There is No Planet B - Climate Change and its Impact on the Earth

Introduction | Background Knowledge | Activities | Extensions | Standards


The Earth's climate is changing. As the climate changes, the polar ice caps are melting. As a result, the weather is becoming more extreme. Heat waves and droughts are getting more frequent. Wildfires are sweeping across the globe. Hurricanes are becoming more devastating and more frequent. It snows later in the spring. It will take a global effort to reverse the impact of climate change and save our planet.

Click the image above and then the link to read more about the UN's Sustainable Development Goal #13.

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Background Knowledge

Climate change is not a new issue for Earth. Scientists in the early 1800s identified the atmosphere as a thermal blanket, keeping the Earth warmer than it should be, based on the distance from the sun. By the late 1800s, carbon dioxide was predicted to harm the atmosphere. In 1938, scientist Guy Callender directly connected rising carbon dioxide levels and global warming. Gilbert Plass published the Carbon Dioxide Theory of Climate Change in 1956. It identified industrial processes and human activity as contributing to the warming and predicted that the warming trend would continue for several hundred years.

The first global meeting about climate change was the World Climate Conference in 1979. Hosted by the World Meteorological Organization and held in Geneva, this was a scientific conference where leaders in the field came together to share information. A significant outcome of this conference was the establishment of the World Climate Programme.

During the 1980s, the United States and many major world powers focused on the climate. As a result, scientists identified the harmful impact of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and began to regulate air pollution to decrease acid rain.

Climate Change came to the forefront in the 1990s. Since then, scientists and governments have focused their attention on reducing these harmful impacts across the globe. The second World Climate Conference convened in 1990. This conference shifted from a purely scientific focus to a more political one. Outcomes from this conference included the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Global Climate Observing System.

The World Climate Conference convened again in 2009. The focus of this conference was to tackle climate change and begin to make a difference. The goal was to create long and short-term timelines to combat climate change and increase a global commitment to the cause. The UN Millennium Development Goals, a list of 8 international goals, came from this conference and were the precursor to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

Focus on Climate Change continued with the Paris Accords in 2015, also known as the Paris Agreement, this legally binding treaty set long-term goals that are revised every five years. 193 nations have signed the Agreement agreeing to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global temperature increase in this century to two degrees Celsius while pursuing efforts to limit the increase even further to 1.5 degrees. They also agreed to review countries' commitments every five years, and provide financing to developing countries to mitigate climate change, strengthen resilience, and enhance abilities to adapt to climate impacts.

The United Nations continues its focus on Climate Change. In 2020, the global average temperature was 1.2° Celsius above the baseline. This is off the target of 1.5 degrees Celsius that was agreed to in the Paris Agreement. In addition, NASA identified the following indicators of climate change: global temperature rise, warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, glacial retreat, decreased snow cover, sea level rise, declining arctic sea ice, extreme weather events, and ocean acidification.

The United Nations has committed to "take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts" with sustainable development goal 13.

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Polar Bears on Ice


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Gamify Climate Change

Looking Forward

  • From the Exploritorium (TeachersFirst review), explore the future here and then create a visual representation of how the future looks. Show how the land of the future Earth will look. Show what plants and animals would live on the new Earth. Finally, show how humans would live on an Earth impacted by climate change.

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Ice breaking off


  • AASL National School Library Standards
    • Inquire Shared Foundation, Think Domain - Learners display curiosity and initiative by: 1. Formulating questions about a personal interest or a curricular topic. 2. Recalling prior and background knowledge as context for new meaning
    • Inquire Shared Foundation, Create Domaine - Learners engage with new knowledge by following a process that includes: 1. Using evidence to investigate questions. 3. Generating products that illustrate learning.
    • Inquire Shared Foundation, Grow Domain - Learners participate in an ongoing inquiry-based process by: 1. Continually seeking knowledge. 3. Enacting new understanding through real-world connections.
    • Include Shared Foundation, Create Domain - Learners adjust their awareness of the global learning community by: 2. Evaluating a variety of perspectives during learning activities
    • Include Shared Foundation, Grow Domain - Learners demonstrate empathy and equity in knowledge building within the global learning community by: 2. Demonstrating interest in other perspectives during learning activities
    • Curate Shared Foundation, Create Domain - Learners gather information appropriate to the task by: 2. Collecting information representing diverse perspectives
    • Explore Shared Foundation, Think Domain - Learners develop and satisfy personal curiosity by: 1. Reading widely and deeply in multiple formats and write and create for a variety of purposes. 2. Reflecting and questioning assumptions and possible misconceptions.
    • Explore Shared Foundation, Share Domain - Learners engage with the learning community by: 1. Expressing curiosity about a topic of personal interest or curricular relevance
  • ISTE Standards for Students
    • Knowledge Constructor - 3d. Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.

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