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Climate Change: How Do We Know?

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA

This static graph of changes in CO2 concentrations goes back 400,000 years, showing the dramatic spike in recent years.

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Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

About Teaching the Guiding Principle
Other materials addressing GPa
Biogeochemical cycles of greenhouse gases / Carbon cycle
About Teaching Principle 2
Other materials addressing 2d
Climate is variable
About Teaching Climate Literacy
Other materials addressing Climate is variable

Energy Literacy

Environmental quality is impacted by energy choices.
Other materials addressing:
7.3 Environmental quality.
Greenhouse gases affect energy flow through the Earth system.
Other materials addressing:
2.6 Greenhouse gases affect energy flow.

Benchmarks for Science Literacy
Learn more about the Benchmarks

The earth's climates have changed in the past, are currently changing, and are expected to change in the future, primarily due to changes in the amount of light reaching places on the earth and the composition of the atmosphere. The burning of fossil fuels in the last century has increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which has contributed to Earth's warming.
Explore the map of concepts related to this benchmark

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

  • Visualization could be used as an motivational introduction to the main cause of climate change, namely CO2 emissions.
  • Other versions of this exist, but this high quality graphic has "added value" with additional information on the evidence for human impacts and sources to relevant data.
  • This graphic/image could also be used to discuss the importance of time series data and the nature of science.
  • With a focus on the evidence that human activities are the reason for the recent increase in CO2, the webpage also includes summaries of the evidence and observations of recent change, plus links to the sources of the information.

About the Science

  • A static visualization demonstrating evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution.
  • The page provides the key sources of data and information contained on the page with a brief explanation of the graphic.
  • CO2 concentrations in ice cores have been measured back 800,000 years as of 2008 but still show the same pattern.
  • Comment from expert scientist: The subject is discussed in a scientifically valid and clear way.

About the Pedagogy

  • Static image on CO2 increases is a compelling illustration.
  • This image/illustration summarizes climate fluctuations over the past 400,000 years.
  • Students could be encouraged to go to the cited references and go beyond the image to discuss the significance of the increase being human induced.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The image can be saved to the desktop or viewed online, which would provide the ability to research the additional resources and for students to gather more information independently.

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