Climate Challenge: Earth’s future is in your hands
Making finances work: People first
Other Worlds are Possible: Human progress in an age of climate change
TAke AIM at Climate Change
The Other CO2 Problem
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) - Climate Change
What we know What we do not know And how we try to better understand global change
Home Activities Regional Activities Latin America Brazil Children and Youth International Conference - "Let’s Take Care of the Planet" - Brazil 2010 Information tools on global and climate change
Sustainable development and climate change education
This teaching guide was created in the framework of the Children and Youth International Conference « Let’s Take Care of the Planet » project, launched by the Ministries of Education and Environment of Brazil and is supported by the Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation for Human Progress. In France and in Europe, it is coordinated by the Monde Pluriel organization, in partnership with the Brazilian coordination team.
We warmly thank the people who lent their support in the writing of this guide through their careful reviewing of it:
The Monde Pluriel team
Brazilian coordination team: Carla Borges and Julie Machado
III. CLIMATE CHANGE EXAMINED
IV. HOW TO INCORPORATE THIS SUBJECT INTO AN ENVIRONMENTAL AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT EDUCATION PROJECT
We know that the environment cannot be reduced to “ecological” issues - a branch of biology - or to nature. We humans are part of it and changes in our connection to nature mean that we have gradually transformed it and think of it as an area for action to be managed, harnessed, exploited or protected.
Our direct or indirect actions on nature can thus have collateral effects and consequences that we cannot foresee. Despite our abilities, the tools and the ethics that we have inherited from our ancestors have become inadequate in the face of an environmental crisis that is without precedent in our history. A contemporary philosopher, Hans Jonas, determinedly described the ethical crisis linked to the deep uncertainties that we face: “never before have human beings had so much power with so little guidance in using it”. In other words, we inherit technologies do not all come with an ‘instruction manual’ that is sufficiently reliable to prevent consequences that are harmful to our planet.
In the face of these issues, the Brazilian coordination team of the International Conference of Children and Youth “Let’s Take Care of the Planet” is reasserting the objectives of environmental education, whether it be in terms of values, know-how or behaviours. To achieve these objectives, this education is based on processes of continuous learning, encouraging respect for the diversity of living organisms and, within that, for human cultural diversity. It also aims to strengthen social resistance in the face of the destructive relationships that humans can form with their environment and with other humans.
II. GLOBAL ISSUES AND INTERDEPENDENCIES
The changes that are confronting modern societies affect many areas, both economic and geopolitical, and sociocultural and environmental. The globalisation of trade and its consequences are challenging the political and economic systems of the past, but also social and family relationships, and our connection to religious figures. Through their interaction, these changes are reaching a scale such that they can be described as “global”.
Concerning the environment, in the strict sense of the term, the impact of human activities is of course significant at the local level (urbanisation, air and water pollution, changes in land use, in cultural practices, etc.), but it also has global consequences, particularly on climate. These human activities also affect other aspects that are not strictly climatic, such as biodiversity (disappearance of certain living species), the exhaustion of natural resources, the acid-base balance of the seas and the transformation of coastal regions.
In fact, the climate and the seas are in the process of changing under the influence of substantial anthropogenic  greenhouse gas emissions and under the influence of other changes (e.g. urbanisation and land use). Climate change encompasses rising temperatures (in other words, global warming), but also changes in other meteorological (e.g. changing wind and precipitation patterns) and oceanic parameters (rising sea level, acidification of the seas, changing sea currents etc.). These changes will also have an impact on biodiversity, but, here too, with regional variations.
While we are beginning to measure certain impacts of these recent changes (shrinking glaciers, drying up of water reserves, coastal zone flooding etc. but also their consequences on the movement of populations living in flood or desert zones, the opening up of new sea lanes in glacial zones etc.), their scale and their impact are still unknown because we know neither by how many degrees the Earth’s temperature will continue to rise, nor if there are turning points beyond which the situation may undergo irreparable change.
