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Carbon Stabilization Wedges

T. Keeler, A. Schwalfenberg, D. Vandenbrink, B. Martin, P. Mahaffy, King's Centre for Visualization in Science

This interactive/applet allows the user to explore the potential increase in carbon emissions over the next 50 years, subject to modifications made by the user in various technologies that impact carbon output. Part of the Visualizing and Understanding the Science of Climate Change module.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Simulation/Interactive supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 3 Cross Cutting Concepts, 4 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 3 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 3 Cross Cutting Concepts, 3 Science and Engineering Practices

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

  • Each "Show/Hide Assumptions" gives the parameters the simulation deems to be realistic scenarios and explains the basic assumptions used as the basis for those parameters. Anything below these parameters will result in a lower "Reality Check" score beneath the graph. These lower parameters could be useful as the basis for guided questions.
  • Suggest reviewing it in the context of the lesson from which it was extracted, before using on a stand-alone basis.
  • See CLEAN resource Stabilization Wedges Game https://serc.carleton.edu/resources/41709.html for a hands-on carbon stabilization game that has a lot of background information.

About the Science

  • The tool shows the potential increase in carbon emissions over the next 50 years, subject to modifications made by the user in various technologies that impact carbon output. Assumptions are provided for each set of variables.
  • Tool allows the user to change multiple factors from the multiple categories shown in the various drop down menus at once in order to see the aggregate effect on projected carbon emissions.
  • Comments from expert scientist: Presents most of the critical ideas relating to carbon stabilization wedges.

About the Pedagogy

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Can only be viewed online.
  • Use of green/red in graphs may create barriers for students with color blindness.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Simulation/Interactive supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

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.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 3

Systems and System Models, Cause and effect

MS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

MS-C4.2: Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy, matter, and information flows within systems.

MS-C4.3:Models are limited in that they only represent certain aspects of the system under study.

Science and Engineering Practices: 4

Developing and Using Models

MS-P2.2:Develop or modify a model— based on evidence – to match what happens if a variable or component of a system is changed.

MS-P2.3:Use and/or develop a model of simple systems with uncertain and less predictable factors.

MS-P2.4:Develop and/or revise a model to show the relationships among variables, including those that are not observable but predict observable phenomena.

MS-P2.5:Develop and/or use a model to predict and/or describe phenomena.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 3

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

HS-ESS2.D4:Current models predict that, although future regional climate changes will be complex and varied, average global temperatures will continue to rise. The outcomes predicted by global climate models strongly depend on the amounts of human-generated greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere each year and by the ways in which these gases are absorbed by the ocean and biosphere.

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.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 3

Cause and effect, Systems and System Models

HS-C2.1:Empirical evidence is required to differentiate between cause and correlation and make claims about specific causes and effects.

HS-C4.3:Models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions—including energy, matter, and information flows—within and between systems at different scales.

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.

Science and Engineering Practices: 3

Developing and Using Models

HS-P2.3:Develop, revise, and/or use a model based on evidence to illustrate and/or predict the relationships between systems or between components of a system

HS-P2.5:Develop a complex model that allows for manipulation and testing of a proposed process or system.

HS-P2.6:Develop and/or use a model (including mathematical and computational) to generate data to support explanations, predict phenomena, analyze systems, and/or solve problems.

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