What Should We Do About Global Warming?

Teaching Materials by Sharon Anthony, Thomas W. Brauch, Elizabeth J. Longley (Beloit College/ChemConnections ) - Quicktime Movies by G. C. Lisensky and S. C. Thorp - Starting Point page by R.E. Teed (SERC).

This material was originally created for Starting Point:Introductory Geology
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.


This 3-4 week science module is designed for introductory college courses and uses data to tackle questions related to global warming. The module includes short and long term temperature trend data, along with IR spectra, concentration trend data for greenhouse gases, and information about the Kyoto Protocol. Many of the data are in graphs that are part of Quicktime movies.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications

Learning Goals

Students will:
  • Use data and visualizations to study greenhouse gases and their relationship to global warming.
  • Examine the problem of global warming and its significance.
  • Evaluate the Kyoto Protocol.
  • Summarize what they have learned, using scientific data to support their conclusions.

Context for Use

The module is broken into eight sessions (DLESE suggests 3-4 weeks of class time).

Description and Teaching Materials

Most of the module is the data, so the instructor will want to download: A computer and projector, or computers for each student group with QT player installed are needed to use the data in class. When the instructor fleshes out the module, he or she will decide what other materials are necessary. In addition to data on global warming and carbon dioxide, the site also has links to information on the Kyoto Protocol, the EPA's Personal Greenhouse Gas Calculator, the US Climate Action Report 2002, and other resources useful for teaching global warming and preparing students for a debate.

Teaching Notes and Tips

The material on the web site is only an outline, providing computer simulations and data-filled graphs that the instructor will want to build into a curriculum, either by writing lectures around them or creating worksheets and having the students work through them or both.


The module should conclude with a synthetic activity that will require the students to summarize what they have learned during the module and to support their conclusions with scientific data. They recommend that the instructor consider papers, debates, posters, and discussions and include several links to Kyoto Protocol resources hinting broadly at a role-played debate, set either in Congress (with the students representing a variety of interest groups) or in Kyoto (where they could represent different countries).

References and Resources

Interactive role-playing exercises dealing with the complicated issue of humanity's dependence on fossil fuels and its consequences include:

  • Mock Environmental Summit
    At the end of a six-week class or unit on global warming, students role-play representatives from various countries and organizations at an international summit on global warming.

  • The Great Energy Debate
    This lesson plan explores the energy debate in the U.S. Students will hold a mock congressional committee meeting and make decisions about public lands and energy resources.

  • What Should We Do About Global Warming?
    This module contains an 8-lesson curriculum to study greenhouse gases and global warming using data and visualizations. The students will summarize the issue in a mock debate or a presentation.