Earlier this summer, a report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of scientists convened by the United Nations, found that some devastating impacts of global warming were unavoidable. But there is still a short window to stop things from getting even worse.
This report will be central at COP26, the international climate summit where about 20,000 heads of state, diplomats and activists are meeting in person this week to set new targets for cutting emissions from coal, oil and gas that are heating the planet.
In this lesson, you will learn about seven ways we can slow down climate change and head off some of its most catastrophic consequences while we still have time. Using a jigsaw activity, you’ll become an expert in one of these strategies or technologies and share what you learn with your classmates. Then, you will develop your own climate plan and consider ways you can make a difference based on your new knowledge.
What do you know about the ways the world can slow climate change? Start by making a list of strategies, technologies or policies that could help solve the climate crisis.
Which of your ideas do you think could have the biggest impact on climate change? Circle what you think might be the top three.
Now, test your knowledge by taking this 2017 interactive quiz:
After you’ve finished, reflect on your own in writing or in discussion with a partner:
What solutions to climate change did you learn about that you didn’t know before?
Were you surprised by any of the answers in the quiz? If so, which ones and why?
What questions do you still have about solving climate change?
As you learned in the warm-up, there are many possible ways to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. Below we’ve rounded up seven of the most effective solutions, many of which you may have been introduced to in the quiz above.
In this jigsaw activity, you’ll become an expert in one of the climate solutions listed below and then present what you learned to your classmates. Teachers may assign a student or small group to each topic, or allow them to choose. Students, read at least one of the linked articles on your topic; you can also use that article as a jumping-off point for more research.
Climate Change Solutions
Renewable energy: Scientists agree that to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change, countries must immediately move away from dirty energy sources like coal, oil and gas, and instead turn to renewable energy sources like wind, solar or nuclear power. Read about the potent possibilities of one of these producers, offshore wind farms, and see how they operate.
Refrigerants: It’s not the most exciting solution to climate change, but it is one of the most effective. Read about how making refrigerants, like air-conditioners, more efficient could eliminate a full degree Celsius of warming by 2100.
Transportation: Across the globe, governments are focused on limiting one of the world’s biggest sources of pollution: gasoline-powered cars. Read about the promises and challenges of electric vehicles or about how countries are rethinking their transit systems.
Methane emissions: You hear a lot about the need to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but what about its dangerous cousin, methane? Read about ideas to halt methane emissions and why doing so could be powerful in the short-term fight against climate change.
Agriculture: Efforts to limit global warming often target fossil fuels, but cutting greenhouse gases from food production is urgent, too, research says. Read about four fixes to earth’s food supply that could go a long way.
Nature conservation: Scientists agree that reversing biodiversity loss is a crucial way to slow climate change. Read about how protecting and restoring nature can help cool the planet or about how Indigenous communities could lead the way.
Carbon capture: Eliminating emissions alone may not be enough to avoid some of the worst effects of climate change, so some companies are investing in technology that sucks carbon dioxide out of the air. Learn more about so-called engineered carbon removal.
Questions to Consider
As you read about your climate solution, respond to the questions below. You can record your answers in this graphic organizer (PDF).
1. What is the solution? How does it work?
2. What problem related to climate change does this strategy address?
3. What effect could it have on global warming?
4. Compared with other ways to mitigate climate change, how effective is this one? Why?
5. What are the limitations of this solution?
6. What are some of the challenges or risks (political, social, economic or technical) of this idea?
7. What further questions do you have about this strategy?
When you’ve finished, you’ll meet in “teaching groups” with at least one expert in each of the other climate solutions. Share what you know about your topic with your classmates and record what you learn from them in your graphic organizer.
Option 1: Develop a climate plan.
Scientists say that in order to prevent the average global temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, the threshold beyond which the dangers of global warming grow immensely, we will need to enact all of the solutions you learned about — and more. However, the reality is that countries won’t be able to right away. They will have to consider which can have the biggest or fastest impact on climate change, which are the most cost-effective and which are the most politically and socially feasible.
Imagine you have been asked to come up with a plan to address climate change. If you were in charge, which of these seven solutions would you prioritize and why? You might start by ranking the solutions you learned about from the most effective or urgent to the least.
Then, write a proposal for your plan that responds to the following questions:
What top three solutions are priorities? That is, which do you think are the most urgent to tackle right away and the most effective at slowing global warming?
Explain your decisions. According to your research — the articles you read and the quiz you took in the beginning of the lesson — why should these solutions take precedence?
How might you incentivize companies and citizens to embrace these changes? For some ideas, you might read more about the climate policies countries around the world have adopted to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Option 2: Take action.
Thinking about climate change solutions on such a big scale can be overwhelming, but there are things you can do in your own life and in your community to make a difference. Choose one of the activities below to take action on, or come up with one of your own:
Share climate solutions via media. Often, the news media focuses more on climate change problems than solutions. Counteract this narrative by creating something for publication related to one or more of the solutions you learned about. For example, you could submit a letter to the editor, write an article for your school newspaper, enter a piece in one of our upcoming student contests or create an infographic to share on social media.
Make changes in your own life. How can you make good climate choices related to one or more of the topics you learned about? For example, you could eat less meat, take public transportation or turn off your air-conditioner. Write a plan, explaining what you will do (or what you are already doing) and how it could help mitigate climate change, according to the research.
Join a movement. This guest essay urges people to focus on systems, not themselves. What groups could you get involved with that are working toward some of the solutions you learned about? Identify at least one group, either local, national or international, and one way you could support it. Or, if you’re old enough to vote, consider a local, state or federal politician you would like to support based on his or her climate policies.
Want more Lessons of the Day? You can find them all here.