Module 1: Introduction to climate change; natural and anthropogenic factors

Teaching Climate Change

Climate change is a complex and all-encompassing issue that concerns every living being on Earth. It’s a topic characterised by extensive scientific research, heated debates, and, unfortunately, misinformation.

Understanding this phenomenon necessitates an exploration of both natural and anthropogenic (human-induced) factors.

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Why is it important to detect the causes?

While the Earth’s climate naturally fluctuates over long geological timescales, the current rate of change is much more rapid and is largely driven by anthropogenic (human induced) factors, such as burning fossil fuels, cutting down forests and farming livestock.

Natural factors, such as volcanic eruptions, forest fires and variations in the Earth’s orbit, continue to play a significant role in influencing the climate on a regional and seasonal basis.

However, more rapid climate change has been taking place, largely driven by human activities.

Climate Change factors

In education, detecting and limiting the natural and anthropogenic causes of climate change can promote:
1. innovative thinking,
2. problem solving skills,
3. ability to accurately identify and explain different phenomena,
4. students’ participation in science projects;
5. students’ ability to monitor local climate indicators and analyse their causes,
6. students’ creativity while creating or using interactive tools and apps that visualise climate data.

In order to teach climate change, teachers should aim to allow students to critically analyse presented information, explain different causes and consequences and provide concrete solutions to the problems using reliable and valid sources of information.

teaching climate photo

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Challenges and responses

Climate change is not a new phenomenon.

The Earth’s climate has always been in a state of flux due to natural influences. These include variations in the sun’s energy, changes in the Earth’s orbit, the impact of volcanic eruptions, and alterations in the concentration of greenhouse gases.

In contrast to natural forces, anthropogenic factors refer to human effects on the climate.

Since the Industrial Revolution, human activities have rapidly accelerated the rate of climate change. These activities primarily include the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas, which release large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere.

These gases trap heat, causing a ‘greenhouse effect’, which leads to global warming.

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Other human activities contributing to climate change include deforestation, which reduces the Earth’s capacity to absorb CO2, and livestock farming, which increases methane emission, a potent greenhouse gas.

The impact of these anthropogenic factors is reflected in the unprecedented rate of warming over the past century.

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Activity: Explore the Teaching the Future climate data dashboard activities and examine the changes in your area over recent years 

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels.

Activity: Examine the story of three possible future warmer worlds related to the future climate predictions 

Climate change as a complex topic