Activity 8 (Elaborate): Climate Change & Resilience
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In this activity, students learn about how the greenhouse effect connects to climate change. They also interpret graphs of predicted CO2 levels and sea-levels to make the connection between different possible climate change scenarios. Finally, they learn about climate resilience, and watch a video about New Orleans to learn about how they can build flood resilience into their own community.
Activity Objectives & Materials
Approximate Time: 60 minutes
Students will understand the concept of climate change and how it is tied to atmospheric CO2 concentration
Students will understand the concept of climate resilience and how it applies to sea level rise
Computer & Projector
Speakers (for video)
What is Climate Change?
Climate Resilience and Sea Level Rise
DCI: ESS 3.D: Global Climate Change
DCI: ESS 3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems
SEP: Analyzing Data
When you hear the words climate change, what do you think of? What do you already know about climate change?
The purpose of this warm up is to activate students’ prior knowledge about climate change, and provide some information to the teacher about what students already know. Because students will be learning more about climate change during the activity, don’t spend too much time diving into students’ prior knowledge.
If students asked any questions in Activity 1 related to climate change, be sure to point them out before continuing.
1. Frame the Activity
Remind students of the sunny day flooding activity (Activity 2) where they looked at how different amounts of sea level rise would result in different amounts of flooding. You may want to go back to the website quickly to show them: http://coast.noaa.gov/slr. Tell students that scientists don’t know how much sea level will rise in the future, because humans have the ability to prevent changes like this. Today they are going to think about different sea-level rise scenarios to see how they connect with different amounts of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, and what they can do to protect their community from climate change.
2. Reading: Climate Change
Hand out the What is Climate Change? reading to students. Have them read the passage and answer the questions. When they are done, lead a short discussion about the difference between the greenhouse effect and climate change. The key takeaway is that the greenhouse effect is a natural process, while climate change is the result of humans increasing the greenhouse effect by adding additional greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
3. How Much is Too Much?
Show students the graph of the carbon dioxide concentration and global temperature:
Ask students what they think will happen to the temperature if the carbon dioxide levels continue to go up? (It will continue to get hotter). That might be an easy question, but what about if the carbon dioxide level goes down? For example, what if it goes down to 400 ppm? Will the temperature still go up? It might, because 400 ppm is still much higher than the concentration of CO2 used to be. What scientists right now are trying to figure out is, how much carbon dioxide is too much? How far do we have to make it go down to get the temperature back to normal?
Tell students that in the next part of their activity, they are going to look at different climate change scenarios based on how much the greenhouse gas level goes up or down.
Climate Change Data Source: A huge quantity of data, analysis, and predictions about climate change come from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which is the foremost authority on climate change. Their most recent major report is the 2014 Synthesis Report (AR5). Their next reports (AR6) are expected in 2021-2022.
4. Introduce the Climate Change Scenarios
Have students turn to the back of their reading to look at the graph, and project it so students can see it in color.
Tell students that scientists create models to predict how the climate will change based upon how much greenhouse gas is in the atmosphere. However, the scientists don’t know how much greenhouse gas there will be, so they make different predictions for different amounts of gas. This graph above shows the amount of greenhouse gas (in ppm) for each scenario. Have students mark on their graphs the worst-case scenario (RCP 8.5), the mid-case scenarios (RCP 4.5 & RCP 6.0) and the best-case scenario (RCP 2.6). Ask students why they think we have these different scenarios (it is based on what decisions we make to stop polluting the air with CO2 and other greenhouse gases).
Teacher Tip: The RCPs in these graphs refer to “representative concentration pathways” which provide a few possible scenarios from among the many possible outcomes.
5. Sea Level Rise Scenarios
Have students look at the graph that shows “Possible futures sea levels for different greenhouse gas pathways” and project it so they can see the colors:
Ask them what similarities they see in this graph compared to the last one they looked at (it is line graph, it shows a similar time period, it has a few different lines that split apart as you go into the future). Ask students why there are different scenarios for sea level rise. (it also depends on what decisions we make to stop emitting greenhouse gases). Ask which greenhouse gas level goes with which scenario (note that there is not an exact match, but the scenarios are similar).
Have students use the graph to determine what the sea level rise prediction is for three different greenhouse gas levels. Make sure they change from meters to feet for their answers.
6. Introduce Resilience
Write the word “resilient” on the board and ask if anyone know what the word resilient means. Have students share what they know about the word resilient. Use what students know to introduce the definition of community climate resilience: “the ability of communities to prepare for, respond to, and recover from hazardous events and adversity related to climate change.”
Ask students if they have ever recovered from adversity. Have a few students share their experiences if they are interested (as appropriate). Use this to begin making a connection between personal resilience and community climate resilience.
7. Resilience Example
Hand out the Climate Resilience and Sea Level Rise sheet to students. Tell students that communities that are facing rising sea levels can prepare to deal with the changes. In just a moment, they are going to watch a video about a city that is dealing with flooding from rising sea levels and also extreme weather. During the video, they should take notes on their handouts about what the people in the city are doing to build resilience from flooding.
Show the video: Sea Level Rising: Living With Water from 0:48 to 7:09. The video can be found at: https://www.pbs.org/video/sea-level-rising-living-with-water-inv0lp/.
Some solutions for resilience seen or mentioned in the video:
Elevation (building houses up off the ground)
Plant rain gardens
Build canals to circulate water around the city
Plant specific plants in low areas that will help the ground absorb water
Build “blue ways” to channel water
After the video, have students share some of the things they wrote down that New Orleans is doing to build climate resilience.
Extension: The Urban Sustainability Directors Network has created a series of “games” designed to teach people about how to build climate resiliency into their community plans. You can check out their three scenarios (Game of Floods, Game of Extremes, and Game of Heat) at their website.
8. Formative Assessment
Have students complete the prompt on making their community more resilient to flooding from climate change. You can also show them Google Street View pictures of this community to give them a better sense of what it is like. Much of this area will be under water given the intermediate sea level rise scenario:
Possible student answers:
Build a wall along the water to keep out the rising water level
Replace some of the pavement with grassy areas that can absorb water from flooding
Elevate the building (if possible) or raise the floor level to keep water out in case of a flood
Move these stores to a different part of the city that is less prone to flooding and use this space for something else
Modification: If the school community is in an area that is at risk from flooding due to climate change, feel free to change the formative assessment scenario to be about the school community. In Activity 10, students will directly address how to address climate change, including through changes in their personal lives and by building community resiliency.