Climate is defined as a description of the meteorological averages and extremes in a limited area. Climate is naturally variable with the seasons and years.
Changes to the environment through human action are well known today (deforestation, soil and water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions etc.), but their consequences on major natural systems, including climate, are difficult to foresee and quantify on environmental, social and economic levels. The work carried out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC - see text box) is among the leading references on climate and climate change. It gives us precious indications on the current changes in climate and their causes, but also proposes avenues for research on their consequences and the probability of their occurrence.
2. The causes of climate change 
Variations in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and aerosols , those in volcanic activity and solar radiation, and changes in the Earth’s land cover have an impact on the climate system. But since industrial times, GHGs due to human activities have had a greater impact because of their unprecedented growth (there has been an increase of 70% between 1970 and 2004) and the climatic research gathered by the IPCC up to 2007 showed that there is a correlation between this increase and climate change.
The IPPC therefore showed in its conclusions that:
These increases have several causes:
The IPCC therefore has “ very high confidence that the net effect of human activities since 1750 has been one of warming and that it is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations ”, because if one confined oneself only to natural causes during the past 50 years (impact of volcanic activity and fluctuations in solar radiation), the climate would likely have cooled. Observed global warming and its changes are simulated only by models that include anthropogenic forcings. On the other hand, difficulties remain in simulating and attributing observed temperature changes at smaller than continental scales.
+ Temperature rise
Between 1995 and 2007, eleven of the last twelve years rank among the warmest years in the instrumental record of global surface temperature (since 1850). The value established for 1906–2005 is an average of +0.74 °C. Average Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the second half of the 20th century were very likely higher than during any other period of the same duration in the last 500 years and probably in at least the past 1300 years.
Source: IPPC- Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report – Summary for Policymakers
Comparison of observed continental- and global-scale changes in surface temperature with results simulated by climate models using either natural or both natural and anthropogenic forcings. Decadal averages of observations are shown for the period 1906-2005 (black line) plotted against the centre of the decade and relative to the corresponding average for the period 1901-1950. Lines are dashed where spatial coverage is less than 50%. Blue shaded bands show the 5 to 95% range for 19 simulations from 5 climate models using only the natural forcings due to solar activity and volcanoes. Red shaded bands show the 5 to 95% range for 58 simulations from 14 climate models using both natural and anthropogenic forcings.
+ Regional increase in precipitation
From 1900 to 2005, precipitation increased significantly in eastern parts of North and South America, northern Europe and northern and central Asia but declined in the Sahel, the Mediterranean, southern African and parts of southern Asia.
+ Seal level rise
Seal level rise is consistent with warming. Global average sea level has risen since 1961 at an average rate of 1.8 mm/year since 1961 and since 1993 at 3.1 mm/year since 1993 (approximately 17 cm during the course of the 20th century), with contributions from thermal expansion, melting glaciers and ice caps, and the polar ice sheets. However whether the faster rate for 1993 to 2003 reflects decadal variation or an increase in the longer-term trend is unclear.
Source: IPPC- Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report – Summary for Policymakers.
Observed changes in (a) global average surface temperature; (b) global average sea level from tide gauge (blue) and satellite (red) data and (c) Northern Hemisphere snow cover for March-April. All differences are relative to corresponding averages for the period 1961-1990. Smoothed curves represent decadal averaged values while circles show yearly values. The shaded areas are the uncertainty intervals estimated from a comprehensive analysis of known uncertainties (a and b) and from the time series (c). Figure 1.1
+ Melting of snow and ice
Observed decreases in snow and ice extent are also consistent with warming. Satellite data since 1978 show that glaciers and snow cover today occupy a reduced area in both hemispheres.
+ Extreme climatic events
There is observational evidence of an increase in intense tropical cyclone activity in the North Atlantic since about 1970, with limited evidence of increases elsewhere.
+ Effect on natural systems
Observational evidence from all continents and most oceans shows that many natural systems are being affected by regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases.
