Using the Very, Very Simple Climate Model in the Classroom

This is a teaching activity in which students learn about the connection between CO2 emissions, CO2 concentration, and average global temperatures. Through a simple online model, students learn about the relationship between these and learn about climate modeling while predicting temperature change over the 21st century.

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Randy Russell
Lisa Gardiner
Windows to the Universe

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Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips

Engages students in thinking about climate models and more specifically what is provided as background for this model. Ideally, students would know something about climate models.

Suggestion of how to start lesson: Review notes for the very, very simple climate model and compare to other models.

Extension idea: Compare to Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change report.

Educator needs to be very careful in using this simple model in class; explain the limitations of models in general without giving students (incorrect) arguments to question the science behind climate change. Use the document in appendix about accuracy and uncertainty in climate models.

Using the model with directed questions would be more effective in the real teaching setting. Ideally educator designs a worksheet with student-centered questions (especially important for middle school students).

Students with low math skills might struggle and might need special guidance.

Students may become confused between global climate change (i.e. warming) and the regional climate change that impacts society, which can be warming or cooling. This should be clarified.