Module 9: Climate Change
The goal of Module 9, Climate Change, is for students to begin to understand the potential impacts that global warming may have on agricultural food production and to explore some of the possible adaptation strategies that can be implemented to increase the resilience of food systems to a changing climate. After completing this module, students will be able to:
- Outline the basic science behind human-induced climate change and the contribution from agriculture.
- Compare various potential impacts of climate change on our global and local food systems.
- Select strategies that enhance the resilience of food systems in the face of a changing climate.
After completing this modules, you will be able to:
- Identify climate variables that affect agriculture
- Explain possible climate change impacts on crops
- Summarize the mechanisms of human-induced climate change
- Explain the role of food systems in contributing to climate change
- Discuss how climate change impacts food production and yield
- Evaluate how farmers adapt to climate change.
- Differentiate impacts of climate change on climate variables in different regions
Context for Use
Overall, this one-week module is intended to be used as a stand-alone lesson or as part of an online or blended general education or introductory-level course that would satisfy a science distribution requirement. The module would be appropriate for non-majors and undeclared students looking for a major. There are two formats: (1) Blended where the students meet at least once to perform the activities in teams; and (2) 100 percent online. As a general guideline, the delivery of content and assessment of learning goals/objectives have been designed to accommodate the logistics of large class sizes where students are expected to work approximately three hours per week covering lecture content with an additional six hours per week of additional reading and work on assessments. Note that some students will require more or less time to meet the goals and objectives of the module.
Depending on the background of the students, the instructor may choose to spend more time at the beginning of the module covering the basic mechanisms of human-induced climate change. There is an optional assignment that could be added if additional instruction about climate change basics is needed.
Description and Teaching Materials
The Climate Change module explores the impacts climate change may have and are already having on our agricultural systems. In addition, adaptation strategies that improve the resilience of our food systems to a changing climate are introduced.
The first part of the module (9.1 - Understanding Global Climate Change and Food Systems) explores the mechanisms of human-induced climate change, the predictions for changes in climate variables in the US and the contribution of agriculture to global climate change. There is one Activate Your Learning Activity that has students explore recent and historic atmospheric carbon dioxide and temperature data and to draw conclusions. There are two optional videos included on the introduction page that introduce the science of climate change. Each video is accompanied by an optional worksheet containing questions to guide the students through their viewing of the videos. Additional class time may be necessary if these videos are included and discussed.
The second part of the module (9.2 - Food production in a changing climate) focuses on the impacts of climate change specifically on agriculture, and on the adaptation strategies that are being implemented to make agriculture more resilient. A Knowledge Check activity reinforces the discussion of climate variables that specifically have an effect on agricultural systems. An Activate Your Learning activity explores the connections between warming temperatures and crop yields for different crops. Case studies from Cornell University are presented (via videos and external reading) to provide examples of adaptation strategies, and are reinforced with another Knowledge Check. And, the coupled-human natural systems diagram is revisited in the context of climate change.
The summative assessment requires that the students visit the National Climate Change Viewer to explore predicted changes in climate variables. In particular, students explore predicted changes in climate variables for their capstone region. Instructions are included for students with capstone regions outside of the U.S.
All materials for students are available using the Student Materials link below. These can be implemented entirely in the context of distance learning, or adapted to either a blended or traditional classroom setting. Knowledge Checks and Activate your Learning online activities are included in the Student Materials. These activities allow students to self-test their understanding and to deepen their exploration of the course material.
Teaching Notes and Tips
What works best for the module
- Depending on the students' background and understanding of climate change, the first two optional videos and associated worksheets could be eliminated. The module is focused on the impacts of and response to climate change, and a basic understanding of the science of why climate change is happening is presumed. The instructor will need to determine how much review of the basics is needed.
- Students should be encouraged to explore the extra links and information provided in the online text and videos, as well as to do all of the Knowledge Checks and Activate your Learning activities embedded in the online materials. Students who read all of the material, do the activities and follow the extra, external links will develop the most complete understanding of concepts. There are numerous concepts embedded in the links that will foster a richer understanding of assessment topics, and students should be encouraged to investigate these materials.
- Students should be encouraged to read the material in the module and to do the Knowledge Checks and Activate Your Learning online activities before coming to lab.
What students found difficult
- Students who did not thoroughly read the text and look at the accompanying external links had the most problems with the module.