Some counter-arguments made by so-called “sceptic” scientists because they are a minority on the international scene, call into question in particular the link between global warming and human activity. They therefore often speak in support of the natural nature of this phenomenon. Among the most frequently given arguments are :
However, these counter-arguments do not explain everything and in particular the rapidity with which the warming of the planet is occurring.
On the other hand, and in the words of Marc Jamous (Scientific Supervisor at the LSCE-IPSL), “a scientist will not say that he or she is absolutely sure about a phenomenon […] instead he or she will say that it is likely or very likely or very highly likely. It is currently said that it is highly likely that there is global warming on the surface of the planet, including the seas, and that it is highly likely that this warming is due to human activities.”
5. The Climate Convention and the Kyoto Protocol 
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) came into being in 1992 in order to prevent any dangerous disruption of climate. It is the basis of global cooperation on climate, but does not set a quantitative target for the reduction of emissions, countries simply had to produce an annual report of their greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).
In order to strengthen this Convention, the Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997 entering into force in 2005 after bitter negotiations. Today, 184 countries of both the North and the South have ratified it, but only 38 industrialised countries have an obligation to reduce their GHGs by 5.2% between 2008 and 2012, compared to the 1990 level. This global target was then divided up by country. The Kyoto Protocol provides for penalties if a country does not achieve its reduction target (except for the United States, the only industrialised country that did not ratify it).
Copenhagen COP-MOP: what is it?
In the jargon of the climate negotiations, the annual meeting in which the countries discuss action to tackle climate change is called the COP-MOP for Conference of the Parties - Meeting of the Parties - meaning Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC and Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. The last COP-MOP took place in Copenhagen (Denmark) between 7 and 18 December 2009. There are also intermediate sessions during the year, which are more technical and which should allow the experts to make progress on certain subjects before the political meetings of the COP-MOP.
The first application period of the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012. The objective of the Copenhagen COP-MOP, in December 2009, was to reach an agreement between all of the countries on the second commitment period: what GHG emission reduction targets and for which countries? What mechanisms should be used to reach these targets?
What were the key issues of the Copenhagen summit?
The aim of Copenhagen was to reach an international agreement on climate change. Consideration of a few key points, on which there were negotiations.
What level of global ambition in 2050? Based on the scientific assessments of the IPCC’s experts, many countries, including those of the European Union, consider that in order to limit the risks to the planet, it is necessary to limit temperature rise to 2°C above the average temperature dating back to the industrial revolution. This requires the stabilisation of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to their 1990 level by 2020 at the latest, before reducing them by at least half by 2050. Not all countries agree on these objectives in particular because of their interpretation of the scientific data that has led to these conclusions.
What distribution of effort? To achieve the global objective of reducing emissions by at least 50% by 2050, a new distribution of effort also appears necessary and should take into account:
A measurement and verification system also appears necessary in order to know the effort of developing countries to reduce their emissions, as well as that of developing countries regarding financing and technology transfer.
The last two days of the Conference were critical to reaching a "Copenhagen Accord", but this remains vague and very insufficient. While it does assert the need to contain warming to + 2°C compared to the beginning of the industrial era, the final text comprises no quantitative commitments for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 or 2050 and no obligations on assistance for adaptation for the poorest countries, which are therefore the most at risk. Consequently, according to confidential analysis by the secretariat of the of the United Nations Framework Convention the current emission reduction commitments are insufficient and will lead to global warming of a least 3 degrees...
Furthermore, no timetable was planned for the signature of a treaty next year: Copenhagen therefore represents a step backwards compared to Kyoto.
The United Nations Conference “takes note” of the Copenhagen Accord, without endorsing it. A list will set out the countries that are in favour of and opposed to this accord.
In the end, each country will do what it wants to, with however an agreement on the communication (on a voluntary basis only), every two years, of the actions conducted to reduce greenhouse gases.
The one positive point: the unprecedented mobilisation of civil society and the general public, despite the subject, which appears very abstract and complicated.
