The following is an audio transcript of the video lesson People and Climate Change: The Data Is In

Hello, I’m Katie and I will be demonstrating the lesson People and Climate Change: The Data Is In. In this activity, students will look at and analyze a variety of data items related to climate change and its consequences. This lesson is best suited for secondary students in a math or especially a science class.

By the end of this lesson, your students will be able to:

  • Interpret information of various formats – including graphic, written, and visual – and draw meaningful conclusions.
  • Consider the benefits and drawbacks of certain types of data representation.
  • Hypothesize cause and effect relationships between human population growth, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, temperature rise, ice melt, and sea level rise.

For this activity, you will need butcher paper, tape or glue, markers, and the 14 data bank items which we provide in the lesson plan.

Point out the data bank items you’ve set-up and let them know that today, they will be analyzing several different data sources that relate to climate change. However, that data isn’t just numbers; data can take on several different forms – graphs, articles, maps, images and more!

Have one person from each pair come up and choose a copy of any one of the data bank items.

There are analysis questions specific to each data bank item that we provide. After reading through or looking at the data they have in front of them, students will answer these questions. Then, once they’ve finished, they’ll collect a different data bank item and repeat the process until they’ve analyzed everything in the data bank.

For the purposes of this demonstration, I will be going through just 2 of the 14 data bank items. Let’s begin!

For each item, our first analysis questions ensure that students are interpreting the data bank item correctly. For example, this item shows us a line graph. The first question asks what greenhouse gas is being graphed. Looking at the y-axis, we see that the answer is carbon dioxide. Our second question asks what time period is being represented. This data shows us information from 400,000 years ago up to the present day.

The final questions for each item are meant to analyze the merits of the data. For this data bank item, it asks students to consider – is this graph compelling? Why or why not? Of course, this is an opinion question, but if I were to answer this I would say yes. This graph shows a long-standing and predictable cycle of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. At the far end of the graph, we can see a remarkable and seemingly anomalous spike in carbon dioxide concentration.

Let’s take a look at another data bank item. In this second item, we are looking at a picture of a Bangladeshi woman traversing a flooded area, a map showing where Bangladesh is located, and a caption which reads, “A Bangladeshi woman walks to another village to find drinking water after the well in her village flooded. Bangladesh is low-lying and densely populated, making it one of the most vulnerable countries to sea level rise from climate change.”

Our first question asks students to reflect on how this image makes them feel.

Our second question has them consider – what are the benefits and drawbacks of getting information in this format? Again, these are opinion questions – but an answer you might expect to get is that this is an emotionally charged image. It’s frightening and sad. And in my opinion, that emotional charge is both a benefit and a drawback. It allows your students to make a connection between the quantitative information we provide them about climate change and its actual lived, human consequences. At the same time, emotionally loaded pieces of information can prevent us from being objective in our thoughts and decisions. And that can be a drawback of this format of information.

In the next part of the lesson, provide each pair with a piece of butcher paper large enough for them to spread out all of their data bank items. Their job will first be to group the 14 items into themes. We provide an answer key for the groupings, and for the sake of this video, I’ll let you know the themes are:
1. population growth and the rise of greenhouse gas emissions, 2. temperature rise, 3. land ice melt, and 4. sea level rise.

Next, students will then try to draw causal connections between their themes using arrows drawn on the butcher paper. They should hopefully come to the general conclusion that human populations generate greenhouse gases. In turn, that causes temperature to rise, which leads to ice melt, and finally that causes sea level rise.

This is a fairly lengthy activity, but in the lesson plan we offer a few ideas for shortening it as needed.

Finally, you close the lesson with some discussion questions. For example – what form of information (visual, graphic, or written) do you find the most effective? And, what are the benefits and drawbacks to each type of representation?

And that concludes the lesson People and Climate Change: the Data Is In!

For more amazing lesson plans and classroom resources to help your students make the population connection, visit!