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Paleontological Research Institution, Ingrid Zabel


9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Chemistry, Earth and Space Sciences

Regional Focus



YouTube Video

The Culprit(s) Behind Our Changing Climate

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  • In this recorded presentation, physicist Ingrid Zabel demonstrates how scientists have collected data proving that the unprecedented amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is linked to an increase in global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution. 
  • Students will learn that deforestation, agriculture, volcanic eruptions, ocean outgassing, and fossil fuel burning all contribute carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, but evidence from carbon isotopes shows that fossil fuels are the dominant cause of climate change. 
  • The video gives many examples of individual-level actions that can help combat climate change, as well as society-level solutions. 
Teaching Tips


  • This video gives an excellent and easy-to-follow explanation of how scientists know that climate change is being caused by fossil fuels.
  • Students will learn that there are pros and cons to many climate solutions, and no one solution will solve climate change.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should be familiar with the concept of isotopes.
  • The video is long, so teachers may want to show it in parts.


  • Chemistry classes could use this video to learn more about carbon isotopes and real-world applications of chemistry concepts.
  • Science classes could make a list of the video's suggestions for individuals to use less energy and then add other ideas to the list.
  • Students can predict which of the potential suspects among deforestation, agriculture, volcanic eruptions, ocean outgassing, and fossil fuel burning is most responsible for the carbon dioxide building in our atmosphere.
  • Other resources on this topic include this comprehensive lesson on isotopes, this interactive diagram of the carbon cycle, and these interactive graphs that show atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.
Scientist Notes
This 35-minute video presents an overview of our scientific understanding of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse effect, and what measurements have been taken that can serve as evidence for anthropogenic climate change. Various types of climate change fingerprints, such as observations of carbon dioxide and carbon isotopes, are presented. Various actions to reduce anthropogenic climate change impacts are also presented. This resource is recommended for teaching.

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
      • HS-LS1-6 Construct and revise an explanation based on evidence for how carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen from sugar molecules may combine with other elements to form amino acids and/or other large carbon-based molecules.
      • HS-LS1-7 Use a model to illustrate that cellular respiration is a chemical process whereby the bonds of food molecules and oxygen molecules are broken and the bonds in new compounds are formed resulting in a net transfer of energy.
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • HS-ESS2-2 Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.
      • HS-ESS2-4 Use a model to describe how variations in the flow of energy into and out of Earth’s systems result in changes in climate.
      • HS-ESS2-6 Develop a quantitative model to describe the cycling of carbon among the hydrosphere, atmosphere, geosphere, and biosphere.
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