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.
- 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.
- Emissions from the widespread burning of fossil fuels since the start of the Industrial Revolution have increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Because these gases can remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years before being removed by natural processes, their warming influence is projected to persist into the next century.
- Human activities have affected the land, oceans, and atmosphere, and these changes have altered global climate patterns. Burning fossil fuels, releasing chemicals into the atmosphere, reducing the amount of forest cover, and rapid expansion of farming, development, and industrial activities are releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and changing the balance of the climate system.
- 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). Reducing human vulnerability to whatever climate changes do occur depends on the understanding of climate science, engineering capabilities, and other kinds of knowledge, such as understanding of human behavior and on applying that knowledge wisely in decisions and activities. (Core Idea: Earth and Space Science 3.D)
- By the end of grade 12:
- Climate change can occur when certain parts of the Earth’s system are altered. Changes in the atmosphere due to human activity have increased carbon dioxide concentrations and thus affect climate. (Core Idea: Earth and Space 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)
- Global climate models are often used to understand the process of climate change because these changes are complex and can occur slowly over Earth’s history. Though the magnitudes of humans’ impacts are greater than they have ever been, so too are humans’ abilities to model, predict, and manage current and future impacts. Through computer simulations and other studies, important discoveries are being made about how the ocean, the atmosphere, and the biosphere interact and are modified in response to human activities, as well as to changes in human activities. Thus science and engineering will be essential both to understanding the possible impacts of global climate change and to informing decisions about how to slow its rate and consequences - for humanity as well as for the rest of the planet. (Core Idea: Earth and Space Science 3.D)