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Courtney Lindwall


8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, AP® / College


Science, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences, English Language Arts

Resource Type

  • Article

Regional Focus


Climate Tipping Points are Closer Than Once Thought

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  • This article details some of the climate tipping points that could be crossed in the near future and the effects they could have on the planet. 
  • Students will learn about the risks of climate tipping points to ocean circulation patterns, ice sheets, forests, and coral reefs. 
Teaching Tips


  • The images and graphics in the article may support and improve comprehension.
  • Students will be able to explore additional information from the IPCC or journal articles that are linked in the article.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students would benefit from a general understanding of what climate tipping points are and the positive feedback loops that may contribute to them. 


  • Cross-curricular connections can be made in health classes that are learning about how human health may be affected by climate change or in social studies classes discussing the location and local effects of the different tipping points around the globe. 
  • After reading, have students work individually or in groups to research one of the tipping points from the article.
  • As an extension, curate a list of tipping points and encourage students to "adopt" one and advocate for increased knowledge in their social circles.
  • Earth science classes can use this to support lessons about global wind circulation patterns, ocean circulation patterns and drivers of the ocean conveyor belt, and sea level rise.
  • Biology classes can use this article to connect to lessons about methane, the carbon cycle, positive feedback loops, arctic ecosystems, forest ecology, and marine ecosystems.
Scientist Notes
This article, provided by the Natural Resource Defense Council, discusses what an increase in temperature of 1.5 degrees Celsius could mean for the Earth. A thorough discussion on global warming is included and covers the effects global warming has on the Earth. The "tipping points" are defined and discussed along with the relationship to more than a dozen natural systems that can be impacted. Scenarios are detailed for permafrost, ice sheets, the Gulf Stream, boreal forests, the Amazon rainforest and coral reefs. This article would be a great addition to a classroom discussion about the effects of climate change and what can happen if action is not taken. The resource is recommended for teaching.

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

  • English Language Arts
    • Reading: Informational Text (K-12)
      • RI.11-12.1 Accurately cite strong and thorough textual evidence, (e.g., via discussion, written response, etc.), to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferentially, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
      • RI.11-12.2 Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development and how they interact to provide a complex analysis; provide an objective summary of the text.
      • RI.11-12.3 Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop over the course of the text.
      • RI.11-12.10 By the end of grade 11, read and comprehend literary nonfiction at grade level text complexity or above with scaffolding as needed. By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend literary nonfiction at grade level text complexity or above.
  • Science
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-2. Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects.
      • MS-ESS3-4. Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.
      • MS-ESS3-5. Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.
      • 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.
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