In this lesson we look at what scientists believe causes climate change as well as some of the effects of these changes. There are two main ways to address climate change - mitigation, or reducing carbon emissions, and adaptation, or strategies that help us cope with the effects of climate changes. Students will investigate the causes and effects of climate change as well as learn about examples of mitigation and adaptation strategies and decide what strategies their district should implement.
This lesson offers several options for you to use with your students whether you are teaching in class, using a hybrid model, or engaging through distance learning. It can be completed in steps as a class, as a jigsaw activity or students can move at their own pace and complete the activities independently.
You can post links to the videos in the lesson along with the related handouts and engage in discussion to share responses on a discussion board or learning management system.
You can also save and share the following documents for students to use with this lesson.
Handout: Climate Change Vocabulary Chart (Google Doc)
Handout with Questions: Strategies to Address Climate Change (Google Doc)
In Google, choose "File" then "Make a Copy" to get your own copy. You can make any needed adjustments in the instructions such as which activities students need to complete, when it is due, etc. and then make it available to them via Google.
Discuss with students what they already know about climate change by filling in the first two columns in the table answering the questions:
What are the causes of climate change?
Ask students to share their ideas on what we can do to reduce the effects of climate change.
Explain that there are two types of strategies: mitigation and adaptation.
Have students read one of the articles and take notes on what they learn about these two strategies in the table. Then discuss their findings as a class.
Article: Mitigation and Adaptation | Solutions – Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet (NASA)
Article: What is the difference between climate adaptation and climate mitigation? (Medium)
Divide students in groups to analyze one video. They can answer the attached questions and then fill in the table for the different categories. Then students jigsaw into new groups so that each student in the new group has watched a different video. Students then share what they learned from their different videos.
NOTE: Point out to students that many of the presenters use the word ‘mitigation’ in the common use of the formal definition. However, it differs from the way climatologists use it when they are talking about climate change mitigation versus adaptation. Discuss with students when the strategies are mitigation versus adaptation to climate change, so that they develop a strong understanding of the different approaches to climate change.
Video Clip 1: The State of Climate Change and Why It Matters (5:19)
Natalie Mahowald of Cornell University testifies before the house on the state of climate change and why it matters.
According to Natalie Mahowald, why should we care about climate change?
How much has the earth warmed since the late 1800s? What is our target for the future?
How can we keep the earth from getting too warm?
How effective does Natalie Mahowald think the Paris Agreement targets will be for our future?
What are some economically feasible mitigation strategies she suggests?
Video Clip 2: Dangers of Climate Change on Health (4:00)
Kristie Ebi of the University of Washington testifies to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee about the impact of health risks from Climate Change.
What are some effects of climate change?
How does climate change affect human health?
What difference will it make if we limit warming to 1.5 degrees C rather than 2 degrees C?
What communities experience the greatest risk?
What are some of the costs associated with the effects of climate change?
What are some adaptation strategies Kristie Ebi suggests?
Video Clip 3: Climate Change as a Major Threat (3:32)
Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) explains why climate change poses a threat to the United States and needs to be addressed by Homeland Security.
What is the job of Homeland Security?
Why would climate change be something homeland security should address according to Rep. Demmings?
Video Clip 4: Preparing for Natural Disasters (4:52)
Rep. Kat Cammack (R-FL) discusses the need for adaptation strategies to prepare for extreme weather events caused by climate change.
What made 2020 a bad year in terms of weather related events?
What prevention (adaptation) techniques does Rep. Cammack suggest?
Video Clip 5: Climate Change Requires Regulations (2:39)
Bill Nye the science guy calls on Congress to increase regulations to mitigate the effects of climate change.
What effects do we see from greenhouse gases?
What does Bill Nye think we need to do to address the effects of greenhouse gases?
What is the point of regulations?
Video Clip 6: Threats Caused by Climate Change (5:06)
Alice Hill, Senior Fellow Council on Foreign Relations for Energy and the Environment, explains how climate change threatens the U.S.
How costly are extreme weather events?
What could Homeland Security do to help people prepare for adapting to climate change according to Alice Hill?
What is an issue caused by the different roles of the federal versus state/local governments?
Video Clip 7: Climate Change Adaptation as a Security Need (5:14)
Pamela Williams, Buildstrong Coalition Executive Director, calls on Congress to increase mitigation policies to increase resilience of the population to climate disasters.
Please note that although Pamela Williams uses the term ‘mitigation’ in terms of climate change, strategies she is actually discussing climate change adaptations.
What is the Buildstrong Coalition? Why do they care about climate change?
What do you think she means by resilience of structures?
What programs has the government implemented for ‘disaster resilience’? What is the issue with the program?
What solutions does Pamela Williams propose? Why does she think mitigation is an important solution?
Students work with their mixed groups to develop a proposal for their member of Congress of what mitigation and adaptation strategy they think is most important for their district or state to take.
Students may search the mayors’ presentation to Congress for examples of strategies of different cities in the US or conduct their own independent research.
C-SPAN VIDEO: Mayors Testify on Reducing Climate Change Risks
Students can design an advertisement or public service announcement with details that reflect their proposal on how to address this issue. This can be done in a video, digital slide, poster or another platform of their choice.