Teaching work conducted within educational structures should enable an understanding of climate change through experimentation (knowledge area) but also the practising of public debate and the ability to defend, negotiate, to come to an agreement on ideas share by the whole group (life skills area). This will also be a means for each person to gain awareness of their responsibilities and, on the basis of these, to produce local actions and projects that are in line with the global issues identified by them (know-how areas).
A good way of studying the climate change issue is to establish relationships with the local environment and to conduct research projects with the pupils. Carrying out research is above all a matter of attitude, reasoning and method. Research is not something only developed by sophisticated laboratories, universities or specialist centres. The various educational structures (middle school, high school, youth club and arts centre, etc.) are places for the development of knowledge, but also of know-how and of life skills.
In a teaching project in sustainable development education, importance must be given to work in small groups. The members of the educational community must be present and collaborate in the project as much as possible, each according to their skill area, with their ideas, their knowledge and their uncertainties. Research work in groups on specific subjects will thereby place the pupils in the role of actors and give them the possibility of building knowledge by themselves.
Interdisciplinarity is a critical element. A theme such as climate change is actually very wide. It encompasses very different areas of research and needs to be looked at from different angles (purely scientific but also social, economic and cultural). At the beginning of each project, it is important to ask oneself: what is the role and the challenge of human societies in the face of a global problem such as this one? The economic and social sciences may for example be lagging behind on the globalisation of our societies and the impacts that it has had on a local and global level on the way we exploit resources, produce and consume.
Furthermore, if we looking more detail at the types of research that can be conducted by the pupils, a great number of themes can be linked together. Let us also remember that the coordination team of the International Conference has chosen “global socio-environmental change”, which encompasses climate change, as the theme for the international conference in which the European delegates will participate. This theme cuts across the social, economic, cultural and environmental dimensions of current changes.
Here are a few examples of links between particular themes and climate change. We use here the major themes (earth, water, air, fire), which came out of the working method developed by the Brazilians.
Causes of global warming
Consequences of global warming
Links to socio-economic issues
Causes of global warming
Consequences of global warming
Links to socio-economic issues
Causes of global warming
Consequences of global warming on:
Links to socio-economic issues
+ Fire (energy)
Causes of global warming:
Consequences of global warming on:
Links to socio-economic issues
+ the alternatives and solutions
renewable energy: what resources enable the generation of clean energy and the reduction of carbon in the atmosphere?
Carbon is a chemical element present on Earth since its formation. It can take various forms: gaseous form, such as carbon dioxide (or carbon acid gas – CO2), on of the gases of which the atmosphere is formed; liquid form, such as the carbonic acid present in water; or sedimentary form, such as oil and coal. The different states of carbon are closely linked in the form of a cycle and on four levels: the atmosphere (air), the biosphere (living), the hydrosphere (oceans, seas, lakes) and the lithosphere (sediments and rocks).
Photosynthesis: it is a process through which chlorophyllian plants (green plants, algae and bacteria), in the presence of light, produce their food, producing their energy reserves and synthesising organic matter. The chlorophyll captures light energy and uses it to form carbohydrates (sugars) from carbon dioxide and water. This reaction also produces oxygen, which is released into the atmosphere. It is through this process that a large share of the carbon is absorbed by the natural world. It thus becomes an organic carbon .
Respiration : Conversely, living organisms (animals, plants and micro-organisms) use the oxygen present in the atmosphere to burn nutrients and obtain the energy necessary for their growth, their mobility and to provide all of their vital functions.
It is the phenomenon of respiration. This reaction produces CO2, which is released into the atmosphere and reused in photosynthesis, thus forming a continual cycle.
Decomposition: Some carbon is found in soils and is carried by the roots of plants, the leaves fallen from trees, the excrement and the carcasses of living organisms. These dead organisms are digested by micro-organisms: the decomposers. The latter, mostly bacteria and fungi, destroy organic matter and transform into basic elements which return to the soil (e.g. nitrogen, proteins) or to the atmosphere (carbon in the form of CO2) and again become available to plants.
