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Understanding Climate Change



FINDING OUT: Sample Activities

Guest Speaker

Invite an expert on climate change / sustainability to speak to the students about the causes, effects and consequences of global warming.

Natural v Enhanced

Discuss and compare the diagram found at climate_change showing the greenhouse effect and the enhanced greenhouse effect. Using a retrieval chart complete details for each of the six greenhouse gases. Name, scientific symbol, sources, positives and negatives.

Fact cards

Read passages or articles related to climate change. Compose a mind map by summarising the four most important pieces of information and including keywords. Design and create a poster relating this information. Present the information orally and display poster for class reference.

Web Search

Use the Climate Change website at to explore and questions like:

Question 1: What is the greenhouse effect?

Question 2: Is the Earth's climate really hotting up?

Question 3: Hasn't the Earth's climate always changed with ice ages and interglacial periods?

Question 4: How do we know that most recent global warming is attributable to human activities rather than natural causes?

Question 5: What is the carbon cycle? How does human activity contribute to the carbon cycle?

Question 6: Will a few degrees warming have a significant impact on our climate?

Question 7: How do scientists measure global surface temperatures?

Question 8: How reliable are climate models?

Question 9: How do scientists project future climate?

Question 10: How much will sea levels rise as the world warms?

Question 11: What is thermohaline circulation?

Question 12: What is the El Ni n o Southern Oscillation (ENSO)?

Question 13: Apart from ENSO, how do the oceans affect Australia 's climate?

Question 14: Is there a link between climate change and the ozone hole?

Question 15: What amount of warming is likely this century and can it be avoided?

Question 16: What is the contribution of methane to the enhanced greenhouse effect?

Question 17: What contribution do changes in the Sun's energy make to climate change?

Question 18: What are the potential impacts of climate change?

Question 19: How can we live with climate change?

Question 20: What contributions do volcanic eruptions make to global warming?

Question 21: Are recent droughts in Australia due to climate change?

Question 22: What are the key climate change science findings in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report?

Question 23: What is Australia doing to address climate change impacts?

Question 24: What is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change?

Find out about the localities affected by climate change

Use the climate eXchange website at to find out more about the localities affected by climate change. Search for localities in marine and coastal environments. Talk with the students about these examples, introducing new vocabulary as needed. Look for clues and ask questions. For example:

  • What is this place like?
  • What do people do here?
  • What is happening in this place?
  • What is made, produced or manufactured here?
  • How are people travelling in this place?
  • Could this place be anywhere else?
  • How/ why/ by whom were decisions made to develop this place?
  • What grows here?
  • What animals live here?
  • What people might live. Work and play here?
  • How is this place affected by climate change?

Note: Coastal and marine environments can be impacted in the following ways rising sea levels, changing rainfall patterns, decreasing sea ice and melting glaciers, thawing permafrost, increasing cloud cover, sea acidification, global dimming, decreasing evaporation from the earth's surface and changing distribution of plants and animals.

Calculate your carbon footprint

Go to the ABC website au/science/planetslayer/greenhouse_calc.htm

Using the greenhouse calculator determine what Greenhouse gases you use. Upon completion click on Prof Schpinkee to investigate the scientific reasons for your answers.


Compile survey that covers topics of transport, or housing, or waste and/ or food choices (eating meat). Students complete survey and graph data as whole class. Interpret and discuss findings. Consider what choices are made that contribute to greenhouse gas production.

Research project

Brainstorm how the growing of crops produces greenhouse gases naturally. Examine how the mass cultivation of rice produces increased greenhouse gas emissions. Use a graphic organiser to compare and contrast the greenhouse effect and the enhanced greenhouse effect. In groups investigate the causes of increased greenhouse gases.

Allocate groups to investigate:

Carbon dioxide (CO2) production as burning fossil fuels (cars, electricity) and deforestation.

Methane (CH4) as digestive processes of livestock (body burps) and the decomposing of waste in landfill.

Use information gathered to address 'How much is too much?' Interpret and present information with text and visuals sequentially, e.g. storyboards, flowcharts, mind maps.

Emissions from home

Focus on activities that emit sources of carbon pollution or greenhouse gases from a home or community source. Ask students to brainstorm a list of greenhouse gas emissions that can produced at home and released into the air. Compile these onto a large class list and classify.

Emissions at home and at work survey

Design a simple set of questions students could use to interview their parents about the carbon pollutants emitted at home and at their work. Questions should gather information about the types of carbon pollutants and greenhouse gases emitted and the sources they come from.

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