Guiding Principle: Humans can take actions to reduce climate change and its impacts
- Climate information can be used to reduce vulnerabilities or enhance the resilience of communities and ecosystems affected by climate change. Continuing to improve scientific understanding of the climate system and the quality of reports to policy and decision-makers is crucial.
- The impacts of climate change may affect the security of nations. Reduced availability of water, food, and land can lead to competition and conflict among humans, potentially resulting in large groups of climate refugees.
- Humans may be able to mitigate climate change or lessen its severity by reducing greenhouse gas concentrations through processes that move carbon out of the atmosphere or reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- A combination of strategies is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The most immediate strategy is conservation of oil, gas, and coal, which we rely on as fuels for most of our transportation, heating, cooling, agriculture, and electricity. Short-term strategies involve switching from carbon-intensive to renewable energy sources, which also requires building new infrastructure for alternative energy sources. Long-term strategies involve innovative research and a fundamental change in the way humans use energy.
- Humans can adapt to climate change by reducing their vulnerability to its impacts. Actions such as moving to higher ground to avoid rising sea levels, planting new crops that will thrive under new climate conditions, or using new building technologies represent adaptation strategies. Adaptation often requires financial investment in new or enhanced research, technology, and infrastructure.
- Actions taken by individuals, communities, states, and countries all influence climate. Practices and policies followed in homes, schools, businesses, and governments can affect climate. Climate-related decisions made by one generation can provide opportunities as well as limit the range of possibilities open to the next generation. Steps toward reducing the impact of climate change may influence the present generation by providing other benefits such as improved public health infrastructure and sustainable built environments.
- Climate varies over space and time through both natural and man-made processes.
- Natural processes that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere operate slowly when compared to the processes that are now adding it to the atmosphere. Thus, carbon dioxide introduced into the atmosphere today may remain there for a century or more. Other greenhouse gases, including some created by humans, may remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years.
Content Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
Changes in Environments
- Changes in environments can be natural or influenced by humans. Some changes are good, some are bad, and some are neither good nor bad. Pollution is a change in the environment that can influence the health, survival, or activities of organisms, including humans.
- By the end of grade 5:
- If Earth's global mean temperature continues to rise, the lives of humans and other organisms will be affected in many different ways. (Core Idea: Earth and Space Science 3.D)
- Human activities in agriculture, industry, and everyday life have had major effects on land, vegetation, streams, oceans, air and even outer space. But individuals and communities are doing things to help protect Earth’s resources and environments. For example, they are treating sewage, reducing the amounts of materials they use, and regulating sources of pollution such a emissions from factories and power plants or the runoff from agricultural activities. (Core Idea: Earth and Space Science 3.C)
- Research on a problem should be carried out-for example, through Internet searches, market research, or field observations-before beginning to design a solution. An often productive way to generate ideas is for people to work together to brainstorm, test, and refine possible solutions. (Core Idea: Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science, ETS 1.B)
- By the end of grade 8:
- Human activities have significantly altered the biosphere, sometimes damaging or destroying natural habitats and causing the extinction of many other species. But changes to Earth’s environments can have different impacts (negative and positive) for different living things. Typically, as human populations and per-capita consumption of natural resources increase, so do the negative impacts on Earth unless the activities and technologies involved are engineered otherwise. (Core Idea: Earth and Space Science 3.C)
- Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming). (Core Idea: Earth and Space Science 3.D)
- The more precisely a design task’s criteria and constraints can be defined, the more likely it is that the designed solution will be successful. (Core Idea: Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science, ETS 1.A)
- A solution needs to be tested, and then modified on the basis of the test results, in order to improve it. Models of all kinds are important for testing solutions, and computers are a valuable tool for simulating systems. Simulations are useful for predicting what would happen if various parameters of the model were changed, as well as for making improvements to the model based on peer and leader (e.g., teacher) feedback. (Core Idea: Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science, ETS 1.B)
- By the end of grade 12:
- Anthropogenic changes (induced by human activity) in the environment - including habitat destruction, pollution, introduction of invasive species, overexploitation, and climate change - can disrupt an ecosystem and threaten the survival of some species (Core Idea: Life Science 2.C)
- Changes in the atmosphere due to human activity have increased carbon dioxide concentrations and thus affect climate. (Core Idea: Life Science 2.D)
- Humanity faces major global challenges today, such as the need for supplies of clean water and food or for energy sources that minimize pollution, which can be addressed through engineering. (Core Idea: Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science, ETS 1.A)
- Scientists and engineers can make major contributions-for example, by developing technologies that produce less pollution and waste and that preclude ecosystem degradation. When the source of an environmental problem is understood...human activities can be regulated to mitigate global impacts (e.g., acid rain and the ozone hole near Antarctica). (Core Idea: Earth and Space Science 3.C)
- Both physical models and computers can be used in various ways to aid in the engineering design process. (Core Idea: Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science, ETS 1.B)
- Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
- Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
- Model with mathematics.
- Use appropriate tools strategically.
- Attend to precision.
- Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.