Climate Change Webquest

GLOBAL WARMING: Facts and Our Future

Global warming has been a topic of concern and much controversy for many years. Whatever the disagreements have been in the past, most scientists and policy makers now recognize that if the Earth’s surface temperatures continue to rise as much as they have in the past decade or so, then many parts of the world could face dire consequences, including food and water shortages, coastal flooding, and health consequences.

Using this Internet-based webquest activity, students will learn about climate change, energy use, and global warming. They will learn firsthand how society and environment might be impacted by global warming and how to help people make better decisions regarding all the complicated issues surrounding climate change, energy use, and available policy options. Students will take on the role of scientist, business leader, or policy maker and be part of a climate action team, which will make some of the same discoveries and decisions that are made in the “real world” every day.

Download your webquest

Download instructions

Online Webquest For Students


Global warming and its potential harmful impacts are 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 teamworking 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. Note that 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.

Initial Group Activity

Begin by working as a group to gather background information.

First, watch the video from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for an introduction to why climate change is an important issue: AAAS Video on Climate Change

1. Before you begin your investigation of the changing climate, you should understand the difference 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 the gas carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) may have something to do with recent changes in the climate. What is the greenhouse effect? How is amplified warming different from natural warming?
The Greenhouse Effect (BBC)
What is the Greenhouse Effect? (KSM)
Living in the Greenhouse (NCAR)

3. There are many different factors that contribute to climate change. What factors are most responsible for signi ficant changes in the climate? Which of these are natural causes and which are driven by human activity?
Causes of Climate Change (KSM)
What on Earth Affects Climate? (NCAR)
Can We Change the Climate? (US EPA)

4. Humans, like all species on this planet, will see many alterations in their environment as the global climate changes. How will humans be affected by changes in the climate? How will global warming change ecosystems and the environment?
Changes in the Climate (KSM)
Impacts of Climate Change (KSM)
See the Impacts (US EPA)

5. Explore the Climate Change Mitigation Simulator in the Earth Lab exhibit. Develop a strategy portfolio and visualize it. If the U.S. reduces emission alone, in what year does atmospheric GHG concentration exceed recommended levels? How does this compare to the other three visualizations? Develop a second strategy portfolio and compare the two with regard to GHG concentration and global temperature change.
Climate Change Mitigation Simulator (KSM)

Individual Activity

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. Reference the appropriate worksheet to complete this activity.

The Roles:

Climate Scientist: Investigate the scientific data behind climate change and tools used to study global warming. • Policy Analyst : Learn how laws and public policy can affect climate change.
Economist: Study the economic impacts associated with global warming and see how business leaders are responding to the changing climate.
Energy Expert: Explore how we get energy for transportation and elec tricity and learn how energy use impacts the climate.
Urban Planner: See how architects, engineers, and city planners are responding to climate change by using sustainable materials and energy efficient designs.

Summary Group Activity

After each member of the group has completed the individual worksheets, the group should prepare a report and/or a presentation describing your policy recommendations to the United Nations. See the relevant worksheet to complete the group activity.