Climate, Climate Change, and Racism

Kaatje Kraft, Whatcom Community College
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Initial Publication Date: May 14, 2021 | Reviewed: August 4, 2022


Students engage in a discussion about climate change by both watching videos and reading an article to learn about the science behind climate change and some of the impacts of our warming climate. They then post their reflections, including at least one question, to a class discussion board. They also respond to at least two of the posts from their peers, citing evidence in their responses.

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This assignment is from an online introductory geology course entitled "Natural Disasters."

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

I remind students of our classroom discussion norms -- intended to assure a positive and safe discussion space for all -- prior to this assignment. Students in the class develop the discussion norms, collectively, during the first week of the course.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is the weekly discussion assignment for week 6 of a 12 week course. It follows the same format as previous discussion assignments.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

By completing this assignment, students will be able to:

  • Describe the natural process of climate change
  • Describe some of the impacts of climate warming
  • Summarize big ideas for classmates based on their own investigation

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

By completing this assignment, students will be able to support their fellow classmates in probing the "text" more deeply to consider what is discussed beyond the initial content. This includes thinking about how climate change intersects with systemic racism to impact communities disproportionately.

Other skills goals for this activity

Description and Teaching Materials

There are five parts to this assignment:

  1. Watch the National Research Council (from the National Academy of Science) videos on climate change:
  2. Watch this video about the complexity of sea level rise (Verge Science interviewing Dr. Andrea Dutton)
  3. Read about how climate change and racism intersect (Unequal Impact: The Deep Links Between Racism and Climate Change, Yale 360)
  4. Select one "golden line" (see description of "golden lines" under teaching notes) from each of the videos/reading and post it to the discussion board. With each golden line, indicate why you thought this was a golden line from the text/portion of the video that addresses climate and climate change, in particular anthropogenic climate change AND indicate one question that has emerged from this content [a total of 4 golden lines and 4 questions].
  5. Respond to two other questions posed by your peers using evidence from the text/videos OR from an outside source (in which case, cite that source). A word of caution: because this topic is politically charged, it's easy to find information that is not accurate. A helpful place to start looking for resources is on the page of references and resources (see below).

Teaching Notes and Tips

A "golden line" is a quote of a sentence or two that you think best captures the essence of the text OR you find particularly compelling that makes you think OR is something you'd like to know more about. To select a golden line, pick the text and indicate where in the text/when in the video(s) you saw it. For the videos it may be a compelling image/visual rather than a specific text as well, you can indicate when in the video it occurred.

It should be noted that I (the instructor) am a white woman, and in that position, I can not fully understand the experience of a person of color in dealing with racism and the consequences of environmental racism. But I strongly believe it is my job to make all of my students aware of how racism plays a role in the geosciences, particularly my white students. But in this discussion, I try to make sure I am aware of any comments that may put an undue stress or emotional toll on the students of color in my class.


I use a rubric to grade this assignment. I provide it to the students along with the assignment, as part of the Transparency in Learning and Teaching (TILT) approach I use.

Golden Lines Rubric (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 15kB May13 21)

References and Resources

Here are the additional resources I provide to my students:

Helpful & Reliable Resources

Other Resources:



Carol Ormand provided assistance in publishing this activity online.