We present a summary report of the CLIVAR Early Career Scientists Symposium, a three-day event associated with the CLIVAR Open Science Conference held in Qingdao, China during September 2016. The Symposium aimed to capture the ideas of early career researchers on pressing science priorities, imminent challenges, and emerging opportunities to help guide the future evolution of CLIVAR. We identified the need for improving process-based understanding and predictability of regional climate variability and change, moving toward seamless predictions, and improving and expanding global observations. We emphasize the need for increasingly open science, including universal access to data, code, and publications as well as opportunities for international cooperation and exchange. As the next generation of climate scientists, we are dedicated to overcome the challenges outlined in this summary and are looking forward to advancing CLIVAR’s mission and activities.