Global Warming Webquest Student page



Global warming and its potential harmful impacts has become a pressing issues facing scientists and policy makers all over the world. In this activity, you are being called into action by the United Nations to examine the causes and potential impacts of global warming and to develop policy recommendations for adoption by UN member nations. You serve as an expert member of a climate action team working on global warming issues. Your team will investigate the following questions:

•  Is the climate warming?
•  What role, if any, do humans have in contributing to climate change?
•  What policy choices can be made to respond to global warming?

The UN has asked that you pay special attention to sustainable energy and the production of greenhouse gases. While much is now known about climate change and energy use, there are still many questions that need to be answered and decisions that will have to be made in order to address the problems associated with global warming.

For this project you will work in groups of five. As a team, you will use the Koshland Science Museum website along with other web-based resources to investigate climate change and global warming. Your initial investigation will be completed as a group using the Group Worksheet. NOTE – While this scenario is fictitious, many of the questions addressed in this activity are the same questions being considered by real-life climate scientists, economists, policy analysts, energy experts, and urban planners.

Group Activity

Global Warming Webquest Group Activity page

Answer the following questions to gather information needed by your team before you begin working in your individual roles.

Why should you care? Watch the videotaped interview with Dr. John Holdren (President of AAAS, Director of the Woods Hole Research Center, and Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy at Harvard University) for an introduction to why climate change is an important issue: AAAS President’s Climate-Change Message

1) Before you begin your investigation of the changing climate, you should be aware of the differences between “climate” and “weather.”

How is climate different from weather?

How are climate and weather related?

Climate and Weather (US EPA)
What’s the Difference Between Weather and Climate? (NASA)

2) The UN is concerned that carbon dioxide (CO2) may have something to do with recent changes in the climate. Learn about CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the Greenhouse Effect section of the Marian Koshland Science Museum website.

What is the green house effect?

How is amplified warming different from natural warming?

The Greenhouse Effect (BBC)
Global Processes (KSM)
Living in the Greenhouse (NCAR)

3) Explore the Causes of Change portion of the Koshland website. Pay particular attention to the different factors that contribute to climate change

What factors are most responsible for significant changes in the climate?

Which of these are natural causes and which are driven by human activity?

The Causes of Climate Change (KSM)
What on Earth Affects Climate? (NCAR)

4) Humans, like any other species on this planet, will see many alterations in their environment as the global climate changes.  These differences will affect people and their environments differently depending on where they live.  Explore the Changes and Impacts sections of the Koshland website and discover how global warming will affect the lives of different people all over the world.

How will humans be impacted by changes in the climate?

How will global warming change ecosystems and the environment?

Changes (KSM)
Impacts (KSM)
See the Impacts (US EPA)

5) Explore the Global CO2 Emissions Section on the Causes page of the Koshland website.

How do CO2 emissions levels differ from country to country?

Which countries produced the most total CO2 in 2000?

Which countries have seen a significant increase in their CO2 emissions by 2008 since the early 1970s?

Causes KSM

Individual Roles

Global Warming Webquest Individual Roles page

Now that you have learned about the causes of climate change and the impacts of global warming, more research is needed about how to study and respond to climate change. Each member of the group will now assume a role for the investigative team of experts (Climate Scientist, Policy Analyst, Economist, Energy Expert, and Urban Planner). Each of you will work individually, according to your role, and investigate the issues related to global warming from several different perspectives. When finished with your individual research, you will share what you have learned with your team and prepare a report to be presented to UN officials.

The Roles

Climate Scientist: Investigate the scientific data behind climate change and tools used to study global warming.

Global Warming Webquest Climate Scientist page

Climate Scientist

Just for Fun: The Case of the Warming Planet

1) Write a half-page biography describing the training needed to become a climate scientist. What kind of subjects should a potential climate scientist study in school? What kind of activities do climate scientists conduct on a day-to-day basis?

Careers in Earth Science - Atmospheric Scientist (NASA)
A Career Guide for the Atmospheric Sciences (AMS)
Atmospheric Sciences - Educational and Career Outlooks (

2) Science is a collaborative effort. What are some of the ways in which scientists are working together to study and report on global warming?

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Understanding and Responding to Climate Change (NAS)
Joint Science Academies’ Statement: Global Response to Climate Change (NAS)

3) What is “proxy data”? What are some of the sources of proxy data that scientists use to study climate change?

