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Climate Change

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

The greenhouse effect is in the news a lot; what's the problem?

This diagram shows what happens to the Sun's energy when it hits the Earth.

Light and infrared rays from the Sun pass through the atmosphere, hit the Earth and warm it up. The warm Earth gives off infrared rays. Some of this travels back through the atmosphere, and out into space. But some of the Earth's infrared is absorbed by certain gases in the atmosphere. This retains heat around the Earth, causing the Earth to be warmer than it would be without the greenhouse effect.

The most important gases to do this are carbon dioxide, water vapour and methane. These gases are called greenhouse gases.

Planet Earth has always had a greenhouse effect; without it, nights would be a lot colder than they currently are. A small greenhouse effect is good for life on Earth.

Have humans affected the greenhouse effect?

The problem is that a lot of things humans currently do are increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

We are burning more fossil fuels- to generate electricity, to make cars work, and many other reasons. Whenever we burn fossil fuels, carbon dioxide is released.

Large areas of forest are being chopped down- to make land for farms, towns and cities. Trees are good at removing carbon dioxide from the air by photosynthesis, so deforestation (removing forests) leaves more carbon dioxide in the air.

More animal farming leads to more methane being produced. Cows produce a lot of methane, because the grass they eat is difficult to digest.

Rubbish dumped in landfill sites produces methane, as microbes digest rotting food waste.

Are we sure that human activity is affecting the atmosphere?

Pretty sure. Scientists have been measuring the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere directly since the 1960's (that's the red markers on the graph below). By looking at indirect measurements and ice cores, we can work out what the levels of carbon dioxide were in the past (that's the thin line). The increase closely matches what we know about the increased use of fossil fuels.

Are we sure that human activity is affecting the climate?

Most scientists are confident that the world has got warmer in the last 100 years or so, and that increasing carbon dioxide levels are the main reason for this. There might be some other factors at work as well- there are some natural factors that change the climate, and the heat given off by buildings may make a bit of a difference in places. Because so many factors are involved, it is hard to make accurate models to explain the past and predict the future.

Before scientists publish their work, it gets checked by other scientists. This process is called peer review, and helps reduce mistakes. The most reliable, peer reviewed models show a strong link between carbon dioxide and global warming, which will get worse if carbon dioxide levels increase even more.

This is worrying- is there any hope?

Yes. If you look at the four things which are increasing greenhouse gas levels, they are all things which can be fixed. We can use different energy resources, so that less fossil fuels are burnt. We can increase the amount of forests in the world, instead of cutting trees down. Some of these things are difficult to do (and very difficult to persuade everyone to do), but the possibilities are there; and new technologies have the potential to make things better.

What gets trapped by the greenhouse effect?

Radiation from the Sun

Radiation from the Earth

There are three main greenhouse gases; select them from this list.

carbon monoxide

carbon dioxide

methane

oxygen

ozone

water vapour

Why are people concerned about the greenhouse effect?

In the past, there wasn't one and now there is.

It is stronger than it used to be.

It is weaker than it used to be.

What gas is produced when fossil fuels are burnt? (Type in the name, not the chemical formula.)

What is deforestation, and why is it a problem?

Which of two these organisms produce significant amounts of methane?

boys

cows

geese

microbes in landfill sites

Look at this graph of carbon dioxide levels over the last 500 years.

When did carbon dioxide levels start to increase?

1700

1800

1900

2000

Look at this graph of carbon dioxide levels over the last 500 years.

How much higher was the carbon dioxide concentration in 2000 compared with 1900?

10 ppm

50 ppm

100 ppm

400 ppm

What does peer review mean?

Scientists' work is checked, so it is definitely right, before it is published.

Scientists' work is checked, so mistakes are reduced, before it is published.

Scientists publish comments on other people's work.

Which of these sentences summarises the situation with climate change.

Climate change definitely isn't happening, and it doesn't matter what we do.

Climate change is probably happening, but there are things we can do about it.

Climate change is probably happening, but there's nothing we can do about it.

Climate change is definitely happening, and there's nothing we can do about it.

  • Question 1

What gets trapped by the greenhouse effect?

CORRECT ANSWER
Radiation from the Earth
EDDIE SAYS
The Sun's radiation gets though the atmosphere fine; the problem is that radiation of heat from the Earth gets trapped by the atmosphere, causing the Earth to warm up.
  • Question 2

There are three main greenhouse gases; select them from this list.

CORRECT ANSWER
carbon dioxide
methane
water vapour
EDDIE SAYS
Carbon monoxide is a pollutant, but it isn't involved in the greenhouse effect. There is ozone in the atmosphere, but that's a good thing (it reduces the amount of ultraviolet radiation hitting the Earth's surface).
  • Question 3

Why are people concerned about the greenhouse effect?

CORRECT ANSWER
It is stronger than it used to be.
EDDIE SAYS
A small greenhouse effect is useful. The problem in the last few years is that there has been more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, making the greenhouse effect stronger.
  • Question 4

What gas is produced when fossil fuels are burnt? (Type in the name, not the chemical formula.)

CORRECT ANSWER
carbon dioxide
EDDIE SAYS
Burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and methane gas) is the main factor increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
  • Question 5

What is deforestation, and why is it a problem?

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Deforestation happens for various reasons- mostly because some people want the land for something else. Trees are useful because they do a lot of photosynthesis, and lock carbon in wood.
  • Question 6

Which of two these organisms produce significant amounts of methane?

CORRECT ANSWER
cows
microbes in landfill sites
EDDIE SAYS
Cows generate methane because grass is so hard to digest. The methane produced by microbes in landfill sites can be collected, and used as a fuel.
  • Question 7

Look at this graph of carbon dioxide levels over the last 500 years.

When did carbon dioxide levels start to increase?

CORRECT ANSWER
1800
EDDIE SAYS
The year 1800 was also (roughly) when the Industrial Revolution started, when factories began to burn large amounts of coal. This is another clue that human activity has caused the changes in the atmosphere.
  • Question 8

Look at this graph of carbon dioxide levels over the last 500 years.

How much higher was the carbon dioxide concentration in 2000 compared with 1900?

CORRECT ANSWER
100 ppm
EDDIE SAYS
In 1900, the concentration was 300 ppm; by 2000 this had increased to 400 ppm, so the increase was 100 ppm.
  • Question 9

What does peer review mean?

CORRECT ANSWER
Scientists' work is checked, so mistakes are reduced, before it is published.
EDDIE SAYS
Peer review involves checking work before it's published. It's not perfect, some mistakes still get through the checking. But peer reviewed reports are more likely to be right than reports that haven't been peer reviewed.
  • Question 10

Which of these sentences summarises the situation with climate change.

CORRECT ANSWER
Climate change is probably happening, but there are things we can do about it.
EDDIE SAYS
The detailed science of climate change is complicated, and we don\'t fully understand it all. We know enough to be quite sure that there is a problem, but there are things we should do to reduce the problems now and in the future.
---- OR ----

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