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Climate Change Debate Topics

By: SubjectToClimate Team

May 29, 2022 | 8 minute read

Currently, many world leaders are debating topics related to climate change and this is a great opportunity for teachers to help students understand what the conversation is really about. However, facilitating a student debate on topics related to climate change can be tricky to navigate as a teacher. Mastering a classroom debate isn’t just about teaching students to express their point of view on a topic appropriately, but also helping them to develop skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and presenting.

As teachers, it is more important than ever to teach students the significance of factual and scientific information on climate change as well as how to eloquently voice and build their own opinions on how they and society can address climate change. In this blog, teachers will find a climate change debate guide, which is an overview of how to introduce climate change debates. We have also created a handy student climate change guide that breaks down the background knowledge needed before the debate,  the step-by-step structure of the debate, and finally 5 climate change debate topics. Let's dive in!


Teachers can use this section to introduce climate change information to their students. This step is important as students will need factual background information before they begin the debate. Check out these resources below to explore with your students!

The Effects of Climate Change

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Earth and Space Sciences, World Languages, Spanish

Resource Type: Article

This resource from NASA provides students with texts, data, interactive media, animated models, and graphs that explain how climate change is impacting the Earth now and how it will impact the Earth in the future. Students can read about the ways that climate change will affect the different regions of the United States and access links to additional information to prepare themselves for specific debate topics. 

Introduction to Climate Change

Grade: K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th

Subjects: Science, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Type: Video

It is important for your students to understand the causes and effects of climate change before the classroom debate, as it will help them form well-rounded opinions. Teachers can show their students this easy-to-understand animated video which explores introductory information on climate change that can be used for kindergarten through fifth-grade students.

Who Is Responsible For Climate Change? – Who Needs To Fix It?

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Social Studies, History, Justice

Resource Type: Video

Who Is Responsible For Climate Change? – Who Needs To Fix It? ” is an informative video that provides detailed information about historic and current carbon emissions, designated by location.  Students will learn about climate change solutions which will be beneficial knowledge to use during the debate. They will also explore graphs and maps which draw many comparisons that could be useful in addressing a variety of questions about climate change.

Debate Prep

Now that your students have background information on climate change, let’s discuss the layout of how the debate will look in your classroom. Here is a step-by-step guide you can follow! Find more helpful tips on structuring a classroom debate here.

Debate Topics

It is time to explore topics! Below you can choose from 5 different debate topics related to climate change or try them all with your class. 

Debate Land Use in Brazil

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Social Studies, English Language Arts


ClimateScience provides a guide to carrying out a debate focused on one of two climate change problems identified in Brazil: niobium mining and deforestation. There are two debates to choose from in the handout and credible resources attached for students to research in preparation for the debate. Just follow the simple instructions provided and you are ready to have your classroom debate!

Students will sharpen their debate and analytical skills on environmentalism, justice, and advocacy. If you are looking for a similar debate structure with a different topic there is also the Debate Energy in Israel.

Getting Started

› Consider inviting other students or faculty to judge this debate.

› Extend this activity by asking the students to adapt their speech to an article.

Can Mass Carbon Capture Really Work?

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Chemistry, Earth and Space Sciences, Climate Action

Interested in teaching your students about carbon capture? Use this PBS video “Can Mass Carbon Capture Really Work?” as a jumping-off point for a debate.  Students will explore aspects of carbon capture, including different methods that have been used and positive and negative impacts. After the video, teachers can facilitate a classroom debate on the pros and cons of the proposed solutions.

Getting Started

› This video could be a lesson hook for middle and high school science classes.

Related Resources

Further exploration on this topic can be found in these videos

Mini-Debate: National Parks

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Social Studies

National Parks are stunning tourist attractions, but at what cost? Students will explore how overcrowding destroys wildlife and plants within the parks. Global Futures outlines the debate topic where students will argue for or against limiting visitation to national parks.

Students will learn about the benefits and current issues with national parks and analyze the pros and cons through articles linked in the lesson plan. Teachers can also utilize these Google Slides from Arizona State University (ASU) when teaching this lesson.

Getting Started

› Teachers can have their students research the national parks that get the least visitors each year and come up with a public service campaign to promote those parks in order to redistribute the number of visitors going to the same parks.

Related Resources

Further exploration on this topic can be found in these videos

Yukon Kings

Grade: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Biology, Social-Emotional Learning, World Languages, Spanish

Yukon Kings is a beautiful film about a Yup'ik fisherman trying to preserve family traditions, including salmon fishing in the Alaskan Yukon Delta. Salmon fishing is currently threatened by environmental and cultural forces. Students will debate if cultural changes like the ones depicted in the film are inevitable consequences of “progress,” or should we actively work to preserve these cultural traditions?

Global Oneness Project has put together a complete instruction guide on how to structure the debate in your classroom and a reflection activity on this debate topic. The Resiliency Among the Salmon People lesson plan and Yukon Kings video are both available to download in English and Spanish.

Social Studies, Geography, and History Classes

Students could research the history of the Yup'ik people.

Social Studies and Economics Classes

Discuss how the dependence on fossil fuels for transportation has had a negative impact on the Yup'ik people.

English or Art Classes

Study this watercolor painting by artist Jill Pelto that depicts the decline of the salmon population.

The Energy Storage Problem

Grade: 3rd, 4th, 5th

Subjects: Science, English Language Arts, Engineering

The Energy Storage Problem activity by ClimateScience analyzes solutions for storing renewable energy. Students will debate which solutions are the best for storing renewable energy. Teachers can use the guide and e-book, Sven’s Search for Clean Energy, with their students to research solutions for storing renewable energy. Students can work in groups to develop their arguments. 

Younger students will need more scaffolding on how to acknowledge opposing ideas, craft a rebuttal, etc. In upper elementary classes, teachers may want to appoint specific roles to each group to provide structure (such as a team leader for a group who will present the arguments and ascribe to document their arguments). Prior to the debate, the class could develop ground rules to promote respect, understanding, and effective listening.

Getting Started

› Instead of reading it in class, the book can be read as an assignment to foster deeper analysis.

Related Resources

The Renewable Energy Unit Plan was created by StC and can be used individually or sequentially as a mini-unit. Click the buttons below and explore!

As your students learn how to research and defend different opinions about topics related to climate change, you are giving them the ability to have conversations about real-world issues that will greatly impact their communities. Learning to appropriately present your ideas while having respect for other people’s opinions is a lifelong skill. Find more lesson plans and resources on climate change on our site.