Reduce Emissions

Mitigation—Reduce Emissions

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


  1. Although the effects of climate change are already underway, reducing carbon emissions will make a difference to the rate and impact of climate change
  2. 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.

Specific Objectives:
Students will be able to:

  1. Interpret graphs and readings to describe the impact of reducing carbon emissions.
  2. Describe and evaluate a solution that aims to reduce the amount of carbon that human activities put into the atmosphere.

Activity Links and Resources:


  • 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.