Earth and its climate have changed over geological time.
Students will be able to:
What can bubbles in ice cores tell us about climate and how it’s changing?
Weather refers to what’s happening outside right now: it’s sunny, rainy, windy, etc. Climate looks at weather patterns over longer periods of time at particular times of the year.
Climate change refers to a change in longer term weather patterns including temperature, precipitation and wind. Over the last 300 years, the world has been warming and is predicted to keep warming into the future. Earth’s climate has always fluctuated over geological time; the difference is that the rate of change seems to be faster than seen before.
Temperatures are rising, glaciers are melting and more extreme weather patterns are happening more frequently. Forest fires in B.C., droughts in Alberta, droughts and forest fires in Australia and extreme winter storms in the Atlantic provinces are just some of the recent climate events that are affecting ecosystems, animal migration and crop growing cycles.
The greenhouse effect is a natural phenomenon, keeping the Earth warm enough for life to exist. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and water vapour, trap heat from the Sun close to the Earth’s surface. These gases act like the glass in a greenhouse. Without the greenhouse effect, it would be too cold for anything to live on our planet.
The problem is that more greenhouse gases are going into the atmosphere and there are fewer trees to absorb them. This means our atmosphere is trapping more heat and the average temperature of the planet is increasing. This is called global warming.
Scientists gather evidence about Earth’s changing climate from some unusual and surprising sources like ice cores, stalagmites from caves, fossil records, tree rings and shells of organisms buried deep in the oceans. Rising temperatures, air bubbles in the ice and rising sea levels are just a few examples of the evidence for climate change.
Climate change is having an impact on ecosystems, economies and communities. The impacts of climate change include:
This activity focuses on the impacts to oceans, the Arctic and extreme weather events. The ripple effect of warming temperatures and changing weather patterns impacts health and social well-being, economies, infrastructure and the environment.
There are many human activities, behaviours and factors contributing to climate change. Some of them include:
Everything we do is connected. This means that what we do to our climate affects all living things, including humans.
This lesson focuses on background information about the evidence, causes and impacts of climate change. The “Energy technologies” lesson and “Climate action” lesson explore solutions, or things people can do, to reduce the impacts of climate change.
The activities in this lesson provide an opportunity to assess individual students and small groups on their ability to: