The Greenhouse Effect Debate
- Grade level: Middle School, High School
- Subject Area: Science
Students gather information about the Greenhouse Effect and
participate in a debate about the merits of this theory on both sides. Students learn about the
Greenhouse Effect, and its possible long-term effects, from a variety of resources. On-line and
printed resources can be used to study the Greenhouse Effect. While scientists argue about
whether the Greenhouse Effect is something we should worry about, politicians and environmentalists
are arguing about how (or whether) we should "fix" the problem. This lesson focuses on the international
debate over the Greenhouse Effect, possible causes for it, whether we should be concerned
and take action to reduce the Greenhouse Effect, or whether there is no problem to be worried about.
- Learn about the Greenhouse Effect.
- Discuss and debate the evidence for the Greenhouse Effect.
- Develop a set of criteria for determining whether the Greenhouse Effect is real.
- Discuss how we might solve the problem of a Greenhouse Effect if it exists.
Materials and Resources
In developing our lessons and activities, we made some
assumptions about the hardware
and software that would be available in the classroom for teachers who visit the
LETSNet Website. We assume that teachers using our Internet-based lessons or
activities have a computer
(PC or Macintosh) with the necessary hardware components (mouse, keyboard, and
monitor) as well as software (operating system, TCP/IP software, networking or
software, e-mail and a World Wide Web client program, preferably Netscape, but
Mosaic or Lynx). In the section below, we specify any "special"
requirements for a lesson or activity (in addition to those described above)
and the level of Internet access required to do the activity.
hardware requirements: None.
- Special software requirements: None.
- Internet access: Medium-speed (28,000 BPS via modem)
or High-speed (greater than 1 MBPS via network).
Students work in small groups collecting information on the Greenhouse
Effect, and evidence for and against the possibility this phenomena exists. They visit the available
Websites (see Internet Resources below) collecting evidence that supports or refutes
the Greenhouse Effect. This is followed by a debate about whether the earth is in
fact warming up due to the Greenhouse Effect. Students use the data they have collected
to support their positions. Following this discussion, the focus
shifts to political and environmental policies that might exacerbate the Greenhouse Effect, and
a whole-class discussion of the possible impact of the Greenhouse Effect.
- Students begin by studying the Greenhouse Effect, using printed and on-line resources.
For example, students can visit the "Climate Change: State of Knowledge" Website to learn about
the latest evidence and models predicting global warming. As students research the Greenhouse
Effect, they should be collecting evidence that supports or refutes the theory.
As they visit these Websites, students should also be identifying what effect global warming
might have on the earth, and what possible solutions might exist to any Greenhouse Effect.
- Questions that the groups should consider as they collect information include:
- What impact might CO2 emissions have on overall global warming?
- Is there evidence of a strong connection between CO2 emissions and global warming?
- What impact have chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) emissions had on global warming?
- How is the structure of the ozone related to global warming?
- Would the earth be warming as quickly if we had not invented and used internal combustion
engines for our transportation?
- How can we model future changes in the global climate with the scientific models available?
- What can global climate models tell us about life on earth for future generations?
- How much scientific weight should we place on the results of these models?
- The groups gather to participate in a debate about the scientific merits of the Greenhouse Effect.
As participants offer their views, they should support their position with evidence drawn
from their research. Positions and evidence should be scrutinized by the group according to
scientific merits, verifiability, weight of evidence, and influences by outside parties.
- As the discussion continues, students should write down what criteria would point to the
existence of the Greenhouse Effect. These criteria will be used in the next lesson.
- Students discuss what effect global warming and the Greenhouse Effect might have on their
lives, as well as the lives of others.
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