Global History Mini-Unit on the Dangers of Climate Change

Anthony Richard and Maria Efstratiou

Background: Climate change may be the major issue of the 21st century as industrialized societies have contributed to the wastes and emissions that are deteriorating the conditions of Earth’s atmosphere and environment. A greater acknowledgement of the natural and human-made dangers of climate change, as well as information on how to improve the environment, could greatly improve efforts to prevent any further damage from occurring. Lesson 1 introduces the concept of climate change through the investigation of the natural disaster of the Krakatoa eruption and Hurricane Katrina. Students work individually and cooperatively to analyze images, texts, and video clips. In Lesson 2, students work independently on a document assessment of the Paris Climate Accord and cooperatively through a gallery walk illustrating impacts on the climate. In Lesson 3, students examine different forms of climate change protest that have occurred over recent years. Activist events such as the Anti-WAAhnsinn festival, the Plane Stupid Protest, the UN Protest, and the March 2019 student strike are investigated through individual and cooperative efforts.

NYS State Frameworks for this mini-unit: 10.9 Globalization and a Changing Global Environment (1900-Present):  Technological changes have resulted in a more interconnected world, affecting economic and political relations and in some cases leading to conflict and in others to efforts to cooperate. 10.9c Population pressures, industrialization, and urbanization have increased demands for limited natural resources and food resources, often straining the environment.

Lesson 1 Aim: Is climate change a threat to humanity? Main ideas:

1. Climate Change is a present day issue that could threaten humanity if not taken seriously.

2. Daily actions could be taken by individuals to evade the dangers of climate change.

3. Natural disasters of the past between the 1883 Krakatoa eruption and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 exemplify.

Next Generation Skills:

• Cite textual evidence to support conclusions on how natural disasters have come about due to natural or human activities.

• Determine central ideas about how Climate Change could bring forth harmful effects on the Earth’s environment.

• Analyze events and ideas and causality of the damage done by various natural disasters


Climate Change: A change in global or regional climate patterns due to increased levels of carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels.

Greenhouse Effect: The trapping of the sun’s warmth in Earth’s atmosphere due to the infrared radiation emitted from the planet’s surface.

Renewable Energy: Energy produced from a source that is not depleted when used such as wind power or solar energy. Fossil Fuels: A natural fuel such as coal or gas formed from the remains of living organisms.

Do Now: Students will be given a handout with a political cartoon that characterizes the transparency of a country’s political absence of climate change. Four questions will be provided for students to answer as well as they observe the image. After the students are given a few moments to individually answer the questions, the class will come together to assess the importance of the cartoon. Remaining inactive toward putting forth actions to combat Climate Change will equate to nothing but the continued destruction of Earth’s environment. The sooner countries shift their focus to the issues of climate, the more efficient future actions can be taken to preserve the planet.

Motivation: The lesson will open with discussion unfolding with each question answered from the do now. I will gauge observations from the students about what they saw from the political cartoon and then facilitate their understandings in accordance to the questions that have been provided for them to answer. After this, I will provide students with a questionnaire that indicates if their daily actions contribute to the preservation of the environment. The questions provided for students will connect the actions that could be taken by common individuals to promote the health of the Earth’s conditions.

Individual/Team/Full Class Activities: Cooperative groups will be formed for students to read and analyze together the two short texts that present differing effects from Climate Change. Students will fill in their graphic organizer with significant evidence on either the natural or human causes of damage from the natural disasters of the 1883 Krakatoa eruption and Hurricane Katrina. The class will then examine a video clip that assesses the conditions of Climate Change, what properties perpetuate its influence on the environment, and its potentially devastating effects on the planet.

Differentiation and Multiple Entry Points: Multiple entry points include political cartoon analysis, discussion, textual analysis, evaluating arguments, and video analysis. Students will work individually and in teams to support different learners and learning styles.

Compelling Questions:

  • Do global countries tend to make Climate Change their number one focus?
  • Are the consequences of greenhouse gases forever irreversible?
  • How can the individuals communicate with one another to protect the environment?


Informal: Teachers work as an ex officio member of student groups and review work as teams conduct research and reach conclusions.

Formal: Collect and evaluate an exit ticket where students answer the question: Is climate change truly a threat to humanity? Form your answer while using a specific example.

Closure: The class ends with student discussion of the question: Is Climate Change truly a threat to humanity? I will link the question back to the focus of the Do Now political cartoon and ask students to determine if it is difficult for countries to direct their efforts to resolving Climate Change.

Classroom Applications: Students will have access to other images and video of Climate Change and its influence on natural disasters.

Your Personal Carbon Footprint

Directions: Do you care for your planet? Prove it. Answer the questionnaire below to see how much action you take daily to prevent climate change. Count every question you answer “Yes” and tally your total “I care about the environment” score. Once you finish the poll, answer the additional question below.

Why do you believe it is essential for individuals to keep their environment clean using methods such as the ones listed above?

“Causes and Effects of Climate Change”

Instructions: View the video “Causes and Effects of Climate Change” then answer the following questions. Be prepared to share your interpretations to the class.

Source; National Geographic (3 min)

  1. How does the Greenhouse Effect impact the temperature of Earth’s surface?
  2. Describe the various consequences of Climate Change.
  3. How can humans combat the harmful effects of Climate Change?

Exit Ticket: Based on evidence presented in this lesson and your knowledge of the issues, in your opinion, is climate change truly a threat to humanity? Explain citing evidence.

Natural or Human Disaster?

Directions: Read the historical context below and analyze the following sources. Examine how the Earth’s environment can be altered from natural or human causes then interpret how climate change has influenced the damages accrued from natural disasters.

Historical Context: Climate Change refers to the change in global climate patterns from sea level rises to ice glacier losses. It has existed for the past hundreds of thousands of years as the conditions of the Earth have been adjusted due to natural alterations of the environmental properties. However, recent human activity since the Industrial Revolution has been severely influencing Earth’s environment to the point of no return. If further human activity remains unmonitored for the consideration of Earth’s properties, unforeseen consequences could result in negative impacts for all living beings.

Krakatoa and its Threats to Civilizations (1883)


     Natural phenomenon like volcanic eruptions give scientists clues to how climate can rapidly change and the impact of these changes on human civilizations. Krakatoa is a volcanic island in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra. It is about 3 miles wide and less than miles long. Prior to a massive eruption in 416 A.D., it was actually an isthmus connecting the other two islands. There were also volcanic eruptions in 535, 850, 950, 1050, 1150, 1320, 1530, 1680, and 1883. The 1883 eruption spewed so much volcanic ash into the atmosphere that average global temperatures fell by 2.2 °F the following year and weather patterns did not return to normal until 1888. The 535 eruption combined with suspected volcanic activity in Central America and Iceland in 540 to low average global temperature by 3.6°F producing the coldest decade in the last 2,000 years. A sun-blocking blanket of sulfur particles in the stratosphere led to famine across much of Europe, the continents first recorded pandemic of Bubonic Plague, and may have been the final blow causing the end of the Roman Empire. The eruptions also contributed to crop failure and mass starvation in China where it snowed in August, drought in Peru, a dense fog covering North Africa and Southwest Asia, the decline of native civilizations in Mesoamerica, and the migration of Mongolian tribes westward.

Krakatoa Eruption (1883)

1. Were damages caused by natural or human activity? Explain using evidence.

2. How does this article provide evidence to support concerns about climate change?

Hurricane Katrina Disaster (2005)

Source: ts-over-people-the-human-cause-of-the-katrinadisaster/ 

     The political and engineering failures that caused the devastation in New Orleans were decades in the making. First, the storm surge was amplified by years of oil and natural gas companies degrading the integrity of the wetlands with pipelines, causing the land to sink at an alarming rate. The Mississippi River levee system was created in response to the sinking wetlands, but this system actually compounds the problem by preventing much of the river’s silt from being deposited in the ocean where it creates a natural buffer. Combined, these factors have eroded one million square acres of Bayou since 1930, bringing the coastline 30 miles closer to New Orleans and leaving only a 20 mile buffer from hurricanes. Katrina surges of 10 – 20 feet in New Orleans would have been 0 – 9 feet with better oversight of corporations carving up the wetlands – not big enough to breach the levees.

     Another preventable human aspect of Katrina was a network of levees suffering from poor design and disrepair from bureaucratic bickering; an 80% cut to levee repair funds under the Bush Administration and misspent money. After Katrina, the Corps admitted that “the hurricane protection system in New Orleans and southeast Louisiana was a system in name only,” “an inconsistent patchwork of protection, containing flaws in design and construction, and not built to handle a hurricane anywhere near the size of Katrina.”

Hurricane Katrina (2005)

  1.  Were damages caused by natural or human activity? Explain using evidence.
  2. How does this article provide evidence to support concerns about climate change?

Lesson 2 Aim: How do a country’s policies influence climate change?