- Students struggled with interpreting the data presented in the maps on the National Climate Change Viewer, so more explanation was added to Module 9.1 on the "Projected climate changes" page. Instructors may want to spend some time reviewing and discussing these maps with the students before the summative assessment.
- As with many of the modules in this course, some advanced topics are covered, and as a result may only be touched on at a cursory level. Instructors may need to embrace the idea that they can't cover this topic in the depth that they'd like to and that they will need to focus on the pieces of the story that they think are critical to students' understanding of the connections between climate change and food systems.
- The summative assessment requires that students explore the predictions for climate variables in their capstone regions. Students with sites outside of the U.S. are directed to the Global Climate Change Viewer, which contains fewer climate variables than the National Climate Change Viewer. Instructors will need to work with students who are studying sites outside of the U.S. and to accommodate for the potential lack of information available for those regions.
There is one summative assessment for Module 9. Students visit the National Climate Change Viewer and explore trends in climate variables across the U.S. Students then explore predictions for future climate for their capstone region and consider possible adaptation strategies that could be implemented to make their food region more resilient to the projected future temperature changes. The focus for the capstone is on future temperature changes as precipitation predictions have greater uncertainty.
References and Resources
Nelson, G.C., 2014, Advancing Global Food Security in the Face of a Changing Climate, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, or at http://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/ClimateChangeFoodSecurity%281%29.pdf
- Read p. 18, Box 4
- Read p. 35, Box 8
Read the fact sheet from Cornell University's Cooperative Extension about Farming Success in an Uncertain ClimateNational Climate Assessment, Agriculture National Climate Assessment 2014: Agriculture
Booklet to go with the optional introductory video from the National Research Council of the National Academies (40 pp.) Climate Change: Evidence, Impacts and Choices
Cornell University, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Climate Change Facts, 2013, Farm Energy, Carbon, and Greenhouse Gases, (farm_energy.pdf from http://climatechange.cornell.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/farm_energy.pdf)
Cornell University, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Climate Change Facts, 2013, Farming Success in an Uncertain Climate (climate_and_farming.pdf from http://climatechange.cornell.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/climate_and_farming.pdf
Hatfield, J., K. Boote, P. Fay, L. Hahn, C. Izaurralde, B.A. Kimball, T. Mader, J. Morgan, D. Ort, W. Polley, A. Thomson, and D. Wolfe, 2008. Agriculture. In: The effects of climate change on agriculture, land resources, water resources, and biodiversity. A Report by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research. Washington, DC., USA, 362 pp. (CCSP_Ag_Report.pdf from http://www.sap43.ucar.edu/documents/Agriculture.pdf
Hatfield, J., G. Takle, R. Grotjahn, P. Holden, R. C. Izaurralde, T. Mader, E. Marshall, and D. Liverman, 2014: Ch. 6: Agriculture. Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment, J. M. Melillo, Terese (T.C.) Richmond, and G. W. Yohe, Eds., U.S. Global Change Research Program, 150-174. doi:10.7930/J02Z13FR. (NCA3_Full_Report_06_Ag.pdf from http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/report/sectors/agriculture)
Lengnick, L., 2015, Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate, New Society Publishers, 288 pp.
Nelson, G.C., 2014, Advancing Global Food Security in the Face of a Changing Climate, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.(ClimateChangeFoodSecurity.pdf from https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/files/Studies_Publications/TaskForcesandStudies/GADI/advancing_global_foodsecurity_in_face_climate_change.aspx or http://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/ClimateChangeFoodSecurity(1).pdf
Vermeulen, S.J., B.M. Campbell, J.S.I. Ingram, 2012, Climate Change and Food Systems, Annual Review of Environmental Resources, Vol. 37: 195-222. (Vermeulen_etal_2012_ClimateChangeFoodSystems.pdf from http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/pdf/10.1146/annurev-environ-020411-130608)
Climate Change: Lines of Evidence videos: http://nas-sites.org/americasclimatechoices/videos-multimedia/climate-change-lines-of-evidence-videos/
Penn State geology professor Richard Alley's 45-minute video uses Earth science to tell the story of Earth's climate history and our relationship with fossil fuels.
Climate Smart Farming Story: Adaptation and Agriculture, 15 min video by Cornell University about Agriculture and Adaptation about how New York farmers are adapting to climate change https://youtu.be/B6FMbB6Vh1c or http://climateinstitute.cals.cornell.edu/2015/09/29/adaptation-and-agriculture/.