Our newest Citizen Climate curriculum emphasizes civic engagement and helps teachers and students understand the critical and complex climate solutions being discussed on the national and international stage. In the curriculum we recommend playing the Stabilization Wedge Game, a game produced by Princeton University's Carbon Mitigation Initiative . The goal of the game is to demonstrate that climate change is a problem which can be solved by implementing today's technologies to reduce CO2 emissions. The game creators, Stephen Pacala and Robert H. Socolow, show that the difference between maintaining our increasing levels of CO2 and leveling out our emissions of CO2 in the next 50 years is approximately 200 billion tons of CO2, and if illustrated graphically is a triangle (see below from Carbon Mitigation Initiative, Princeton University ).
The object of the game is to keep the next fifty years of CO2 emissions flat, using eight 25 billion ton wedges from a variety of different strategies which fit into the stabilization triangle. Students have the opportunity to select from a variety of different strategies categorized as efficiency and conservation, nuclear energy, fossil-fuel based strategies, and renewables and bio storage to fill their triangle with wedges. The game is a good exercise for thinking about all the factors that go into the decision making process, such as money, political will, public opinion etc. I have enjoyed using it with students, but have found it difficult sometime to engage them because the solutions are generally disconnected from daily life.
This week the Garrison Institutes's Climate, Mind and Behavior Project , in cooperation with the Natural Resources Defense Council , came out with what they are calling informally the "Behavioral Wedge." They show how the United States alone could reduce its CO2 emissions by 1 billion tons through easy and inexpensive actions. Actions include, carpooling twice a week or telecommuting once a week; washing clothes in cold water; and unplugging or shutting off electronics more often. The actions outlined in the report, are more relevant to the average student and citizen than those in the Stabilization Wedge Game, and could possibly be integrated into the game when playing with students as a follow up, or as an introduction to solutions they can implement themselves. Let us know how you used it in your classroom, and if we adapt it for our own use we will be sure to post it!
Step 1: Calculate your carbon footprint
As with any diet, all the little things add up – a re-charger here, an incandescent bulb there, no one’s going to notice, right? Well, you might be surprised at how much carbon you personally emit. Try using one of these carbon calculators to get the big picture on your carbon footprint: The Safe Climate Calculator , The Home Energy Saver , and The Home Energy Checkup .
We all know about walking, biking, and public transit, or swapping out your conventional light bulbs for compact fluorescents. But did you know that you can save energy by insulating your water heater? Or that buying locally grown food means using less fossil fuels? Here are some tips from Audubon Magazine on how to start your “low-carbon diet.”
Step 3: Offset your remaining emissions
Emissions offsetting involves using or enhancing natural processes that trap carbon dioxide and “sink” it (take it out of the atmosphere by transforming it into solid carbon). Carbon sinks include forests, fens, and oceanic plankton. Planting trees and reforestation are some of the best long-term means of offsetting carbon emissions. You can purchase emissions offsets from companies and nonprofit organizations that plant the number of trees needed to offset a specific amount of emissions – say, the amount generated by your family’s round-trip vacation flight. There are many such companies that you can find over the internet. But, buyer beware – some of these companies are scams or involve questionable practices (such as bulldozing existing forests, ironically enough, to plant enough trees to fill the promised quota). Conduct some research about the companies you are interested in purchasing emissions offsets from in order to find out more about their business history.
Here are some companies that the Will Steger Foundation has researched and found to be reputable: Carbonfund.org , Terrapass, and Native Energy.
I came across this great video today on TED: Ideas Worth Spreading. It is only 4 minutes, 14 seconds long, but it gives a great peak into the scientific research that can go into the making of a headline.
In 4 minutes, atmospheric chemist Rachel Pike provides a glimpse of the massive scientific effort behind the bold headlines on climate change, with her team -- one of thousands who contributed -- taking a risky flight over the rainforest in pursuit of data on a key molecule.
This week the Colbert Report on Comedy Central featured a "Science catfight" between Joe Bastardi , a meteorologist for Accuweather and Brenda Ekwurzel , a climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. The report is entertaining to watch, but also has some clearly stated claims that would be easy and interesting to investigate. Watch the clip with your students and ask them to write down some of the claims they hear from both Joe and Brenda. Ask them to do some internet research to see what sort of support there may be. Share in class and let us know what you find by clicking on the leave a comment button below!
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Science Catfight - Joe Bastardi vs. Brenda Ekwurzel|
I came across the Climate Wizard a few weeks ago and have been playing around with it since then. It isn't too complicated and gives students (and teachers!) an opportunity to explore a number of different aspects of climate change science including historical temperature and precipitation averages, and future climate predictions based on a number of different model scenarios. The Wizard is a good way to introduce models, how they work, and why different models show different prediction results. It also is a good example of ways to illustrate numerical data visually. One thing I thought was interesting was the button in the upper right hand corner that allowed you to get the values that were used in creating the model. This seemed like a great teachable moment.
Tools like this that allow students to customize their experiences working with data and essentially give them a chance to "play" a bit, are great starting points for discussions aroud climate change science, how to represent data and the complicated world of modeling and predictions.
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