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Climate change is one of the most complex issues facing us today. It involves many dimensions – science, economics, society, politics and moral and ethical questions – and is a global problem, felt on local scales, that will be around for decades and centuries to come. Carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping greenhouse gas that has driven recent global warming, lingers in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, and the planet (especially the oceans) takes a while to respond to warming. So even if we stopped emitting all greenhouse gases today, global warming and climate change will continue to affect future generations. In this way, humanity is “committed” to some level of climate change.

This unit is 3.5 hours.


Significant ideas:

  • Mitigation attempts to reduce the causes of climate change

  • Adaptation attempts to manage the impacts of climate change.


Big questions:

  • What strengths and weaknesses of the systems approach and the use of models have been revealed through this topic? How does a systems approach help our understanding of climate change?

  • To what extent have the solutions emerging from this topic been directed at preventing environmental impacts, limiting the extent of the environmental impacts, or restoring systems in which environmental impacts have already occurred?: Evaluate the success of the Kyoto Protocol in stabilizing global climate change

  • What value systems can you identify at play in the causes and approaches to resolving the issues addressed in this topic? Explain why there are still uncertainties regarding global climate change

  • How does your own value system compare with others you have encountered in the context of issues raised in this topic? Evaluate measures of mitigation and adaptation.

  • How are the issues addressed in this topic of relevance to sustainability or sustainable development? Can sustainable development be achieved without a solution to global climate change?

  • In what ways might the solutions explored in this topic alter your predictions for the state of human societies and the biosphere some decades from now? Outline the obstacles to tackling global climate change

  • How do models and systems approach help our understanding of climate mitigation and adaptation?

  • How far do we already know the answers to climate mitigation and adaptation?

  • In what ways do different people/societies consider climate mitigation and adaptation?

  • What do you think is the best way forward? Justify your answer

  • Which is more sustainable - mitigation or adaptation?

  • How might the solutions to climate change evolve in the future?


Knowledge and Understanding:

7.3.U1 Mitigation involves reduction and/or stabilization of GHG emissions and their removal from the atmosphere
[Mitigation is the use of technology and substitution to reduce resource inputs and emissions per unit of output.]

Because we are already committed to some level of climate change, responding to climate change involves a two-pronged


Reducing emissions of and stabilizing the levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (“mitigation”);
Adapting to the climate change already in the pipeline (“adaptation”).

​Mitigation – reducing climate change – involves reducing the flow of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, either by reducing sources of these gases (for example, the burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat or transport) or enhancing the “sinks” that accumulate and store these gases (such as the oceans, forests and soil). The goal of mitigation is to avoid significant human interference with the climate system,

Adaptation – adapting to life in a changing climate – involves adjusting to actual or expected future climate. The goal is to reduce our vulnerability to the harmful effects of climate change (like sea-level encroachment, more intense extreme weather events or food insecurity). 

7.3.U2 Mitigation strategies to reduce GHGs in general may include:
[CCS is carried out by carbon dioxide being compressed, transported and stored permanently underground (geological sites used as repositories) or chemically fixed to form a carbonate.]​

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Reduction of energy consumption:

  • Carbon taxes - require emitters to pay a free for every ton of greenhouse gases emitted,

  • Carbon trading - countries or companies emitting above the target level can buy carbon storage credits from clean developments or reforesting degraded land in other countries

  • Cap and trade - permits to pollute above certain level are sold on the free market, any organization that is under allocation can make profit by selling the extra permits

  • Lifestyle changes - individual actions to reduce climate change including choices of transport, energy use and consumer goods and services

  • Increasing the concepts of community energy

  • Producing energy locally

  • Microgeneration

  • Fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks

  • Efficiency standards for household appliances

Reduction of emissions of nitrogen oxides and methane from agriculture

  • reduce chemical fertilizer use

  • reduce intensive livestock farming

Alternatives to fossil fuels

  • photovoltaic cells

  • wind power

  • DESERTEC project

  • hydroelectric

  • solar

  • geothermal

  • tidal


  • Solar radiation management - releasing atmospheric sulfates on a scale equivalent to large volcanic eruption or cloud seeding using sea water

  • Carbon dioxide reduction - development of technologies to extract greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and store them

Management strategies

  • Global—intergovernmental and international agreements (for example, Kyoto Agreement and subsequent updates), carbon tax and carbon trading, alternative energy sources

  • Local—allow students to explore their own lifestyle in the context of local greenhouse gas emissions, preventive and reactive.

