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Authors

MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative, The Kid Should See This

Grades

9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, AP® / College

Subjects

Science, Social Studies, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences, Economics, Geography

Resource Types

  • Lesson Plan, 90 - 145 minutes
  • Podcast, 14 minutes, 2 seconds
  • Activity - Classroom
  • Article
  • Video, 1 minute, 53 seconds
  • Interactive Media
  • Worksheet

Regional Focus

Global

Format

PDF

Carbon Offsets and Climate Change

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Synopsis
  • In this lesson, students learn about carbon offsets and the Kyoto Protocol through data investigations, discussions, and historical analysis.
  • Students will listen to a podcast, complete activities, watch an animation of carbon emissions, and read statements from large corporations about their environmental commitments.
Teaching Tips

Positives

  • The resource includes all teaching materials, an educator's guide on how to use the activities, resources for your own better understanding, and additional discussion questions.
  • Each activity can be used as a standalone or in sequence.

Additional Prerequisites

  • The entire lesson (podcast and all activities) will take 90-145 minutes to complete.
  • The activities should follow the podcast, which provides critical information necessary for the rest of the lesson.
  • Students should have a basic understanding of the link between carbon dioxide and climate change.
  • The guide includes options for those with limited or no access to the Internet.

Differentiation

  • The language in the Kyoto Protocol reading may be advanced for some students. Allow students extra time to research terms online or in a dictionary.
  • Since it is not clarified in the lesson, we suggest explaining the difference between carbon offsets and carbon removal to students.  
  • Students may be surprised to learn that, in many cases, carbon offsetting can do more harm than good. Have students brainstorm ways to improve carbon offsetting and the carbon credit market.
  • As an extension, more advanced students can be directed to recent studies on the effectiveness and social impacts of carbon offsets.
  • This resource can also be used in history classes during lessons about the Kyoto Protocol and other climate agreements or in economics classes during lessons about the role of the private sector in climate mitigation.
Scientist Notes
This guide provides a podcast episode with an accompanying lesson plan, worksheets, and resources for teachers to introduce students to the idea of carbon offsets. The lesson also includes information about where carbon is emitted, how it spreads through the atmosphere, the Kyoto Protocol, forests, and what some companies are claiming to do to offset their carbon emissions. The resource is accurate and recommended for teaching.
Standards

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • English Language Arts
    • Reading: Science & Technical Subjects (6-12)
      • RST.9-10.8 Determine if the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author's claim or a recommendation for solving a scientific or technical problem.
  • Science
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • HS-ESS3-1. Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity.
      • HS-ESS3-6. Use a computational representation to illustrate the relationships among Earth systems and how those relationships are being modified due to human activity.
    • ETS1: Engineering Design
      • HS-ETS1-1. Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.
      • HS-ETS1-3. Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.
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