Comparing Carbon Calculators
This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection
Resources in this top level collection a) must have scored Exemplary or Very Good in all five review categories, and must also rate as “Exemplary” in at least three of the five categories. The five categories included in the peer review process are
- Scientific Accuracy
- Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
- Pedagogic Effectiveness
- Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
- Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page
For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.
This page first made public: Jun 24, 2011
Carbon calculators, no matter how well intended as tools to help measure energy footprints, tend to be black boxes and can produce wildly different results, depending on the calculations used to weigh various energy factors. By comparing different calculators, learners can analyze which ones are the most accurate and relevant, and which are the most transparent.
Comparing, contrasting and synthesizing the results of different calculators promotes high order thinking skills.
Context for Use
Rather than have students do traditional carbon calculator exercises, this activity invites learners to examine different calculators, compare and contrast them, and gain insight into how different factors are weighed and calculated.
This website has a listing of ~80 different calculators: www.squidoo.com/carboncalcs (no longer available).
Teaching Notes and Tips
This activity can be done as extra credit or part of a group project. It will require identifying a variety of carbon or ecological footprint calculators, developing a set of input data that is used consistently with the different calculators, and then analyzing and presenting the results.
Comparing Calculators: Teaching Notes (Acrobat (PDF) 67kB Jun24 11)
Did the learners complete the task of comparing and contrasting calculators, and if so, what were their results?
References and Resources
J. Paul Padgett, Anne C. Steinemann, James H. Clarke, Michael P. Vandenbergh (2008). A comparison of carbon calculators
, Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 28
Efficiency and Energy Conservation, Geoscience:Atmospheric Science:Climate Change:
Mitigation of climate change, Environmental Science:Global Change and Climate:Climate Change:
Greenhouse gas emissions, Environmental Science:Ecosystems:
Biogeochemical cycling, Environmental Science:Policy:
Environmental Decision-Making, Geoscience:Atmospheric Science:Climate Change:
Greenhouse gas emissions, Environmental Science:Global Change and Climate:Climate Change:
Mitigation of climate change, Geoscience:Atmospheric Science:Climatology :
Resource TypeDatasets and Tools:
Datasets with Teaching Activities, Activities
Grade LevelCollege Lower (13-14):
Models and Modeling
Earth System Topics
Ecology, Human Dimensions:
Human Dimensions/Resources, Climate, Energy/Material cycles