5 Climate Activities for Earth Day 2017

Just because there are vocal climate change deniers (even leading top government agencies) that doesn’t make climate science debatable. More than 9 in 10 climate scientists are adamant about the facts. Climate change is real. This climate change is largely a result of human numbers and actions. If we don’t do something to lessen greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, our planet will become less and less habitable for many species, including ours.

This week’s news about President Trump’s executive order to gut all the programs the previous administration championed to reduce GHG emissions, is a devastating blow for the future of life on Earth and in our oceans. But, it can and should be turned into a teachable moment, especially as Earth Day approaches. To promote environmental literacy, civic engagement, and critical thinking across the curriculum, try these 5 approaches:

1. Energy and the Economy -- the President contends that dismantling the Clean Power Plan would create more jobs in the fossil fuel industry and help the U.S. economy. And yet, clean energy employs more people in almost every state than the fossil fuel industries do. China now sees the U.S.’s regressive move as a chance to profit by becoming a greater force for clean energy. Have students investigate the sources of energy worldwide and discuss the best approaches moving forward.  Does the White House’s approach make economic sense given market trends? Discuss.

2. The UN and International Cooperation -- The Paris Accord was signed by 195 countries (including the U.S.), showing there is global consensus on the causes of climate change and the urgency to do something about it. Have students read these blogs explaining what the Paris Accord is, and why U.S. participation matters. Engage students on the role of international diplomacy in meeting the climate challenge.

3. The Population Connection -- Carbon dioxide emissions have tracked pretty closely to the growth of populations and increased industrialization around the world. Have your students graph this out in Generating Heat, making use of the latest data. They can also visualize this connection by viewing the animation of world population growth with a CO2 emissions overlay at this interactive site.

4. Climate and Society -- Climate change is already having measurable effects on coastal communities and food production. Lead your students in Carbon Crunch, a hands-on activities that explores the vulnerabilities of people living in areas most affected by sea level rise and changing weather patterns.

5. Take to the streets. Encourage you students to participate in civic events happening this spring to raise awareness of the need for climate change action. On Earth Day (April 22), they can participate in a March for Science, either in Washington, DC or in one of hundreds of sister marches around the country. The following Saturday (April 29), hundreds of locations will be hosting the People’s Climate March. Organize school groups to make signs and help generate local press for the events.