This phenomenon is also at the origin of the formation of hydrocarbons. Dead organic matter slowly escapes into the soil, until it reaches sedimentary rocks. It is a very slow process (several million years), which enables the formation of hydrocarbons: coal, petrol and gas.
The same cycle (photosynthesis, respiration and decomposition) is found in the seas (which occupy 70% of the globe’s surface), except that the actors that ensure photosynthesis are phytoplankton and zooplankton .
The Earth has contained the same quantity since its origin. Organised in a system, water is a unique resource. In continuous movement, it circulates between four large reservoirs: the hydrosphere (seas and oceans), inland water bodies (surface and underground), the atmosphere and the biosphere. This forms what is called the hydrological cycle or water cycle. It is an essential cycle of life, during which water goes through different physical phases (solid, liquid, gaseous). The driver of this thermal mechanism is the energy of the Sun.
In fact, solar energy causes the evaporation  of water (in the seas, streams, lacks, rivers), but also the transpiration of the soil and plants (otherwise known as evapotranspiration). As the water vapour penetrates the atmosphere, the fine droplets of water expand and form clouds. This is condensation . The more the water condenses, the more it forms large drops, which finally fall back to the surface of the Earth as rain, snow or hail (depending on the ambient temperature). This is precipitation. While the majority evaporates again, the rest infiltrates the soil, absorbed by the roots of plants or feeding the water table and aquifers . This water becomes “ground water”.
When the soil is saturated, the water runs off the soil to rivers and then towards the seas. In cold regions, the water turns into ice.
On average over the year and over the whole of the Earth, it is estimated that 65% of the precipitation that falls to the ground evaporates, 24% runs off and 11% infiltrates . The quantity of water in the hydrosphere remains stable and it can be considered that any loss of water in one or other of the parts that we have just seen (atmospheric or land) is compensated by a gain in the other part.
97% of the quantity of water present on Earth is found in the seas and oceans (salt water) and the remaining 3% is fresh water. Within this 3%, only 0.3% is available as surface water. This is what remains for human and animal consumption.
Pollution can affect water quality, but its use can change the quantities present in the four large reservoirs. For example, the quantity of water can fall in a region’s rivers and lakes when it is intensively and inappropriately used or when its tributaries and coastal forests are destroyed.
Water is a greenhouse gas that is essential to the planet because it contributes to the creation of the temperature and moisture necessary for the formation and maintenance of life. Water vapour retains more heat in the atmosphere when it is present in greater quantity. It is a vicious circle since the heat in turn generates more vapour in the air, which leads to more precipitation, etc. However, the link between global warming and disturbance of the water cycle is not yet proven. In fact, there is considerable natural variability in precipitation, it is difficult to model  certain observed trends and there uncertainties regarding the impacts of the different anthropogenic forcings .
Useful links for your educational projects
Understanding Climate changes and Sustainable development issues
 In geography and in ecology, “anthropisation” is the transformation of spaces, landscapes or natural environments through human action.
 The information in parts 2. and 3. is drawn from: IPPC- Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report – Summary for Policymakers.
 Extract from the CAR’s (Climate Action Network) booklet “Changements climatiques, cap vers Copenhague”
 “Educommunication” is a term used by the organisers of the Brasilia International Conference. They believe it is a way of linking education and communication, and to defend the right of individuals to produce information and communication.
 Inorganic carbon is found in non-living compounds, such as for example the carbon in the atmosphere or limestone.
 Phytoplankton and zooplankton belong to the plankton family (very small living organisms that live suspended in water). The phytoplankton is a plant organism whereas the zooplankton is an animal organism, which feeds on phytoplankton. To see more
 Opposite process to evaporation, it is the transformation of vapour into liquid.
 “A climate model is a numerical representation of the Earth system using many lines of computer code. This representation of the Earth system is based on the state of our knowledge of the physical, chemical and biological properties of the different elements, their interaction and of the feedback processes.” CNRS definition, Dictionnaire des mots-clés