Trends (KSM)
Paleoclimatology: How Can We Infer Past Climates? (Carlton College)
Long Ago Climates (NCAR)

How far can scientists go back in time and still have confidence in the climate record?

Surface Temperature Reconstructions (NAS)

4) Scientists have used proxy data sources to reconstruct climate conditions over the past 800,000 years. Examine the historical and present climate data. What is the relationship between CO2 and temperature? Before modern times, what were the highest levels of CO2 recorded?

Causes of Climate Change - Greenhouse Effect

What are the most recent CO2 levels measured?

Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide (NOAA)

5) Climate scientists use complicated computer models to better understand the climate and predict climate change in the future. What have these models told us about future climate change? What are some of the factors that cause different models to produce different projections?

Modelling (KSM)

Policy Analyst: Learn how laws and public policy can affect climate change.

Policy Analyst

Just for Fun: The Legislative Process: How a Bill Becomes a Law (

1) Write a half page biography describing what training you need to become a policy analyst. What kind of subjects would you need to study in school? What kind of activities do you conduct on a day-to-day basis?

Environmental Policy - Educational and Career Outlooks (
Science Policy: Establishing Guidelines, Setting Priorities (AAAS)

2) Using California as an example, describe some of the state and local policies and initiatives that have been proposed.

Climate Action Team Report to Governor Schwarzenegger (CA EPA)
California Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE, NC State University)
Climate Action Team and Climate Initiative (CA EPA)

Find your state and describe some of the initiatives in your area.

Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE, NC State University)
U.S. States & Regions - Climate Action (Center for Climate and Energy Solutions)

3) On the national level, what are some of the federal policies and initiatives that have been proposed to reduce fossil fuel consumption? How do the federal initiatives differ from the state proposals?

U.S. States & Regions - Climate Action (Center for Climate and Energy Solutions)
What is EPA doing about Climate Change? (US EPA)
Global Climate Change (US State Dept.)

4) What are some of the major international policy efforts aimed at global warming issues? How do the efforts differ?

What is the EU doing on Climate Change? (European Commission)
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (United Nations)
Kyoto Protocol (United Nations)
Kyoto Protocol Countries (United Nations)
Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate Action Plans (Asia-Pacific Partnership)


Economist: Study the economic impacts associated with global warming and see how business leaders are responding to the changing climate.

Global Warming Webquest Economist page

Economist Worksheet (PDF)

Just for Fun: The Great Green Web Game

1) Write a half-page biography describing the training needed to become an economist. What kind of subjects would a potential economist study in school? What kind of activities do economists conduct on a day-to-day basis?

Careers in Economics (McGraw-Hill)
Environmental Economics - Educational and Career Outlooks (

2) What are some of the predicted economic costs associated with a warming climate? What areas are expected to be hardest hit economically because of global warming?

Economic Costs of Sea Level Rise (IPCC)
Stern Review: The Economics of Climate Change (HM Treasury - UK)

3) The ways in which countries and businesses respond to global warming are bound to impact national and international economies.. What are some of the options being proposed for businesses as they try to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions? How are different countries trying to lessen the negative economic impacts associated with reducing greenhouse gas emissions on a national level?

The Climate Crusaders (Time Magazine)
How to Seize the Initiative (Time Magazine)
The Greenest Bank Time Magazine)
The Impact of Asia's Giants (Time Magazine)
European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (Wikipedia)
Carbon Tax vs. Emissions Trading (Global Policy Forum)

4) How can an individual calculate his or her “carbon footprint”? What are some of the economic choices that individuals can make to reduce their carbon footprint? How do companies offset an individual's carbon impact?

Carbon Footprint Calculator (
EPA Household Carbon Footprint Calculator
CoolClimate Carbon Footprint Calculator
Ecological Footprint

Energy Expert: Explore how we get energy for transportation and electricity and learn how energy use impacts the climate.

Global Warming Webquest Energy Expert page

Energy Expert

Just for Fun: The Alternative Transportation Game

1) Write a half-page biography describing the training needed to become an energy expert. What kind of subjects would potential energy experts study in school? What kind of activities do energy experts conduct on a day-to-day basis?

Sustainable Energy Careers (AAAS)
Energy Studies: Academic Requirements, Professional Outlook (

2) What are some alternative transportation technologies under development reduce fossil fuel consumption? Which options are available where you live?

