The Energy Debate - Global Warming

Written for PULSE by Christopher Martin
Edited By: Stephanie Nardei

Time: One class period

20 minutes to print articles for students and load PowerPoint

Materials: --

Following their study of Chernobyl and radioactivity, it is possible your students think fossil fuels are a safer source of energy than nuclear power. They need to understand that all our choices contain a certain risk. In this lesson, students study the threat of global warming and its relationship to the use of fossil fuels.

Students will be able to:

  1. Describe what global warming is, what causes global warming and the impact to our world.

National Science Education Standard
CONTENT STANDARD C: Energy Sources and Use
At present, all fuels have advantages and disadvantages so that society must consider the tradeoffs among them.

Strand 3: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
Concept 2: Science and Technology in Society
Develop viable solutions to a need or problem.
PO.2 Recognize the importance of basing arguments on a thorough understanding of the core concepts and principles of science and technology.
PO 3.  Support a position on a science or technology issue.

Teacher Background
Coal, oil and gas are fossil fuels. They were formed from fossilized plant and animal remains. Most of the energy we use is produced by burning fossil fuels. When coal, oil and gas are burnt, they react with oxygen to form water and carbon dioxide. The percentage of carbon dioxide in the air is increasing, and with more carbon dioxide our atmosphere acts as a greenhouse, retaining heat that would otherwise reflect into space. The observed increases in global temperatures, from Antarctica to Canada are known as global warning.

Related and Resource Websites
EPA on Climate Change http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/index.html
Fossil Fuels http://library.thinkquest.org/17531/fossil.html
Beyond Global Warming: Ecology and Global Change http://www.jstor.org/view/00129658/di960362/96p0003z/0

Acceleration of global warming due to carbon-cycle feedbacks in a coupled climate modelhttp://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v408/n6809/full/408184a0.html

CBS News Global Warming Scientist is Encouraged http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/02/19/ap/tech/mainD8NCVU980.shtml

Global Warming for Kids http://tiki.oneworld.net/global_warming/climate_home.html?gclid=CLDK_qfUvYoCFR1hgQodjxL-Pw


Have a discussion about global warming:

  • What is it? 
  • What causes it?  
  • What can be done to prevent it?

2.Students should read the policy document “Nuclear power or global warming at http://web.mit.edu/amostai/www/nuclear_global.html. They should then work in pairs to discuss and list the benefits and disadvantages.

Students develop power point presentations on Global Warming. They should focus on the three questions:

  • What is it? 
  • What causes it?  
  • What can be done to prevent it?            

If Applicable.


Students present their presentations to the class.

Embedded Assessment
The power point on global warming and the presentation to the class will provide opportunities for assessment of the students’ understanding of the risks involved with energy production.




PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: March 7, 2007
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