Main Ideas: 

  1. The governments of the world must take active and responsible actions to support the sustainability of Earth’s environment.     
  2. Collaborative efforts amongst countries can be a constructive approach to advance the world’s actions to limit the wastes emitted onto Earth’s atmosphere such as the composition of the Paris Climate Deal.
  3. Irresponsible actions of various countries such as the commencement of the Syrian Civil War equate to worsening conditions of the Earth’s climate.

Next Generation Skills:

Determine central ideas of a government’s influence on the conditions of Climate Change.

• Compare viewpoints and assess reasoning on the differing advantages and disadvantages of the Paris Climate Deal.

• Use of multiple sources of information to assess the various consequences of actions on the environment as exhibited through the Syrian Civil War.


Paris Climate Accord: An agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to limit the amount of greenhouse gases produced by each individual country.

Syrian Civil War: An ongoing armed conflict between the forces of the Ba’ath government who is determined to remove its current government.

Emissions: The Greenhouse gases released into the air produced by human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels.

Carbon Footprint: The amount of carbon dioxide produced due to the consumption of fossil fuels by a particular group, person, etc.

Do Now: Students will be given a handout with a political cartoon that characterizes the inactive state country governments may take prior to the escalation of harmful Climate Change effects. Four questions will be provided for students to answer as well as they observe the image. After the students are given a few moments to individually answer the questions, the class will come together to assess the importance of the cartoon. A country’s agenda should be devoted to preventing any disasters from occurring that could harm the safety of a country’s people. This notion should also pertain to the threat Climate Change could potentially have if it is not properly addressed in an urgent matter.

Motivation: The inactivity of a country’s government toward Climate Change can be related to a student’s decision to procrastinate from a school assignment. Although it may be tempting to focus on matters that can be viewed more significant at the moment, the failure to execute a task in a timely matter could evolve into an urgent matter that is rushed and not properly taken care of. A poor grade on a rushed assignment can signify a future result of a deteriorating environment of the planet if government officials do not take the necessary actions that are needed. This connection can communicate to students the current state of the political issue of Climate Change and how significant it is for the world’s leaders to collaborate their efforts to formulate a solution before it is too late.

Individual/Team/Full Class Activities: Individuals will view the article on the Paris Climate Accord, formulate their interpretations, and then offer their findings to the class. Differing views will be opened to a class discussion for all to contribute. Cooperative groups will then be formed to participate in a gallery walk of the three sources related to the Syrian Civil War. Groups will observe each source and then answer the guiding questions provided to them. Once each source has been observed by the groups, all students will participate in a class discussion to discuss the significant qualities from each source and how it relates to the issue of a government’s irresponsible actions toward Climate Change.

Differentiation and Multiple Entry Points: Multiple entry points include political cartoon examination, document analysis, discussion, and evaluating opinions. Students will work individually and in teams to support different learners and learning styles.

Compelling Questions:

  • What are the dangers of leaving decision makers unaccounted for?

• Could government acts with good intentions be as ineffective as taking no action at all?

• How could the wars of foreign countries indirectly influence our world?


Informal: I will be an ex officio member of student teams and review work as teams conduct research and reach conclusions on the various consequences of good and bad government action to combat Climate Change.

Formal: Teacher collects and evaluate an exit ticket where students answer the question: how could the actions of countries positively and negatively influence Climate Change?

Closure: The class will end with and exit ticket student discussion of the question: how could the actions of countries positively and negatively influence Climate Change? I will allow students to evaluate for themselves how government actions are capable of the best and worst possible results possible in regards to the monitoring of Climate Change.

Classroom Application: Students will have access to other images and videos that analyze the consequences of climate change on a society.

Paris Climate Accord of 2015

Directions: Analyze the article excerpt below on the details surrounding the ratified Paris Climate Accord to stop Climate Change, then answer the following questions. Be prepared to present your findings.


     The world has agreed the first universal, legally binding deal to tackle global warming, in a move that David Cameron said marked “a huge step forward in helping to secure the future of our planet”. The deal, agreed at UN talks in Paris, commits countries to try to keep global temperature rises “well below” 2C, the level that is likely to herald the worst effects of climate change. It also commits them to “pursue efforts” to limit warming to 1.5C  – a highly ambitious goal that could require the U.K. to take even more radical action than under its existing Climate Change Act.

