There is mounting evidence that Earth’s climate is changing. Still, there are so many different ideas and opinions on the issue that we don’t always know how to talk about it.
We do know that patterns of extreme weather, pollution, and the availability of natural resources are linked to climate change. But how? What role do we have in that? Better understanding of the science behind the rise in global temperatures can help us talk about our changing climate and take action. With a sound understanding, we can begin to think critically about the historical causes and—most importantly—make informed decisions about solutions for the future.
Here are 12 videos to help introduce the complex science of climate change to your students.
What is climate change?
Climate Change 101, with Bill Nye, explains the rise in global temperatures since the industrial revolution. Bill Nye describes the science behind greenhouse gases and the implications of a changing climate on both our natural world and built environment. He also provides a few suggestions for how we can all be a part of the solution. (Length: 4:09)
To better understand climate change, imagine a game of Tetris. Climate Change: Earth’s Giant Game of Tetris is a video that does just that. Using this analogy, you’ll learn about the carbon cycle, the greenhouse effect, and the environmental impacts of burning fossil fuels. (Length: 2:48)
What is the carbon cycle and why does it matter?
What’s the Deal with Carbon explains the carbon cycle. Developed by the University of Minnesota Bell Museum of Natural History and the Center for Sustainable Building Research, this animated video describes what carbon is, how it interacts in nature, and where it is stored. Viewers will also learn about the role of human activity in the carbon cycle and the links between the production of carbon emissions and climate change. (Length: 3:03)
Exploring the Carbon Cycle dives deeper into the science behind the unique element that is carbon, which is essential to all living things and is often called the building block of life. This video defines important terms such as carbon pool and carbon flux, while also detailing carbon’s movement through photosynthesis and respiration. The video is highlighted in Activity 7—Carbon on the Move in PLT’s Southeastern Forest and Climate Change curriculum designed to help high school students learn about the impacts of climate change on forests and carbon sequestration. (Length: 3:10)
Want more resources for a lesson on the carbon cycle?
Download a free Carbon in Action worksheet.
What is climate science?
Brought to you by PBS’s “It’s Okay to Be Smart” with Joe Hanson, Climate Science: What You Need to Know provides 24 quick facts on how and why global temperatures are rising, where we see some of the most extreme changes, and how species are being impacted. (Length: 6:19)
Developed by Planet Nutshell, Climate Science in a Nutshell: #4 Too Much Carbon Dioxide explains the relationship between carbon dioxide and the increase in global temperatures. This video describes the ways in which carbon dioxide and global temperatures are connected and explains how excess amounts of carbon prevent heat from escaping the atmosphere, causing a greenhouse effect. (Length: 2:44)
Does 2°C really make a difference?
Learn more about what the 2°C increase in global temperature really means with What Happens if Earth Gets 2°C Warmer? from Popular Science. The video describes the Paris Agreement within the United Nations, a strategy designed to keep the average global temperature from rising 2°C above pre-industrial levels. It explores the history and significance of this 2°C benchmark, as well as the data surrounding patterns of extreme weather due to increases in global temperatures. (Length: 4:59)
What are some effects of a changing climate and how will we adapt?
Modeling Climate and Tree Growth presents a model for measuring the impact of climate change on tree growth. Learn how scientists make predictions of tree growth in the future and suggest how forest landowners might adapt to changes in climate. (Length: 2:14)
Developed by the Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials, Cut Trees to Save the Environment—Who Knew? describes how trees capture and store carbon. It explains how forestry plays an important role in reducing carbon emissions for the long term. Viewers learn about why wood is a sustainable, renewable resource. (Length: 3:05)
What can teachers and students do to help?
The Nature Conservancy explains some of the natural solutions that can help slow climate changes, with Natural Climate Solutions. This video details some of the lesser appreciated natural climate solutions, such as the ability of wetlands and grasslands to absorb and store large amounts of carbon. (Length: 4:05)
Solutions to climate change require innovation and these kids have some ideas for that! In this video, Kids Describe Solutions to Global Warming, students describe various visions for a sustainable future: cars with solar panels, factories run by renewable energy, and inventions for disaster relief. (Length: 7:24)
Did you know that just one kid has the power to make a difference and help stop climate change? Get inspired with I’m only a kid, I can’t do anything about climate change…. right? from Global Weirding with Katharine Hayhoe. Dr. Hayhoe shares stories of kids across the country making an impact on climate change and encourages students with suggestions on how to use their strengths to make a difference. (Length: 6:58)