- Climate is regulated by complex interactions among components of the Earth system.
- The interconnectedness of Earth's systems means that a significant change in any one component of the climate system can influence the equilibrium of the entire Earth system. Positive feedback loops can amplify these effects and trigger abrupt changes in the climate system. These complex interactions may result in climate change that is more rapid and on a larger scale than projected by current climate models.
- Life on Earth depends on, is shaped by, and affects climate.
- Changes in climate conditions can affect the health and function of ecosystems and the survival of entire species.
- Climate varies over space and time through both natural and man-made processes.
- Natural processes driving Earth's long-term climate variability do not explain the rapid climate change observed in recent decades. The only explanation that is consistent with all available evidence is that human impacts are playing an increasing role in climate change. Future changes in climate may be rapid compared to historical changes.
- Our understanding of the climate system is improved through observations, theoretical studies, and modeling.
- Scientists have conducted extensive research on the fundamental characteristics of the climate system and their understanding will continue to improve. Current climate change projections are reliable enough to help humans evaluate potential decisions and actions in response to climate change.
- Human activities are impacting the climate system.
- The overwhelming consensus of scientific studies on climate indicates that most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the latter part of the 20th century is very likely due to human activities, primarily from increases in greenhouse gas concentrations resulting from the burning of fossil fuels.
- Climate change will have consequences for the Earth system and human lives.
- Melting of ice sheets and glaciers, combined with the thermal expansion of seawater as the oceans warm, is causing sea level to rise. Seawater is beginning to move onto low-lying land and to contaminate coastal fresh water sources and beginning to submerge coastal facilities and barrier islands. Sea-level rise increases the risk of damage to homes and buildings from storm surges such as those that accompany hurricanes.
- Ecosystems on land and in the ocean have been and will continue to be disturbed by climate change. Animals, plants, bacteria, and viruses will migrate to new areas with favorable climate conditions. Infectious diseases and certain species will be able to invade areas that they did not previously inhabit.
- Human health and mortality rates will be affected to different degrees in specific regions of the world as a result of climate change. Although cold-related deaths are predicted to decrease, other risks are predicted to rise. The incidence and geographical range of climate-sensitive infectious diseases—such as malaria, dengue fever, and tick-borne diseases—will increase. Drought-reduced crop yields, degraded air and water quality, and increased hazards in coastal and low-lying areas will contribute to unhealthy conditions, particularly for the most vulnerable populations.
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- 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 as 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, 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)
- Weather and climate are influenced by interactions involving sunlight, the ocean, the atmosphere, ice, landforms, and living things. These interactions vary with latitude, altitude, and local and regional geography, all of which can affect oceanic and atmospheric flow patterns. Because these patterns are so complex, weather can be predicted only probabilistically. (Core Idea: Life Science 2.D)
- 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)
- The ocean exerts a major influence on weather and climate by absorbing energy from the sun, releasing it over time and globally redistributing it through ocean currents. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere absorb and retain the energy radiated from land and ocean surfaces, thereby regulating Earth’s average surface temperature and keeping it habitable. (Core Idea: Earth and Space Science 2.D)
- By the end of grade 12:
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
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- 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 make use of structure.
- Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.
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