     Amber Rudd, the Energy Secretary, admitted that the world did not “have the answers yet” as to how it would meet the long-term goals of the Paris deal, which would require carbon to be extracted from the atmosphere by the second half of this century. The deal requires countries to set increasingly ambitious targets for cutting their national emissions and to report on their progress – but, crucially, leaves the actual targets, which are not legally binding, for countries to decide for themselves. The deal also requires developed nations to continue to provide funding to help poorer countries cut their carbon emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change – but does not set a legally binding level of money.


  1. What was decided by the Paris Climate Accord?
  2. How could the agreement benefit the world’s efforts to stop Climate Change?
  3. Why would politicians oppose the Paris Climate Deal?
  4. In your opinion, do you believe the Paris Climate Deal is an effective measure for the entire world to combat Climate Change?

Climate Change and War

Directions: Read the historical context below and then analyze the following sources. Consider the information from each source then answer the following questions.

Historical Context: In recent time, governments of various countries have become more mindful of their actions regarding Climate Change to prevent environmental conditions from worsening. Some governments have taken progressive steps through actions devoted to stop climate change, such as the Paris Climate Deal. Other countries, however, have committed questionable actions that threaten the health of the environment as well as the conditions of their society, such as the Syrian Civil War.

Source #1: Water, Drought, Climate Change, and Conflict in Syria


1. What were the main causes of the Syrian War?

2. How have environmental conditions been affected as a result of the Syrian war efforts?

     The devastating civil war that began in Syria in March 2011 is the result of complex interrelated factors. The focus of the conflict is regime change, but the triggers include a broad set of religious and sociopolitical factors, the erosion of the economic health of the country, a wave of political reform sweeping over the Middle East and North Africa region, and challenges associated with climate variability and change and the availability and use of freshwater. Water and climatic conditions have played a direct role in the deterioration of Syria’s economic conditions. There is a long history of conflicts over water in these regions because of the natural water scarcity, the early development of irrigated agriculture, and complex religious and ethnic diversity. In recent years, there has been an increase in incidences of water-related violence around the world at the subnational level attributable to the role that water plays in development disputes and economic activities.

Source # 2: Syrian Civil War Climate Change Graphics



1. In Box A and B, respectively, how have the conditions of precipitation and surface temperature reacted since 2006?

2. How will Syrian war efforts influence the climate conditions already present in Syria?

Source #3: Syrian Political Cartoon


  1. What does the map implicate about the targets in Syria as well as the act of making war advancements in general?
  2. How could foreign influence in war efforts be detrimental toward Climate Change efforts?

Exit Ticket: Based on the information from today’s lesson, how could the actions of countries positively and negatively influence Climate Change? Use specific examples in your answer.     

Lesson 3 Aim: What actions can individuals take to stop or reduce the threat of climate change?

Main Ideas:

  1. Activists across the world have the capability to influence an organization’s actions on issues; including Climate Change.
  2. Not all activist efforts are peacefully negotiated and must be considered with care.
  3. The simple act of informing the public can qualify as an honest activist effort.

Next Generation Skills:

  • Determine central ideas of the influences of activism on the agendas of organizations toward Climate Change
  • Compare the different viewpoints of varying activist efforts and consider why certain protests ended more viciously than others.


Activism: The policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change.

Anti-WAAhnsinn Festival: Protest involving a series of rock concerts to raise awareness to stop the construction of Power Plants in Germany.

Plane Stupid Protest: Protest involving the blocking of airplanes from leaving the Heathrow Airport to prevent further construction that could induce Climate Change to increase. 2018 UN Protest: Protest effort from young adults to coerce national leaders to shift their agenda focuses on stopping Climate Change

Do Now: Students will view a video on the “Rise for Climate” March and assess the characteristics of the protest. Students will be asked to investigate the qualities of the protest from the attitude, the protest itself, and the end results, This evaluation will provide a proper introduction to the nature of activism and how it influences the decisions of lawmakers and the public.

 Motivation: Students discuss if they have ever participated in or witnessed a protest. Once experiences are shared, the class will discuss if they believe activist efforts influenced government policy. This will transition into the conversation of activism in general and how it plays a pinnacle role in advocating for Climate Change reform.

Individual/Team/Full Class Activities: Students will form into cooperative groups read and analyze three protests across history around the world and assess the significant qualities from each protest. The class will then come together to assess their findings from each source and determine the overall effectiveness of each protest. Students will discuss the process that creates an effective protest and how its success differentiates itself from the efforts of individual contributors with personal agendas.

Differentiation And Multiple Entry Points: Multiple entry points include document analysis, discussion, evaluating opinions, image analysis, and video. Students will work individually and in teams to support different learners and learning styles.

