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Author

Gabrielle Sierra

Grades

9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects

Science, Social Studies, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences, Engineering

Resource Type

  • Podcasts, 23 minutes, 48 seconds

Regional Focus

Global

Why It Matters: Dimming the Sky

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Synopsis
  • This podcast episode from the Council on Foreign Relations centers on the controversial topic of solar geoengineering as a means to slow global warming. 
  • Students will learn that solar geoengineering, or the process of using aerosolized chemicals in the atmosphere to reflect sunlight, poses a variety of potential dangers, including the risk of ozone depletion, increased air pollution, reduced crop yields, and changes in precipitation. 
  • The podcast episode also includes a thought-provoking discussion on the geopolitics of solar geoengineering. 
Teaching Tips

Positives

  • A transcript of the podcast episode is provided.
  • The show notes offer a variety of linked articles and videos for students who want to learn more about the topics discussed in the episode.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Because the episode is long, students may benefit from listening to shorter segments.
  • The first segment (0:00- 3:14) discusses the origins and problems of climate change.
  • The second segment (3:15- 5:59) explains how solar geoengineering works
  • The third segment (6:00- 12:15) presents the scientific risks of solar geoengineering.
  • The fourth segment (12:16- 17:00) explores the geopolitical risks of solar geoengineering. 
  • The fifth segment (17:01-23:45) explains the concern that solar geoengineering could result in people ignoring the root problem of greenhouse gas emissions.

Differentiation

  • Social studies, government, and civics classes could use this resource to discuss the kinds of safeguards that would be necessary in order to safely implement solar geoengineering on a global scale. 
  • Earth science classes could examine the relationship between volcanic eruptions and cooler temperatures on earth.
  • Ethics classes could debate whether the potential benefits of solar geoengineering outweigh the potential risks.
  • Advanced students could listen to the podcast episode for homework in preparation for a class discussion the following day.
  • Other resources on this topic include this video from Kurzgesagt - In a Nutshell on geoengineering, this podcast episode about clouds and climate change, and this media literacy activity on geoengineering.
Scientist Notes
Solar geoengineering is one of the most controversial and cutting-edge areas of research in climate science today. This podcast episode from the Council on Foreign Relations does an excellent job at presenting accurate science while also talking about the potential dire risks associated with geoengineering. This resource is recommended for teaching.
Standards
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS2: Earth's 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.
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • HS-ESS3-4 Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.
    • ETS1: Engineering Design
      • HS-ETS1-1 Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.
      • HS-ETS1-3 Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Civics
      • D2.Civ.13.9-12 Evaluate public policies in terms of intended and unintended outcomes, and related consequences.
      • D2.Civ.14.9-12 Analyze historical, contemporary, and emerging means of changing societies, promoting the common good, and protecting rights.
    • Dimension 2: Geography
      • D2.Geo.4.9-12 Analyze relationships and interactions within and between human and physical systems to explain reciprocal influences that occur among them.
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Speaking & Listening (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) in order to make informed decisions and solve problems, evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source and noting any discrepancies among the data.
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