Unit 7: Climate Change from the Socio-Environmental Systems Perspective
These materials have been reviewed for their alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards as detailed below. Visit InTeGrate and the NGSS to learn more.
OverviewStudents synthesize what they have learned about climate emissions reduction policy, represent what they have learned in a systems map, and write an op-ed piece using sound scientific, economic and policy reasoning.
Science and Engineering Practices
Engaging in Argument from Evidence: Construct, use, and/or present an oral and written argument or counter-arguments based on data and evidence. HS-P7.4:
Cross Cutting Concepts
Systems and System Models: Systems may interact with other systems; they may have sub-systems and be a part of larger complex systems. MS-C4.1:
Disciplinary Core Ideas
Global Climate Change: 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. MS-ESS3.D1:
Natural Resources: All forms of energy production and other resource extraction have associated economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical costs and risks as well as benefits. New technologies and social regulations can change the balance of these factors. HS-ESS3.A2:
Earth Materials and Systems: Earth’s systems, being dynamic and interacting, cause feedback effects that can increase or decrease the original changes. HS-ESS2.A1:
Engineering Design: Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants. HS-ETS1-1:
Earth and Human Activity: Evaluate competing design solutions for developing, managing, and utilizing energy and mineral resources based on cost-benefit ratios. HS-ESS3-2:
This material was developed and reviewed through the InTeGrate curricular materials development process. This rigorous, structured process includes:
- team-based development to ensure materials are appropriate across multiple educational settings.
- multiple iterative reviews and feedback cycles through the course of material development with input to the authoring team from both project editors and an external assessment team.
- real in-class testing of materials in at least 3 institutions with external review of student assessment data.
- multiple reviews to ensure the materials meet the InTeGrate materials rubric which codifies best practices in curricular development, student assessment and pedagogic techniques.
- review by external experts for accuracy of the science content.
This page first made public: May 30, 2017
After completing this unit, students will be able to:
- Communicate accurately about the challenge of climate change.
- Describe natural, social, and economic impacts of climate change.
- Argue for strong policy to regulate carbon emissions to curb climate change.
Context for Use
This unit is ideal for introductory or advanced courses that have completed at least two of the previous units in this module. The first two parts are designed to reinforce guiding principle of the InTeGrate program: metacognition and systems thinking. The third part reinforces key learning goals of the module and introduces the final capstone assignment, an Op-Ed writing assignment (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 90kB Nov8 16). The length of the 3 parts of discussion described below are entirely at the discretion of the instructor but we recommend taking at least 60 minutes.
Description and Teaching Materials
Teaching Materials Required for Unit 7
- Computer with projector and Internet access to show the Unit 7 PowerPoint (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 3.8MB May13 17) with Unit 7 Lecture Notes (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 138kB May13 17).
During class (3 parts, total time: 60+ minutes)
This final summary unit asks students to reflect on their learning throughout the entire module. There is no additional preparation required. The final writing assignment used to assess module goals is introduced in Part 3.Part 1. Metacognition Reflection (20+ minute Discussion and Activity)
Metacognition encourages understanding of "how we learn" so that we can replicate and amplify the characteristics of high-quality learning throughout our educational experiences. Learn more about Metacognition.
Begin by returning the climate literacy assessment students completed prior to Unit 1 and asking them to consider where their understanding, assumptions about, and knowledge of climate change have changed.
Ask students to conduct a three-minute free write in which they reflect on their learning throughout the module and then share their reflections in small groups. Encourage them to make a list of of actions they can take to increase the frequency of high-learning moments.
Part 2. Socio-Environmental Systems Thinking (20+ minute discussion)
Reflecting upon the Module System Diagram ask students questions such as the following questions to re-enforce systems thinking:
- Is this a reasonable depiction of the causes, effects, and solutions to global climate change?
- What additions or modifications would you make to this system diagram?
- What feedback loops exist in the policy development process? Which are more or less significant in this case?
- Who, or what types of professionals and other stakeholders, can play an important role in shaping the policy development process?
- How do elected officials, NGO's industry groups fit into the policy discourse part of the system?
- Consider how the following individuals might use, or modify, this systems map to meet their needs: grassroots environmentalists in your community; executives at a major multi-national energy corporation; elected officials at local, state and national levels.
- Does the systems lens help address other social and environmental challenges? Why or why not?
- What other societal challenges should be thought of from a socio-environmental systems perspective?
- Can systems thinking help us achieve solutions to environmental and other challenges more efficiently?
- What happens when policy is implemented with an incorrect or incomplete perception of the socio-environmental system?
Part 3. Regulating Carbon Emissions to Curb Climate Change (20+ minute Discussion)
This final discussion introduces students to the final writing assignment where they will demonstrate their integrated understanding of the science, economics, and law behind the regulation of carbon emissions. Recall that the overarching goals of this module (and unit) are to enable students to (1) communicate accurately about the challenge of climate change, (2) describe natural, social, and economic impacts of climate change, and (3) argue for strong policy to regulate carbon emissions to curb climate change. These goals are assessed with the final Op-Ed writing assignment (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 90kB Nov8 16). Before introducing the assignment, ask students:
- What should be done about climate change?
Students will likely suggest individual behaviors (drive less, turn off lights). These behaviors are positive steps but will not by themselves get the job done. Encourage them to think about what can be done to curb climate change through policy action.
Remind them of the module goals and introduce the Op-Ed writing assignment (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 90kB Nov8 16). This writing exercise uses the Role, Audience, Format, and Topic (RAFT) method which encourages students to critically interpret and analyze the interests of diverse audiences and write to persuade a target audience to adopt a specific position. These potential Roles, Audiences, and Formats (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 112kB Sep1 16) can be used as is or adapted to your local context. You can allow students to select a role/ audience/format from this or a modified list or you can assign students one or more roles to suit the course level and discipline. An example Op-Ed onenvironmental regulation is provided in the References below.
The Op-Ed assignment (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 90kB Nov8 16) is available on the Student Materials page and includes a grading rubric to guide students in the preparation of their responses. We highly recommend that you explicitly review the grading rubric with students in class and make clear your expectations. The assignment is made available as a Word document for ease of modifying the assignment or rubric to suit the needs of the class. The grading rubric can also be used by the instructor to assess the quality of student responses.
References and Resources
For more information on RAFT writing exercises see: http://www.readwritethink.org/professional-development/strategy-guides/using-raft-writing-strategy-30625.html
Example Op-Ed about environmental regulation in the Trump era
See also articles about the current status of the CPP and carbon emissions regulation in the U.S. at the end of Unit 4.