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Overview of Climate Change
Intro to Climate Change
Objective: The goal of this activity is to do a cursory introduction of the ways carbon dioxide enters and leaves the atmosphere by
showing the carbon cycle with a cartoon and graphic organizer.
Time needed: 50 minute class period
Procedure: This activity will work well when beginning the teaching of climate change to first year chemistry students. This cartoon will
set the stage for discussing how carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere and why carbon dioxide amounts in the atmosphere impact
global climate change. The eight minute video clip ( is to be used in
conjunction with a pictorial graphic organizer (attached). Students will complete this graphic organizer with colored pencils while
watching the clip.
Begin class discussion with questions such as: “What is the difference between weather and climate?”, “How can we as a
general population find out if Earth’s average temperatures are changing over a long period of time?”, “What might be factors
in causing the Earth to warm up or cool off?”…
Give each student a copy of the graphic organizer and a red, green, and blue colored pencil.
As the cartoon lists components of each of the spheres, have students list these in the marked areas of the graphic organizer.
As students watch the video, pause every few seconds to explain how carbon is either leaving or entering the atmosphere. Have
the students indicate carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere with a red arrow from the emitter of carbon to the atmosphere.
Have students indicate carbon dioxide leaving the atmosphere with a blue arrow pointing to the part of the cycle that is
absorbing the carbon. Carbon moving between objects (not directly leaving or entering the atmosphere) will be indicated with
a green arrow.
After completing the graphic, have students discuss the relationship between the number of ways carbon is put into the
atmosphere, ways it is removed, and the carbon that is a direct result of human activity.
To end the class period, begin a class discussion with ways the amount of carbon in the atmosphere may have changed since
the Industrial Revolution. The attached PPT slides may be helpful in this discussion.
Assessment: For homework, have students read the article from and write a
summary paragraph on how fossil fuels originated, when they originated, and where we find these fuels today. During the next
day’s class discussion, emphasize the point that these carbon compounds have been locked under the surface of the Earth for
millions of years and huge amounts have been brought to the surface and released into the atmosphere in a relatively short
period of time (since the Industrial Revolution). This release rate is occurring at a greater rate than the Earth has been able to
absorb through natural processes such as photosynthesis and ocean absorption.
Why is the atmospheric level of CO2 important to
climate change?
 CO2 is in a class of gases called Greenhouse Gases
 Because of the shape of the CO2 molecule, CO2 and a
few other atmospheric gases can trap heat against
the Earth.
How do we know what the CO2 levels were in the
 Scientists collect
data from several
sources and
compare CO2
amounts for the
same year to
arrive at the best
estimate. This is
called using proxy
How is the CO2 level measured today?
Mauna Loa Observatory (MLO) is a
premier atmospheric research facility
in Hawaii that has been continuously
monitoring and collecting data related
to atmospheric change since the
1950's. The undisturbed air, remote
location, and minimal influences of
vegetation and human activity at MLO
are ideal for monitoring constituents
in the atmosphere that can cause
climate change. The observatory is
part of the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Earth System Research Laboratory
(ESRL) - Global Monitoring Division
Combination of Proxy Data and Mauna Loa
Note: The Industrial Revolution was from 1750-1850.
Where are we now?