Climate Change Debate Topics

Climate Change Debate Topics

Let’s get started!

Currently, many world leaders from developed as well as developing countries, along with the United Nations are debating topics related to climate change and the impacts of climate change. This is a great opportunity for teachers to help students understand how ecosystem destruction and the climate crisis affect the world around us. However, facilitating a student debate on topics related to the effects of climate change or global warming can be tricky to navigate as a teacher. Mastering a classroom debate isn’t just about teaching students to express their point of view on a topic appropriately, but also helping them to develop skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and presenting.

As teachers, it is more important than ever to teach students the significance of factual and scientific information on climate change and ecosystem conservation solutions, as well as how to eloquently voice and build their own opinions on how they and society can address climate change. In this blog, teachers will find a climate change debate guide, which provides an overview of how to introduce climate change debates. We have also created a handy student climate change guide that breaks down the background knowledge needed before the debate, the step-by-step structure of the debate, and finally 5 climate change debate topics. Let's dive in!

Introduction

Teachers can use this section to introduce climate change and global warming information to their students. This step is important as students will need factual background information before they begin the debate. Check out these resources below to explore with your students!

The Effects of Climate Change

This resource provides data, interactive media, animated models, and graphs that detail what the effects of climate change are now and what they may be in the future.

The Effects of Climate Change

Grades 6-12

This resource from NASA provides students with texts, data, interactive media, animated models, and graphs that explain how climate change is impacting the Earth’s ecosystem now and how it will impact the Earth’s ecosystem in the future. Students can read about the ways that climate change and global warming will affect the different regions of the United States of America and access links to additional information to prepare themselves for specific debate topics. 

Introduction to Climate Change

This animated video explains the cause and effects of climate change in simple terms.

Grades K-5

It is important for your students to understand the causes and effects of climate change before the classroom debate, as it will help them form well-rounded opinions. Teachers can show their students this easy-to-understand animated video which explores introductory information on climate change that can be used for kindergarten through fifth-grade students.

Who Is Responsible For Climate Change? – Who Needs To Fix It?

This animated video details the historic emissions of carbon by country and current emissions detailed in a variety of different ways, including by country, per capita, income level, and developed versus developing.

Grades 6-12

Who Is Responsible For Climate Change? – Who Needs To Fix It? ” is an informative video that provides detailed information about historic and current carbon emissions, designated by location.  Students will learn about climate change solutions such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions which will be beneficial knowledge to use during the debate. They will also explore graphs and maps that draw many comparisons that could be useful in addressing a variety of questions about climate change and global warming.

Debate Prep

Now that your students have background information on climate change, let’s discuss the layout of how the debate will look in your classroom. Here is a step-by-step guide you can follow! Find more helpful tips on structuring a classroom debate here.

Debate Structure

Debate Topics

It is time to explore topics! Below you can choose from 5 different debate topics related to climate change or try them all with your class.

Debate Land Use in Brazil

In this activity, students will work in groups to debate one of three climate change issues in Brazil: niobium mining, creating natural preserves, or using deforested land for agriculture.

Debate Land Use in Brazil

Grades 6-12

ClimateScience provides a guide to carrying out a debate focused on one of two climate change problems identified in Brazil: niobium mining and deforestation. There are two debates to choose from in the handout and credible resources attached for students to research in preparation for the debate. Just follow the simple instructions provided and you are ready to have your classroom debate! Students will sharpen their debate and analytical skills on environmental impacts, justice, and advocacy. If you are looking for a similar debate structure with a different topic there is also the Debate Energy in Israel.

Teaching Tips

› Consider inviting other students or faculty to act as moderators or judges for this debate
› Extend this activity by asking the students to adapt their speech to an article

Can Mass Carbon Capture Really Work?

This engaging PBS video clearly explains the process of carbon capture. 

Can Mass Carbon Capture Really Work?

Grades 6-12

Interested in teaching your students about carbon capture? Use this PBS video “Can Mass Carbon Capture Really Work?” as a jumping-off point for a debate.  Students will explore aspects of carbon emission and carbon capture, including different methods that have been used and positive and negative impacts. After the video, teachers can facilitate a classroom debate on the pros and cons of the proposed solutions.

Teaching Tips

› This video could be a lesson hook for middle and high school science classes

Mini-Debate: National Parks

In this activity, students will learn how an increase in visitors is impacting national parks and then have a debate about limiting the number of visitors to national parks. 

Mini-Debate: National Parks

Grades 6-12

National Parks are stunning tourist attractions, but at what cost? Students will explore how overcrowding destroys the biodiversity within the parks. Global Futures outlines the debate topic where students will argue for or against limiting visitation to national parks. Students will learn about the benefits of biodiversity within the national parks and learn how human activities are impacting ecosystems within the parks. Students will analyze the pros and cons of people visiting the parks through articles linked in the lesson plan. Teachers can also utilize these Google Slides from Arizona State University (ASU) when teaching this lesson.

Teaching Tips

› Teachers can have their students research the American national parks that get the least visitors each year and come up with a public service campaign to promote those parks in order to redistribute the number of visitors going to the same parks.

Yukon Kings

In this short film, Yup'ik fisherman Ray Waska explains how life has changed for his family as he teaches his grandchildren how to fish for salmon in the Alaskan Yukon Delta.

Yukon Kings

Grades 3-12

Yukon Kings is a beautiful film about a Yup'ik fisherman trying to preserve family traditions, including salmon fishing in America’s Alaskan Yukon Delta. Salmon fishing is currently threatened by environmental and cultural forces. Students will debate if cultural changes like the ones depicted in the film are inevitable consequences of “progress,” or if we should actively work to preserve these cultural traditions. Global Oneness Project has put together a complete instruction guide on how to structure the debate in your classroom and a reflection activity on this debate topic. The Resiliency Among the Salmon People lesson plan and Yukon Kings video are both available to download in English and Spanish.

Teaching Tips

Social Studies, Geography, and History Classes: Students could research the history of the Yup'ik people.

Social Studies and Economics Classes: Discuss how the dependence on fossil fuels for transportation has had a negative impact on the Yup'ik people by increasing carbon dioxide emissions and hence causing climate crisis.

› English or Art Classes: Study this watercolor painting by artist Jill Pelto that depicts the decline of the salmon population.

The Energy Storage Problem

This resource is a brainstorming activity for students to analyze the problem of energy storage, which is the biggest issue faced by renewable energy. 

The Energy Storage Problem

Grades 3-5

The Energy Storage Problem activity by ClimateScience analyzes solutions for storing renewable energy. Students will debate which solutions are the best for storing renewable energy. Teachers can use the guide and e-book, Sven’s Search for Clean Energy, with their students to research solutions for storing renewable energy. Students can work in groups to develop their arguments. Younger students will need more scaffolding on how to acknowledge opposing ideas, craft a rebuttal, etc. In upper elementary classes, teachers may want to appoint specific roles to each group to provide structure (such as a team leader for a group who will present the arguments and a scribe to document their arguments). Prior to the debate, the class could develop ground rules to promote respect, understanding, and effective listening.

Teaching Tips

› Instead of reading it in class, the book can be read as an assignment to foster deeper analysis.

The Renewable Energy Unit Plan was created by SubjectToClimate and can be used individually or sequentially as a mini-unit. Click the buttons below and explore!

Final Thoughts

As your students learn how to research and defend different opinions about topics related to climate change, you are giving them the ability to have conversations about real-world issues like energy sources, sustainable development, and mitigation practices that will greatly impact their communities. Learning to appropriately present your ideas while having respect for other people’s opinions is a lifelong skill. Find more lesson plans and resources on climate change on our site.