Alternative Fuels Data Center (US Dept. of Energy)
Advanced Vehicles and Fuels Basics (NREL)
Hybrid Cars Cribsheet (Seed Magazine)
Fill 'er Up - A Grist Special Series on Biofuels (
Hydrogen Fuel Cells (NOVA)
Alternative Energy Resources by State (US Dept. of Energy)
Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE, NC State University)

3) What are some of the alternative energy technologies being developed to reduce fossil fuel consumption in producing electricity?? Which options are available where you live?

Responses (KSM)
Learning About Renewable Energy (NREL)
Green Power Locator (US EPA)
Alternative Energy Resources by State (US Dept. of Energy)
Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE, NC State University)

4) Choose two alternative energy sources and list the benefits and drawbacks for each.

Energy Kids (US Dept. of Energy)
The Energy Story (CA Energy Commission)
Energy Sources (US Dept. of Energy)

Wind Power Technologies (US Dept. of Energy)
How Wind Energy Works (UCS)

Solar Energy Technologies (US Dept. of Energy)
Solar Basics (CA Energy Commission)
How Solar Energy Works (UCS)

How to Use Ocean Energy (US Dept. of Energy)
Ocean Energy (CA Energy Commission)

Water Power Program (US Dept. of Energy)
How Hydrokinetic Energy Works (UCS)

Geothermal Technologies (US Dept. of Energy)
Geothermal Energy (Geothermal Resources Council)
How Geothermal Energy Works (UCS)

Nuclear Power Cribsheet (Seed Magazine)
Nuclear Energy Overview (CA Energy Commission)
Nuclear Power Education (

Biomass Technologies (US Dept. of Energy)
How Biomass Energy Works (UCS)

Urban Planner: See how architects, engineers, and city planners are responding to climate change by using sustainable materials and energy efficient designs.

Global Warming Webquest Policy Analyst page

Urban Planner

Just for Fun: Power Up – A Game About Power Choices

1) Write a half-page biography describing the training needed to become an urban planner. What kind of subjects would potential urban planners need to study in school? What kind of activities do urban planners conduct on a day-to-day basis?

Considering a Career in Planning (American Planning Association)
How to Become an Architect (
Careers in Architecture (American Institute of Architecture)
Environmental Design - Educational and Career Outlook (

2) What kinds of technologies, materials, and design elements are urban planners using to make buildings and communities more energy efficient?

Buildings and Climate Change (American Institute of Architecture)
Principles of Sustainable Design (National Building Museum)
Contemporary Green Residences (National Building Museum)
Creating Livable Sustainable Communities (
Urban Forests (American Forests)
Building Technologies Program (US Dept. of Energy)
Sustainability Plan for the City of San Francisco (

3) What are some of the technologies, materials, and design elements available to make houses more energy efficient?

Green Materials (National Building Museum)
Go Green (National Building Museum)
Energy Savers (US Dept. of Energy)
Energy Star (US Dept. of Energy and EPA)
Building Technologies Program (US Dept. of Energy)
Consumer Energy Center (CA Energy Commission)

4) What is the urban heat island effect? How can “green rooftops” help address problems associated with the urban heat island effect?

Heat Island Effect (US EPA)
Green Roofs - Benefits (Green Roofs for Healthy Cities)

Final Group Activity

Global Warming Webquest Summary Activity page

Group Activity Worksheet (PDF)

Summary Activity

After each member of the group has completed the individual worksheets, the group should prepare a report and/or a presentation answering the following questions:

1) Is the Earth’s climate warming? If so, what are the causes and how have human activities contributed to this warming? How confident are scientists about climate change? What kind of information is still needed to bolster understanding of global warming (e.g. environmental impacts, computer models, historical data, economic costs)?

2) What choices do humans have for responding to global climate change? Present the choices available at the personal, state, federal, and international levels. What are the pros and cons associated with these different choices? How will these choices affect the economy, public policy, our lifestyles, and the kinds of technologies used?

3) Make recommendations for the United Nations member countries detailing what you think their policies should be regarding scientific research, international treaties, funding new technologies and energy sources, federal legislation, environmental impacts, etc. How will countries from different parts of the world need to respond differently?

Each question should be answered in a one-page report (for a total of three pages). All members of the group must approve the report before it is turned in. To answer the questions, use the information gathered by each individual, and then move to references in the Teachers Resources section.

Congratulations! You have responded to an urgent need in the international community. Thank you for participating in the Koshland Science Museum’s Global Warming Webquest. Your work may help others to become more aware of the problems associated with global warming, as well as some of the potential solutions.