Lesson Ideas

5 great articles to teach high school students the science behind greenhouse gas emissions and climate change

We recommend the following five adaptations of academic papers that focus on the challenges of climate change and the ways that human action can help. They are all suitable for a lower high school reading level and have videos to introduce the topics to students.

Three of the articles are focused on food and agriculture and three fall within the social sciences. The first three consider how individual consumer choices can make a difference in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The third and fourth feature scientific modeling regarding the cost of climate change. The last examines the sustainability of biofuels.

1. More stuff = more climate change?

In this article, students are invited to consider how their purchases affect climate change. Scientists assessed the carbon footprint of people living in different parts of Europe by calculating the amount of greenhouse gases produced by their consumer lifestyles. We encourage students to become conscious consumers and buy less to reduce their carbon footprints.

2. How do our food choices affect the environment?

Students can learn about which diets are the most healthy and environmentally sustainable by looking at this scientific review of more than 60 academic papers on the environmental footprint of various diets worldwide. In addition to demonstrating the benefits of choosing to eat more fruits and vegetables and less meat or animal products, the article asks students to consider how the way their food is grown and produced matters in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and water use.

3. How much does it cost when cows burp?

In this article, scientists calculated the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from beef production in contrast to wheat production across their entire life cycles. Students are asked to consider the carbon-equivalent emissions produced at every stage of production, including electricity use, packaging, and transportation. We introduce the idea of a carbon tax to offset the burden these emissions place on the environment and the later cost to taxpayers in the form of relief from more frequently occurring extreme weather, floods, and droughts. We invite students to take action to limit their own carbon footprints.

4. A burning question: how much will climate change cost?

In this study, scientists in Canada used historical data to create models that predict increases in the area burned by wildfires and how often they experience extreme wildfires. They also calculated how much this would result in wildfire suppression costs rising. Students are reminded that human activities affect climate change and are invited to help prevent wildfires both directly and indirectly. This article is also available in French, which offers a wonderful opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration.

5. How can we make biofuels more climate-friendly?

In this article, we present the results of field studies in Hawaii from scientists who want to produce plants for biofuels in a more sustainable way. Students will discover that biofuels are often not green at all because producing them uses fossil fuels and results in greenhouse gas emissions. We show how particular agricultural methods combined with good crop selection can result in much more climate-friendly biofuels.

Why we do this?

The effects of climate change are becoming ever more evident and urgent. From the very beginning of Science Journal for Kids, this topic has been of the utmost importance to us. We want to help teachers equip the young generation to make informed decisions in order to slow climate change and limit its consequences.

Visit our How to use page for more information about using our adaptations and accompanying resources as teaching tools. We’d love to hear from you! Connect with us through any of the channels at the bottom of this page. Share your own experience using Science Journal for Kids in the classroom.

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