Module 8.2: Future climate change, population growth, and water issues
- argue one of the many viewpoints on climate change;
- identify the causes of global warming and climate change over the past ~250 years, including anthropogenic and natural influences;
- assess whether mathematical models are a sound basis for making policy decisions;
- evaluate the implications of climate change on future water resources for specific locations in the United States;
- devise a water plan for Phoenix, AZ, projecting forward from 1915.
Context for Use
Description and Teaching Materials
All materials for students are available online using the Student Materials link below. These can be implemented entirely in the context of distance learning, with students completing any discussion questions in the form of a blog or discussion group. In a traditional or blended classroom setting, students can complete the online unit as homework, using class time to address the discussion questions and for student presentations of Water Journal Projects.
- Student Materials — Module 8.2: Cities in Peril: Future climate change, population growth, and water issues
Teachers can find documentation of the activities as well as rubrics for students at this location. Rubrics for teachers are compiled under Assessment on this site. Suggestions for teaching and a list of the assessments are found below.
Teaching Notes and Tips
What works best for the module?
This module provides a brief review of some of the population growth, water demand, and water distribution information provided in earlier modules, as well as a brief overview of global warming and climate change. It is helpful for instructors to build further on the climate change material, drawing information from IPCC reports and other resources that relate specifically to the area of most interest to the students. Students also greatly benefit from some in-depth discussion of how science works and how we know what we know (i.e., basics of measurement and monitoring networks, analysis and synthesis, peer review and constructive criticism). Instructors may also want to directly discuss differences between skepticism (applying reason and critical thinking to substantively question the evidence supporting a given conclusion, rather than just believing everything you are told), which is a hallmark of science, and simply declining to accept empirical observations (e.g., the climate deniers). It is critical that the instructor make the link between the global/regional climate trends and more local water issues of interest to your particular class. The Module 8.2 Summative Assessment, which asks students to consider the predictions for and implications of climate change in their hometowns, is particularly effective in an online class or larger university where students come from different parts of the country or world. Instructors may wish to turn this exercise into a discussion (either in person or online) so students can share their concerns and experiences for the different places in which they live. In a smaller college where students all come from the same area, instructors might wish to adapt this "hometown" exercise to "a place you'd like to visit" in order to increase variability in responses.
What students found difficult
Students typically did not encounter major difficulties in this module. Perhaps the greatest challenge is getting students to recognize their preconceptions about climate change, including both students who deny that it is happening or that humans play a role in it, as well as the students who have simply "believed" that climate change is happening without ever actually reviewing the supporting evidence. Depending on the political climate at your university, it may be necessary to use some care to promote thought-provoking, scientifically sound conversation on the topic of climate change without causing students with unpopular opinions to feel insulted or outcast. Discussions should be built around facts and observations, not "beliefs". All three formative assessments were straightforward, if a bit open-ended. They serve as good primers for the Capstone Project.
Module 8.2 provides much of the content for getting students to think about the implications of future changes in climate, population and water demand for management of water resources. Therefore, it serves as an important foundation for the Capstone Project.
- Formative Assessment 1: Climate Change Debate
- Formative Assessment 2: Climate Models
- Formative Assessment 3: Future Scenarios
- The summative assessment for this module involves drafting a water plan in Local Impacts of Climate Change
References and Resources
- Readings from Student Materials — Module 8.2: Cities in Peril: Future climate change, population growth, and water issues
- The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water by Charles Fishman: Chapters 5 and 7.