Impacts—Too Much Carbon

Summary: What happens when humans burn fossil fuels? The excess carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere causes the many climate change impacts explored in other areas of this module. In this topic guide, learn how CO2 is measured, interpret data charts to describe how CO2 levels have changed over time, and and find out what the current average CO2 levels are.

Concepts to teach:


  1. When humans burn fossils fuels, CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere
  2. CO2 and other greenhouse gases trap heat and raise the temperature of the planet
  3. Measurements of atmospheric CO2 show that the levels are increasing

Standards: NGSS Performance Expectations

  • 4-ESS3-1.Obtain and combine information to describe that energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and their uses affect the environment.

Specific Objectives
Students will be able to:

  1. Describe ways in which CO2 gets into the atmosphere
  2. Obtain scientific information that describes how atmospheric CO2 levels change with seasons and across years
  3. Compare current CO2 levels to past levels

Activity Links and Resources:


  • How much has the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide increased in the air just in the last few years?
  • How do carbon dioxide levels vary throughout the year?