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Stabilization Wedges Game

Carbon Mitigation Initiative, Princeton University

This is a team-based activity that teaches students about the scale of the greenhouse gas problem and the technologies that already exist which can dramatically reduce carbon emissions. Students select carbon-cutting strategies to construct a carbon mitigation profile, filling in the wedges of a climate stabilization triangle.

Activity takes about three 45-minute class periods, possibly more with the closure and assessment.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
High School: 2 Performance Expectations, 4 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 6 Cross Cutting Concepts, 6 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Greenhouse gas reduction and carbon dioxide sequestration to mitigate climate change
About Teaching the Guiding Principle
Other materials addressing GPd
Strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emission (energy conservation, renewable energies, change in energy use)
About Teaching the Guiding Principle
Other materials addressing GPe
Actions taken by different levels of society can mitigate climate change and increase preparedness for current and future generations
About Teaching the Guiding Principle
Other materials addressing GPg

Energy Literacy

Environmental quality is impacted by energy choices.
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7.3 Environmental quality.
Different sources of energy and the different ways energy can be transformed, transported and stored each have different benefits and drawbacks.
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4.7 Different sources of energy have different benefits and drawbacks.
Energy decisions can be made using a systems-based approach.
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5.3 Systems-based approach.
One way to manage energy resources is through conservation.
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6.2 Conserving energy.
Movement of matter between reservoirs is driven by Earth's internal and external sources of energy.
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2.5 Energy moves between reservoirs.
Greenhouse gases affect energy flow through the Earth system.
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2.6 Greenhouse gases affect energy flow.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

4. Personal and Civic Responsibility:C) Recognizing efficacy
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C) Recognizing efficacy.
4. Personal and Civic Responsibility:D) Accepting personal responsibility
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D) Accepting personal responsibility.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.3 Humans and Their Societies:C) Political and economic systems
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C) Political and economic systems.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:A) Human/environment interactions
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A) Human/environment interactions.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:D) Technology
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D) Technology.
3. Skills for Understanding and Addressing Environmental Issues:3.1 Skills for Analyzing and Investigating Environmental Issues:A) Identifying and investigating issues
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A) Identifying and investigating issues.
3. Skills for Understanding and Addressing Environmental Issues:3.1 Skills for Analyzing and Investigating Environmental Issues:C) Identifying and evaluation alternative solutions and courses of action
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C) Identifying and evaluation alternative solutions and courses of action.
3. Skills for Understanding and Addressing Environmental Issues:3.2 Decision-Making and Citizenship Skills:D) Evaluating the results of actions
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D) Evaluating the results of actions.
3. Skills for Understanding and Addressing Environmental Issues:3.2 Decision-Making and Citizenship Skills:B) Evaluating the need for citizen action
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B) Evaluating the need for citizen action.

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

  • A large amount of prior knowledge on both the part of the educator and the students is required; having some previous experience with this content is helpful in order to teach/facilitate the lesson. This activity could generate more questions than the background info prepares educators for.
  • Not all strategies have sufficient background to promote critical discussion; input from educator in these areas could be valuable.
  • This activity could be used by older students to inform younger students about CO2 emissions and solutions.

About the Science

  • Students will learn about the impact CO2 emissions have on global climate change.
  • Introduces the concept behind a stabilization triangle (carbon-cutting strategies that can keep the Earth's CO2 emissions trend "flat"). The strategies presented in this activity are i) efficiency and conservation ii) fossil fuel-based strategies iii) nuclear energy and iv) renewable energy and biostorage.
  • This activity from the Carbon Mitigation Initiative was a joint project between Princeton University, BP, and Ford.
  • Comment from expert scientist: The strengths of this activity are not scientific. It's almost exclusively a policy/technology exercise framed by an initial science lesson. It's good at what it does, but it doesn't teach climate science. Understanding available technological solutions and their potential contributions to addressing emissions challenges is an important part of climate literacy.

About the Pedagogy

  • A good culminating activity for a unit on renewable energy options and climate change. It addresses both the problems and the solutions.
  • Students will develop reasoning and negotiation skills in order to find a solution and defend it to a larger group; there is no "right" answer.
  • This activity is based completely in individual choice and so offers opportunities to a diverse group of learners.
  • Opportunities for adults outside the classroom to become included/engaged with student learning - administrators or community members could judge stabilization triangles.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Easy to use, clearly written instructions with all necessary handouts provided.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

High School

Performance Expectations: 2

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

HS-ETS1-3: Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 4

HS-ESS3.A:Natural Resources

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.

HS-ETS1.B1:When evaluating solutions, it is important to take into account a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, and to consider social, cultural, and environmental impacts.

HS-PS3.A2:At the macroscopic scale, energy manifests itself in multiple ways, such as in motion, sound, light, and thermal energy.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 6

Patterns, Cause and effect, Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter, Structure and Function, Stability and Change

HS-C1.3:Patterns of performance of designed systems can be analyzed and interpreted to reengineer and improve the system.

HS-C2.3:Systems can be designed to cause a desired effect.

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-C5.3:Energy cannot be created or destroyed—only moves between one place and another place, between objects and/or fields, or between systems.

HS-C6.1:Investigating or designing new systems or structures requires a detailed examination of the properties of different materials, the structures of different components, and connections of components to reveal its function and/or solve a problem.

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

Science and Engineering Practices: 6

Asking Questions and Defining Problems, Developing and Using Models, Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

HS-P1.2:ask questions that arise from examining models or a theory, to clarify and/or seek additional information and relationships.

HS-P2.1:Evaluate merits and limitations of two different models of the same proposed tool, process, mechanism or system in order to select or revise a model that best fits the evidence or design criteria.

HS-P3.5:Make directional hypotheses that specify what happens to a dependent variable when an independent variable is manipulated.

HS-P4.6: Analyze data to identify design features or characteristics of the components of a proposed process or system to optimize it relative to criteria for success.

HS-P5.1:Create and/or revise a computational model or simulation of a phenomenon, designed device, process, or system.

HS-P6.5:Design, evaluate, and/or refine a solution to a complex real-world problem, based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations.

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