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The Climate Challenge: Our Choices Simulator

Schlumberger Excellence in Educational Development, Inc.

This Flash-based simulation explores the relationship between carbon emissions and atmospheric carbon dioxide using two main displays: (1) graphs that show the level of human-generated CO2 emissions, CO2 removals, and the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, and (2) a bathtub animation that shows the same information as the graphs. The bathtub simulation illustrates the challenges of reducing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Simulation/Interactive supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 8 Cross Cutting Concepts
High School: 3 Performance Expectations, 5 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 9 Cross Cutting Concepts

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

About the Science

  • The data and models used for the data are provided in the resource.
  • Users watch the growth of human-generated CO2 emissions and CO2 removals from the atmosphere from 1950 to 2007 then select one of three choices: to allow increased carbon dioxide emissions, level off emissions, or to reduce emissions.
  • The simulation then plays out each scenario in the graphs and bathtub. The goal is to have total carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to stay below horizontal red line (and below the top of the bathtub) of 450 parts per million to avoid the most significant damage to the Earth's ecosystems and economies; the animation shows that the only way to achieve this is by reducing emissions.
  • The graphs and bathtub animation were calculated in a system dynamic model built by Dr. T. Fiddaman.
  • John Sterman and Booth Sweeney's paper provides an explanation of the dynamics behind the animated simulation: http://web.mit.edu/jsterman/www/Understanding_public.html
  • The top of the bathtub is 450 ppm of CO2; however it could have been set higher or lower.
  • Comments from expert scientist: The piece provides a visual demonstration of how fast CO2 emissions and removal from the atmosphere has taken place between 1950-2007 and how such trends change under different future scenarios. The background data provided on CO2 and Climate Change are well-described and easy to understand. Resource needs updating from 2007 to 2014 levels.

About the Pedagogy

  • The simulation was designed in collaboration with The Sustainability Institute and Society for Organizational learning.
  • An additional video is provided of Dr. Fiddaman explaining the model and the science - the pdf noted below is a better resource to view.
  • The site offers multiple language options to translate the information for ESL students

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Simulation and video are embedded in page and open in new window.
  • The instructions open in new window.

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN

Climate Interactive: http://climateinteractive.org/

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Simulation/Interactive supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

MS-ESS3.D1:Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming). Reducing the level of climate change and reducing human vulnerability to whatever climate changes do occur depend on the understanding of climate science, engineering capabilities, and other kinds of knowledge, such as understanding of human behavior and on applying that knowledge wisely in decisions and activities.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 8

Systems and System Models, Stability and Change, Patterns, Cause and effect

MS-C4.2: Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy, matter, and information flows within systems.

MS-C4.3:Models are limited in that they only represent certain aspects of the system under study.

MS-C7.2: Small changes in one part of a system might cause large changes in another part.

MS-C7.3:Stability might be disturbed either by sudden events or gradual changes that accumulate over time.

MS-C7.4:Systems in dynamic equilibrium are stable due to a balance of feedback mechanisms.

MS-C1.3: Patterns can be used to identify cause and effect relationships.

MS-C1.4:Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data.

MS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

High School

Performance Expectations: 3

HS-ESS3-4: Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.

HS-ESS3-5: Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth systems.

HS-ESS3-6: Use a computational representation to illustrate the relationships among Earth systems and how those relationships are being modified due to human activity.

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 5

HS-ESS2.D2:Gradual atmospheric changes were due to plants and other organisms that captured carbon dioxide and released oxygen.

HS-ESS2.D3:Changes in the atmosphere due to human activity have increased carbon dioxide concentrations and thus affect climate.

HS-ESS2.E1:The many dynamic and delicate feedbacks between the biosphere and other Earth systems cause a continual co-evolution of Earth’s surface and the life that exists on it.

HS-ESS2.D4:Current models predict that, although future regional climate changes will be complex and varied, average global temperatures will continue to rise. The outcomes predicted by global climate models strongly depend on the amounts of human-generated greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere each year and by the ways in which these gases are absorbed by the ocean and biosphere.

HS-ESS3.D1:Though the magnitudes of human impacts are greater than they have ever been, so too are human abilities to model, predict, and manage current and future impacts.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 9

Patterns, Cause and effect, Systems and System Models, Stability and Change

HS-C1.5:Empirical evidence is needed to identify patterns.

HS-C2.1:Empirical evidence is required to differentiate between cause and correlation and make claims about specific causes and effects.

HS-C4.1:Systems can be designed to do specific tasks.

HS-C4.2:When investigating or describing a system, the boundaries and initial conditions of the system need to be defined and their inputs and outputs analyzed and described using models.

HS-C4.3:Models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions—including energy, matter, and information flows—within and between systems at different scales.

HS-C4.4:Models can be used to predict the behavior of a system, but these predictions have limited precision and reliability due to the assumptions and approximations inherent in models.

HS-C7.2:Change and rates of change can be quantified and modeled over very short or very long periods of time. Some system changes are irreversible.

HS-C7.3:Feedback (negative or positive) can stabilize or destabilize a system.

HS-C7.4:Systems can be designed for greater or lesser stability.

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