Global Warming: Graphs Tell the Story
Mountain of Ice: If the Ice Melts
Snapshot of U.S. Energy Use
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Climate changes have occurred throughout Earth's history, with dramatic consequences to the organisms that live there. Although some climate changes are a part of Earth's natural cycles, others are the byproduct of human activity. Many of these activities benefit society. However, there is a trade-off in that these activities can have an adverse effect on global climate. Global warming is of particular concern, as evidenced by the increasing levels of carbon dioxide (CO2 ) in the atmosphere. So at what point do the liabilities of these activities outweigh the benefits? And can individual actions make a difference? In this lesson, students conduct an experiment to learn about CO2 levels found in four different gases. Then they reflect on CO2 production on a global scale. They also look at evidence of global warming in our environment, and consider their own role in contributing to global warming.
(Note: This is the second of two global climate change lesson plans. You may want to precede this lesson with Global Climate Change: Understanding the Greenhouse Effect Lesson Plan.)
For each team of two to four students:
If possible, arrange computer access for all students to work in pairs.
Make copies of all worksheets. Note: You may want to distribute the Family Mileage Record Worksheet Document at the beginning of the lesson, to give students sufficient time to estimate how many miles each family member drives for the activity in Part II.
Gather all materials for the activity in Part I. Be sure to read through the entire activity in advance, to determine what you need to prepare beforehand (e.g., filling balloons with car exhaust).
Tell students that this lesson will begin with an activity that compares the variable amounts of CO2
found in four different gases, namely, the air, our breath, car exhaust, and the product of a chemical reaction between baking soda and vinegar. Divide the class into groups of two to four, and distribute the
Bringing the Greenhouse Effect Down to Earth Worksheet (Student Version) Document
. Before they get started, remind students to use caution with all materials and to wear safety goggles at all times.
Note: This activity was adapted with permission from an early draft version of "Sampling Carbon Dioxide," in Chapter 5, pages 44-47, of the book Climate Change in the Global Systems Science (GSS) project series. Copyright 2004 by the Regents of the University of California. The latest version can be found at Global Systems Science . The GSS project materials are produced by the Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California, Berkeley.
2. Now that students have explored CO2 levels found in different gases, they can begin to examine CO2 levels on a more global scale. Show students the graph in the CO2 Concentrations at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaiʻi Document , also known as the Keeling Curve. Discuss the following questions as a class. The discussion should lead students to the idea that the increase in CO2 as seen in this data may indicate that increasing human dependence on burning fossil fuel for energy is affecting the atmosphere on a global scale. This will tie in to the next resource.
3. Continue the discussion of the relationship between climate change and global warming by showing students the Global Warming: Graphs Tell the Story Document . Discuss the following questions:
4. The effect of global warming on our environment can be seen most dramatically by looking at glaciers and ice caps. Have students work in pairs and watch the Earth System: Ice and Global Warming Video . Ask students to answer the following questions in their journals:
5. Bring the class back together and have students share some of their responses to question (c) in Step 4. Then show students the Mountain of Ice: If the Ice Melts Interactive . Discuss the following questions:
6. Tell students that they will now look closer at human contributions to global warming by examining the use of fossil fuels. Break the class into pairs or small groups and have them watch the Snapshot of U.S. Energy Use Video . (Note: This video jumps into a discussion of power plants. You may wish to tell students that the first few lines are talking about how power plants are online and operating 24 hours a day to meet the demand for electricity.) Have students discuss the following questions in their groups and record responses in their journals.
7. Tell students that they will now calculate how much CO2 their family contributes to the atmosphere each year — just from vehicle use. Divide the class into small groups and ask them to take out the Family Mileage Record Worksheet Document they used to estimate how much their family drives or rides in a typical week. Students will use this data to calculate how much CO2 their family produces in a year. Distribute the Family CO2 Contribution Worksheet Document to students. Tell them to complete their calculations, and then have them answer the following questions:
8. As an optional activity, have students research and write a report about how the pattern of temperature change where they live is similar to or different from global temperature change patterns. Encourage them to include local data as well as national and worldwide data. Several good Web sites for research include the National Weather Service , Unisys Weather , and the National Climatic Data Center . You may want to begin by giving students the following information:
Have students discuss the following:
The Digital Library for Earth System Education (www.dlese.org) offers access to additional resources on this topic.
This lesson plan has been selected by CLEAN for climate literacy education!