Compelling Questions:

• When should people engage in activism and protest?

• What makes a protest effective or ineffective?

• How do we decide if a protest achieved its goals?


Informally: I will be an ex officio member of student teams and review work as teams conduct research and reach conclusions on the various protests that have been conducted regarding Climate Change.

Formally: I will collect and evaluate an exit ticket where students answer the question: what kinds of actions can individuals take to stop Climate Change?     

Closure: The class will end with and exit ticket student discussion of the question: what kinds of actions can individuals take to stop Climate Change? I will allow students to evaluate for themselves if it is logical to make act differently from a country’s status quo if a collective interest is achieved to alter the decision of the private majority.

Classroom Application: Students prepare a “protest campaign” to stop or reduce climate change.


Historical Context: The concept of activism has existed for centuries as individuals aim to voice their concerns about the current state of their country’s government. Whether it intends to spread awareness on a certain matter or bring about immediate change to an issue, activism has been an essential tool for the common public to influence the state of their societal rights. In regard to Climate Change, plenty of individuals have taken activist action throughout the years to preserve the health of the Earth’s environment.

1. Anti-WAAhnsinn Festival (1980s)

     Because the Upper Palatinate in Wackersdorf wanted no nuclear waste, they organized in 1986 the “antiWAAhnsinns” festival. 120,000 spectators and the first league of German rock musicians gathered for a unique protest event. The grounds of the “Anti-WAAhnsinns” rock festival on 26 and 27 July 1986 in Burglengenfeld is surprisingly well documented. In Wackersdorf in Upper Palatinate, a reprocessing plant for nuclear waste was planned, and the resistance benefit concert with the then top staff of Deutschrock, held by youth center activists in the nearby Burglengenfeld, is still the second largest music festival with 120,000 spectators. The rallies offered the bands unimaginable publicity, in return brought the new stars the much needed by citizens’ initiatives anthems on the radio. But above all, the “Anti-Waahnsinns” festival is a monument to a huge civic movement.

2. Plane Stupid Protest (2016)     

     Thirteen activists who cut through a fence at Heathrow Airport and chained themselves together on a runway have been told to “expect jail sentences”. The protesters, part of action group Plane Stupid, were found guilty at Willesden Magistrates’ Court of aggravated trespass and entering a security restricted area. They oppose the planned expansion of the Heathrow Airport and its environmental impact. District Judge Deborah Wright said all the defendants were people of integrity who were concerned about climate change and Heathrow expansion. The activists previously admitted to being on the runway but said such action was necessary to stop people dying from the effects of pollution and climate change.

3. UN Protest (2018) 

     The summit agreed rules for implementing the 2015 Paris agreement, which aims to keep global warming as close to 1.5C (2.7F) as possible, but it made little progress in increasing governments’ commitments to cut emissions. The world remains on track for 3C of warming, which scientists says will bring catastrophic extreme weather. National leaders at the summit, however, had failed to address the urgency of climate change, which is already making heatwaves and storms more frequent and intense, harming millions of people. May Boeve, the executive director of the 350.orgclimate change campaign group, said: “Hope now rests on the shoulders of the many people who are rising to take action: the inspiring children who started an unprecedented wave of strikes in schools to support a fossil-free future; the 1,000-plus institutions that committed to pull their money out of coal, oil, and gas, and the many communities worldwide who keep resisting fossil fuel development.”

4. Global Student Climate Strike (2019)

     On March 15, 2019 hundreds of thousands of high school and middle school students around the world will walk out of school to demand immediate government action to reverse the global climate crisis. As of Sunday March 10, over 950 protests were planned in more than 80 countries. In an op-ed published in the British newspaper The Guardian, the global coordination group of the youth-led climate strike wrote: “We, the young, are deeply concerned about our future. Humanity is currently causing the sixth mass extinction of species and the global climate system is at the brink of a catastrophic crisis. It’s devastating impacts are already felt by millions of people around the globe . . . The youth of this world has started to move and we will not rest again.”

Political Documentary Activism

Instructions: Sometimes, activism can take place simply by informing the public of a present-day issue. View the clip from the Harrison Ford documentary “Last Stand” and then answer the following questions. Prepare to share your answers to the class. Last Stand Clip (2 min)          


1. How does deforestation impact the environment?

2. How is the production of palm oil related to Climate Change?

3. What was this documentary piece successful in communicating?

Exit Ticket: Based on the information from today’s lesson, what kinds of actions can individuals take to stop Climate Change? Compose your answer with a specific example.

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