Summary: Global climate change is caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that come from human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels. An important solution to the problem of global climate change is for humans to significantly reduce the amount of carbon we emit into the atmosphere. In this topic guide, students examine the potential effects that reducing carbon emissions will have on affect atmospheric CO2 levels, and examine industrial-scale behavioral changes and technologies that can help communities reduce carbon emissions. See the middle school module for personal actions everyone can take.
Concepts to teach:
|Crosscutting Concepts||Disciplinary Core Ideas||Science Practices|
|Stability and Change||ESS3.C – Human Impacts on Earth Systems
ETS1.B – Developing Possible Solutions
|Developing and Using Models,Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions|
- Although the effects of climate change are already underway, reducing carbon emissions will make a difference to the rate and impact of climate change
- There exist both promising large-scale mechanisms within different sectors that could lead to a reduction in carbon emissions (urban planning, transportation, economic markets, etc)
Standards: NGSS Performance Expectations
- HS-ESS2-4. Use a model to describe how variations in the flow of energy into and out of Earth’s systems result in changes in climate.
- HS-ESS3-4. Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.
Students will be able to:
- Interpret graphs and readings to describe the impact of reducing carbon emissions.
- Describe and evaluate a solution that aims to reduce the amount of carbon that human activities put into the atmosphere.
Activity Links and Resources:
- Bathtub Models—A series of animations from UCAR that illustrate a range of situations which can be portrayed by the “Climate Bathtub” model. Use to prompt students to describe what the various parts of the model represent and how they relate to each other.
- The Big Idea—This National Geographic infographic and article also describes the bathtub model.
- How will reducing CO2 emissions affect atmospheric CO2 concentrations?
- Graphics from the Ocean Acidification Summary for Policymakers 2013 show trajectories for global temperature and ocean surface pH under two scenarios: high CO2 emissions and very low CO2 emissions:
- Reading: FAQ 10.3 from a 2007 IPCC Working Group—If Emissions of Greenhouse Gases are Reduced, How Quickly do Their Concentrations in the Atmosphere Decrease?
- In the Climate and You, Day 20 lesson plan from Environmental Initiative at Lehigh University, students read about personal, community, and national strategies for reducing carbon emissions.
- Reading: Carbon Reduction Strategies
- Additional reading: Algae’s potential to reduce carbon emissions from electricity generation, from Portland General Electric
- Additional reading: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Environmental Protection Agency
- Trading on the Stalk Market lesson plan from Part 3, Exercise 2 of Bringing Wetlands to Market
- Students play a game to simulate a carbon trading economic strategy, and then discuss the effectiveness of this type of mechanism on carbon emissions.
- Carbon Reduction Strategies Exploration Sheet from the Environmental Initiative at Lehigh University is designed to be completed after reading about Carbon Reduction Strategies.
- Students conduct a literature search to prepare a report on a carbon reduction strategy that is being implemented or considered at the community, industrial or national level. Share findings with peers, and discuss student recommendations.
- What are the costs and benefits to the proposed strategies?
- Would students recommend one or more of the proposed strategies?
- Discuss whether carbon trading is an effective mechanism for reducing carbon emissions. How would changing rules of the game influence the degree to which polluters are motivated to reduce their carbon emissions?
- Students identify and evaluate one potentially viable local strategy to reduce emissions and present research and recommendations to the community.