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Geoff Haines-Stiles Productions, EARTH: The Operators' Manual

This video segment from 'Earth: The Operators' Manual' explores how we know that today’s increased levels of CO2 are caused by humans burning fossil fuels and not by some natural process, such as volcanic out-gassing. Climate scientist Richard Alley provides a detailed step-by-step explanation that examines the physics and chemistry of different “flavors,” or isotopes, of carbon in Earth’s atmosphere.

Video length: 2:75 min.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Video supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 7 Disciplinary Core Ideas
High School: 8 Disciplinary Core Ideas

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

About Teaching Principle 2
Other materials addressing 2d
About Teaching Principle 6
Other materials addressing 6c

Energy Literacy

Other materials addressing:
7.3 Environmental quality.
Other materials addressing:
4.1 Humans transfer and transform energy.
Other materials addressing:
4.3 Fossil and bio fuels contain energy captured from sunlight.
Other materials addressing:
2.5 Energy moves between reservoirs.
Other materials addressing:
2.6 Greenhouse gases affect energy flow.

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

  • Use to start a discussion or unit about various sources and types of CO2 in the atmosphere.
  • This video helps debunk the misconception that volcanoes emit more CO2 into the atmosphere than human activities. Humans emit far more CO2 into the atmosphere than volcanoes.
  • Additional resources from this program are available here: http://earththeoperatorsmanual.com/
  • If needed, students can review fossil fuel formation in segment 3 of this same set of resources.

About the Science

  • Penn State climatologist Richard Alley describes how we know that most of the carbon being added to the atmosphere in the last century is from fossil fuels.
  • Alley explains that by measuring the different carbon isotopes and the changes in carbon compared to oxygen, we know how much carbon is added to the atmosphere by living organisms and volcanoes (small) compared to that added by burning fossil fuels (large).
  • Comment from expert scientist: The video and the corresponding student activities are useful show how scientists know that the rise in CO2 is due to burning of fossil fuels, rather than natural processes. Richard Alley is a dynamic personality and does a good job presenting the science in the video.
  • Below the video, there are four different activities that teachers can use follow up on the concepts presented in the video.

About the Pedagogy

  • Audio track is augmented by word track running along the bottom.
  • Teaching tips, learning objectives, and an annotated script are included to facilitate the use of this resource in classrooms.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Excellent quality.
  • This segment is from the hour-long episode but stands alone quite well.
  • Richard Alley is a well-known climate scientist and an engaging presenter.

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


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