What is the Future of Earth's Climate?

What is the Future of Earth's Climate?

Earth's temperature has increased over the past 120 years due to increased levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. How will the climate change over the next 120 years? In this module, students explore temperature data from ice cores, sediments, and satellites and greenhouse gas data from atmospheric measurements, run experiments with interactive computational models, and hear from a climate scientist working to answer the same question.


7 - 12+

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National Science Foundation

The Climate Change module, “What is the future of Earth’s climate?” consists of six activities to be implemented over approximately six 45-minute class periods. The module uses real-world data and computer-based models to help students explore how greenhouse gases, ocean surface temperature, and albedo all play a role in climate change. By the end of the module, students will be able to explain how scientists can be sure that Earth is warming without being entirely certain about how much Earth will warm.

Below describes an overview of the sequence of activities:

Activity 1: Constructing an Argument: Climate

Students will learn how to create a good scientific argument in the context of exploring data related to climate change science. They will learn to develop scientific arguments through a series of questions that ask them make a claim, explain their answer, rate their certainty with their answer, and explain that rating.

Activity 2: Earth’s Changing Climates

Students are introduced to the question framing the module about the future of Earth's climate. They explore data showing temperature changes over the past 120 years and data illustrating climate trends over different time scales. Students evaluate the information the data provide and consider the limitations of conclusions based on the data.

Activity 3: Interactions Within the Atmosphere

Students use interactive computational models to explore how Earth's surface and greenhouse gases interact with incoming solar radiation. Then they interpret real-world changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide over short and long time frames.

Activity 4: Sources, Sinks, and Feedbacks

Students use interactive computational models to explore the relationships between ocean surface temperature and levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and water vapor.

Activity 5: Feedbacks of Ice and Clouds

Students use interactive computational models to explore how light-colored surfaces such as snow, ice, and some clouds have a cooling effect on Earth. Then they interpret real-world data to examine the positive feedback loop between Arctic sea ice coverage and changing atmospheric temperature.

Activity 6: Using Models to Make Predictions

Students explore how solar radiation, Earth's surface and oceans, and greenhouse gases interact to cause global warming. They can experiment with the models by changing variables to investigate how much greenhouse gas emissions might need to fall to mitigate the temperature increase.

Accessing the Module

1. Go to learn.concord.org/has-climate for the interactive Teacher Edition of the Climate Change module and other teacher resources.You will need to have a teacher account to access the teacher materials. Registration is free.

2. Set up a class on the Concord Consortium Learn portal (learn.concord.org/has-climate). Assign the Climate Change module.

3. Have your students register for student accounts on the Learn portal. Students will join your class with the “class word” you selected.

4. Use the embedded teaching tips and discussion tips in the Teacher Edition to help facilitate your students’ investigations in the Climate Change module.

Informal Assessment

The Climate Change module includes pre- and post-assessments. Use these to assess your students’ understanding of climate science. In addition, you can use the real-time Class Dashboard to track students’ progress through the module and give students feedback on their responses.

Use the embedded argumentation items to assess your students’ understanding of topics in climate science. Rubrics are available to registered teachers at learn.concord.org/has-climate.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Amy Pallant, Principal Investigator, The Concord Consortium, The Concord Consortium
Dr. Hee-Sun Lee, The Concord Consortium, The Concord Consortium
The Concord Consortium
Sarah Pryputniewicz, The Concord Consortium
Elaine Larson, National Geographic Society
Jeannie Evers, Emdash Editing, Emdash Editing
The Concord Consortium
Expert Reviewer
Dr. Mark Chandler, Associate Research Scientist, Goddard Institute for Space Sciences (GISS)/Center for Climate Systems Research (CCSR) at Columbia University, Columbia University
Last Updated

January 22, 2024

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