: Climate change on Tatooine

May the 4th be with you: Climate change on Tatooine

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

Editor’s note: May 4th is known as Star Wars day around the world. What started as a pun based on the franchise’s catchphrase “May the Force be with you” quickly became a global phenomenon in which Star Wars fans celebrate their favourite movies.

To celebrate Star Wars day we dug out David Ng‘s gem from 2014, a climate change assessment report from Tatooine’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (TIPCC) that explores the desert planet’s climate future.

Tatooine, known as the home planet of Luke Skywalker and Jabba the Hut, is a desert planet situated in the Outer Rim territories of the Star Wars galaxy. David Ng, professor at the University of British Columbia, initially used the fictional planet to explain the concept of radiative forcing to his students, one of the key concepts of global warming which describes how increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases heat the Earth.

Based on the actual IPCC’s reports, David Ng soon found himself expanding on his own idea and creating an assessment report for Tatooine. The “Summary for Tatooine Policymakers” contains graphs describing Tatooine’s observed warming and even includes climate projections out to 100 ABY (After the Battle of Yavin, the fateful battle at the end of the first Star Wars movie “A New Hope”).

Observed surface temperature change on Tatooine 100BBY-10ABY. Source: David Ng/TIPCC


The report even looks at the planet’s biodiversity. Anyone remember the Sarlacc in “Return of the Jedi”? Tatooine’s warming climate doesn’t bode well for the arthropod with roots.

Maximum speeds at which species can move across landscapes (based on observations and models; vertical axis on left), compared with speeds at which temperatures are projected to move across landscapes (climate velocities for temperature; vertical axis on right). Source: David Ng/TIPCC


Writing in The Science Creative Quarterly, David Ng explains why he created the document:

And why all the effort? Well, firstly, this stands as an admittedly elaborate teaching prop; but secondly, I hope this document entices folks to learn more about the real IPCC report. I get the sense that very few people have even heard of the IPCC, and maybe this even includes yourself. Which is a shame because it’s kind of important. In brief, it’s a document, organized by the United Nations, and prepared by a massive group of academics to try and objectively summarize all available research on climate change and its possible downstream effects. In other words, it’s the summation of decades of work by tens of thousands of very smart people, who are essentially telling you: (1) what the scientific evidence currently looks like; (2) what you might expect to happen in the Earth’s near future; and (3) what should people in influence (i.e. governments) consider doing in order to mitigate or adapt to these projections. Put another way, it’s definitely worth a few moments of your time, even if it is a bit of a sobering read.

Read the TIPCC’s Summary for Tatooine Policymakers below:

Tatooine IPCC by ClimateCentral on Scribd

Cover photo by Darryl Moran/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

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