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The Carbon Crisis in 90 Seconds


This video features a short animated sequence that illustrates the difference between young and old carbon released into the atmosphere from the consumption of food (young carbon) and the burning of fossil fuels (old carbon).

Video length 2:20 min.

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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Biogeochemical cycles of greenhouse gases / Carbon cycle
About Teaching Principle 2
Other materials addressing 2d
Natural processes of CO2 removal from atmosphere is slow; Long residence time of some GHG
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4g

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

  • This is a two-minute video with simplistic graphics, which might be best suited for an introductory lesson for middle or high school students unfamiliar with the impact of C02 and global warming. It might also be used towards the end of a unit as a reinforcement or review of basic concepts.
  • Potential misconceptions could be generated by the animation with the use of the blanket analogy for greenhouse effect and the lack of appropriate scale.

About the Science

  • Video makes the point that young carbon is reabsorbed by the biosphere and hydrosphere faster than old carbon, which accumulates in the atmosphere and contributes to the greenhouse effect.
  • Potential misconceptions could be generated by the simplicity of the animation and lack of appropriate scale.
  • Comments from expert scientist: This video tackles a tricky concept: the natural carbon cycle vs. the perturbed carbon cycle. The video does an excellent job describing an aspect of the natural carbon cycle, i.e., CO2 uptake by the biosphere and emission back to the atmosphere through respiration.

About the Pedagogy

  • Engaging animated format appropriate for younger audiences. Features one NASA scientist.
  • Links provided within the video would require educator to more specifically align other materials to the video, which may broaden the content and discussion.
  • Students should be aware of the simplicity of the video and explore the short term and long term carbon cycling in the environment.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Clean, decent quality.

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