  • Personal: grow your own food and use energy-efficient products​

7.3.U3 Mitigation strategies for carbon dioxide removal (CDR techniques) include:

  • protecting and enhancing carbon sinks through an management, for example, through the UN collaborative program on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (UN-REDD)

  • using biomass as a fuel source

  • using carbon capture and storage (CCS)

  • enhancing carbon dioxide absorption by the oceans through either fertilizing oceans with compounds of nitrogen, phosphorus and iron to encourage the biological pump, or increasing upwellings to release nutrients to the surface.

7.3.U4 Even if mitigation strategies drastically reduce future emissions of GHGs, past emissions will continue to have an effect for decades to come

The estimate of 40 years for climate lag, the time between the cause (increased greenhouse gas emissions) and the effect (increased temperatures), has profound negative consequences for humanity. However, if governments can find the will to act, there are positive consequences as well.

With 40 years between cause and effect, it means that average temperatures of the last decade are a result of what we were thoughtlessly putting into the air in the 1960’s. It also means that the true impact of our emissions over the last decade will not be felt until the 2040’s

7.3.U5 Adaptation strategies can be used to reduce adverse affects and maximize any positive effects Examples of adaptations include flood defenses, vaccination programs, desalinization plants and planting of crops in previously unsuitable climates.

Adaptation are how to respond to climate change (reactive). They are designed to lower the risks posed by consequences of climate change. The adaptive capacity of a location with vary from place to place and can be dependent on financial and technological resources

  • Building design - improved air conditioning and circulation in building in the temperate zone

  • Emerging diseases - monitoring and control of spreading tropical diseases

  • Coastal management - improved sea defenses or managed retreat from low lying coastal areas​

Examples of planned adaptations

  • Egypt - Sea-level rise  - Adoption of National Climate Change Action Plan integrating climate change concerns into national policies; adoption of Law 4/94 requiring Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for project approval and regulating setback distances for coastal infrastructure; installation of hard structures in areas vulnerable to coastal erosion. 

  • Sudan - Drought - Expanded use of traditional rainwater harvesting and water conserving techniques; building of shelter-belts and wind-breaks to improve resilience of rangelands; monitoring of the number of grazing animals and cut trees; set-up of revolving credit funds. 

  • Botswana - Drought - National government programs to re-create employment options after drought; capacity building of local authorities; assistance to small subsistence farmers to increase crop production.

  • Bangladesh - Sea-level rise; salt-water intrusion - Consideration of climate change in the National Water Management Plan; building of flow regulators in coastal embankments; use of alternative crops and low-technology water filters.  

  • Philippines - Drought; floods - Adjustment of silvicultural treatment schedules to suit climate variations; shift to drought-resistant crops; use of shallow tube wells; rotation method of irrigation during water shortage; construction of water impounding basins; construction of fire lines and controlled burning; adoption of soil and water conservation measures for upland farming. 

7.3.U6 Adaptive capacity varies from place to place and can be dependent on financial and technological resources. MEDCs can provide economic and technological support to LEDCs
[Adaptation is the adjustment of natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which either moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.]

There are many obstacles to a low-carbon world. Technological, economic, and political. Political obstacles are found nationally and internationally.

​Carbon dioxide imposes high costs on society but those who emit the carbon dioxide do not pay for the social costs that they cause.

The effectiveness of reducing carbon dioxide emissions and the implications for economic growth and national development, vary depending on the level of development of the country in question. MEDCs have greater economic resources to help solve the problem



7.3.U7 There are international efforts and conferences to address mitigation and adaptation strategies for climate change; for example the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

Rio Earth Summit

  • 1992 countries developed a framework to address climate change

  • stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations to a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system

Kyoto Protocol

  • international and intergovernmental meeting in 1997

  • called for the stabilization of greenhouse gas emissions by 5%

  • countries allocated certain amounts of carbon dioxide to emit

  • resulted in the idea of carbon trading

  • use of alternative energy sources

  • essential that LEDCs are brought into the agreement


IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

  • assessing the science related to climate change

  • set up by WHO and UNEP

  • carbon emissions will ultimately have to fall to zero

  • global poverty can only be reduced by halting global warming

  • carbon emissions, mainly from fossil fuels, are currently rising to record levels


NAPA (National Adaptation Programme of Action)

  • focuses on urgent and immediate needs

  • synthesis of available information

  • assessment of vulnerability to current climate and extreme events

  • identification of key adaptation measures as well as criteria for prioritizing activities

  • section of a prioritized short list of activities.


UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change)
went into effect 1994 but failed to slow down greenhouse gas emissions
​encouraged MEDCs to lead the way in climate change mitigation

Application and skills:

7.3.A1 Discuss mitigation and adaptation strategies to deal with impacts of climate change
[Two mitigation and two adaptation strategies should be considered]

Adaptation: live with the consequences of climate change

  • protect cities from storm surges

  • protect crops form drought

Mitigation: reducing or stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions

  • regulations

  • recycling

  • energy-efficient products

Factors you might consider

  • Cost/benefit analysis at national level

  • MEDC vs LEDC practicality

  • Degree of personal behavior change required

  • Political implications

  • Impact on international economic competitiveness

  • Remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere

Calgary Canada Climate Program

7.3.A2 Evaluate the effectiveness of international climate change talks

​You should evaluate these strategies with regard to their effectiveness and the implications for MEDCs and LEDCs of reducing CO2 emissions in terms of economic growth and national development.

  • A full ratified Kyoto Protocol would achieve a reduction of warming by around 0.5 degree

  • Concerns about fair target setting between MEDCs and LEDCs continue to cause disagreement

  • International agreements affect large number of people

  • Countries may not sign or agree to international agreements

  • Concerns about the economic cost and impacts on development are widespread

  • Carbon storage in ecosystems are not well understood and difficult to monitor

  • Simulated volcanic eruptions are unpredictable and could damage the ozone layer

  • Adaptation methods do not require international cooperation

  • Emission mitigation attempts over two decades appear to have failed


  • Was agreement reached: By which countries?

  • Do commitments focus on mitigation or adaptation?

  • Will the emissions commitments achieve effective reduction in CO2 levels”?

  • Did the talks reach consensus, or were they contentious?

  • Are the commitments legally binding?

  • What are the consequences for not reaching commitments


Classroom Materials
The Al Gore Case on Optimism activity
Petition(Kyoto Protocol) Case study​
Young People Sue of Climate Change article
​​Case Study Research Responses GCC
Poles Apart on Climate Change article
Evaluating Climate Change Talks activity
Evaluating Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies activity


Useful Links
UNEP climate change mitigation 
IPCC mitigation and adaptation
Global Change report
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability
Let's Talk Energy
​Direct Agriculture Emissions

In The News
Could climate change cause humans and animals to SHRINK? Mammals became smaller due to global warming 54 million years ago - MailOnline 15 March 2017
New algae-based bioreactor can swallow carbon dioxide 400x faster than trees - Digital Trends, Sep 2019



  • The impacts of climate change are global and require global mitigation



  • There is a degree of uncertainty in the extent and effect of climate change-how can we be conficent of the ethical responsibilities that may arise from knowledgte when that knowledgte is often provisional or incomplete


Video Clip

This animated video produced by the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board distinguishes the roles of mitigation and adaptation in responding to climate change. The video offers examples of actions that humans can take as individuals and a society to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change on natural and built environments.




















Climate change has already had clear impacts on natural and human systems. Over the coming decades, based on the various scenarios of emission of greenhouse gases, the range with which climate can change is quite wide, and depends on policy decisions that we take now





















The GEF Small Grants Programme supports projects that address climate change mitigation, which is reducing or avoiding the emission of greenhouse gases; and climate change adaptation, which is assisting communities, especially in developing countries to become better able to cope with the negative impacts of climate change.





















The IPCC has produced a video on its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5).



















The impacts of climate change destroy people's livelihoods and homes. They damage our infrastructure and disrupt communication and trade. Moreover, climate change is endangering development successes and the poor and marginalized are often affected the most. Even if we were to stop emissions instantly, the world would not stop warming immediately due to the amount of gases we have already emitted. That's why we must do both: reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to inevitable climate change. But how can we adapt, considering that the precise extent and form of climate change aren't known?














































Can The Paris Agreement Actually Stop Global Warming?




















Can geoengineering save the planet? Injecting particles into the atmosphere to counter the warming effects of climate change would do nothing to offset the crop damage from rising global temperatures, according to a new analysis by UC Berkeley researchers.



















There’s technically a way to take pollution out of the air. But if we did that, where would we put it all?



















Carbon Capture and Storage















Climate Change (7.2-7.3)

An Overview of Climate Change

Symphony of Science- overview of Climate change issues using music
Climate change FAQ- series of articles and ideas
NASA resource reel - links to various affects on the earth
300 Years of Fossil Fuels- a history of the fossil fuel movement

An Inconvenient Truth 
The Great Global Warming Swindle

The Debate

Is Climate Change real?- evidence for Climate Change 
An explanation of the scientific debate-Includes some of the physics and chemistry of the science
"Why the skeptics are wrong"

An Obnoxious Fabrication of Global Warming- interesting counterargument
Sunspots and Climate
a literature review of An Inconvenient Truth
Roy Spencer, PhD website


Mitigation and Adaptation (7.3)

Mitigation: reduction and/or stabilization of Greenhouse gas emissions and their removal from the atmosphere


Adaptation: reduce adverse effects and maximize any positive effects; Measures that aim to reduce the vulnerability of natural and human impact  

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