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Changing Planet: Black Carbon

NBC Learn, Windows to the Universe

This video addresses two ways in which black carbon contributes to global warming. When in the atmosphere, it absorbs sunlight and generates heat, warming the air. When deposited on snow and ice, black carbon changes the albedo of the surface. The video is effective in communicating about a problem frequently underrepresented in discussions of climate change and also public health.

Video length: 6:07 min.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Video supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas
High School: 3 Disciplinary Core Ideas

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

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
Role of aerosols in climate system
About Teaching Principle 2
Other materials addressing 2e
Human activities have increased GHG levels and altered global climate patterns
About Teaching Principle 6
Other materials addressing 6c

Energy Literacy

Environmental quality is impacted by energy choices.
Other materials addressing:
7.3 Environmental quality.
Some populations are more vulnerable to impacts of energy choices than others.
Other materials addressing:
7.6 Vulnerable populations.
The energy of a system or object that results in its temperature is called thermal energy.
Other materials addressing:
1.2 Thermal energy.
Earth's weather and climate is mostly driven by energy from the Sun.
Other materials addressing:
2.3 Earth's climate driven by the Sun.

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

  • Having students study the health consequences of breathing black carbon from stoves or other sources could be a worthwhile add-on to a discussion of the production and impact of black carbon.
  • Researching impacts of black carbon and whether or not these impacts are occurring in the students' region of the country could also be worthwhile. For example, monitoring towers are in place for gathering data on changes in snow albedo in Grand Mesa in Colorado.

About the Science

  • The resource reviews emissions of black carbon and its contribution to climate change and public health concerns through the work of Dr. "Ram" V. Ramanathan of Scripps Institute of Oceanography.
  • From unmanned vehicles to measure black carbon in the atmosphere to the consequence of black carbon on snow (decreasing the albedo effect of snow-covered mountains and contributing to early snowmelt), the video covers black carbon's various causes and consequences.
  • The video describes efforts to reduce both environmental and health impacts of black carbon by developing and distributing cook stoves to communities in rural India.
  • Comments from expert scientist: The video describes the well-known health and climate impacts of black carbon in an accurate but general manner. I feel this video acted more as an outreach tool rather than being a simple, but yet scientific piece demonstrating the effects.

About the Pedagogy

  • This video covers an important piece of the climate change issue that is not often presented. It is important to provide appropriate context for this material.
  • A related activity is available from Windows to the Universe: Changing Planet - Black Carbon

Technical Details/Ease of Use

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

An activity about this topic is in the CLEAN collection: Energy and the Poor: Black Carbon in Developing Nations.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Video supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

MS-ESS2.D1:Weather and climate are influenced by interactions involving sunlight, the ocean, the atmosphere, ice, landforms, and living things. These interactions vary with latitude, altitude, and local and regional geography, all of which can affect oceanic and atmospheric flow patterns.

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.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 3

HS-ESS2.D1:The foundation for Earth’s global climate systems is the electromagnetic radiation from the sun, as well as its reflection, absorption, storage, and redistribution among the atmosphere, ocean, and land systems, and this energy’s re-radiation into space.

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

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.

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