What Should We Do About Global Warming?

Quicktime Movies by G. C. Lisensky and S. C. Thorp

SESSION 1: What Do We Need To Know About Global Warming?

This session sets the stage for the module by exposing you to two opposing sides of the global warming issue. You will discuss prior knowledge, critically analyze media presentations, and formulate questions which will form the framework for the rest of the module.

Effects of Climate Change

SESSION 2: What Is A Greenhouse Gas?: Visible and Infrared Spectroscopy

In this session, you will use visible and infrared spectroscopy to investigate the absorption characteristics that are unique to greenhouse gases. A brief analysis of the nature of the electromagnetic spectrum and the interaction of light with matter will accompany the spectroscopic investigation.

Infrared Spectra of Greenhouse Gases

SESSION 3: What Determines Whether A Gas Is A Greenhouse Gas?:
Lewis Structures and VSEPR, Polarity and Infrared Activity

In this session you will be introduced to the nature of chemical bonding and molecular shape. You will also explore polarity and how molecular shape influences the absorption of light.

Exploration 3A: How are the Atoms in Greenhouse Gas Molecules Connected?
Exploration 3B: What Are The Shapes of The Greenhouse Gas Molecules?
Exploration 3C: What Determines Whether a Gas Absorbs Infrared Radiation?

Greenhouse Gas Molecules

Infrared Spectra of Greenhouse Gases

SESSION 4: How Much Are Greenhouse Gas Concentrations Changing?

In this session, you will graphically interpret the behavior of greenhouse gas concentrations as a function of time. Conversion between different units of measure will be necessary for comparison of the concentrations of different greenhouse gases.

Greenhouse Gas Molecules

Longterm Trends

SESSION 5: Why Are Greenhouse Gas Concentrations Rising?

In order to understand why greenhouse gas concentrations are rising, we need to understand how these gases are created and destroyed. In this session you will research the sources and sinks of the greenhouse gases, and develop a qualitative understanding for why the concentrations are rising. In the process, you will develop skills in formulating and balancing chemical equations and literature and world wide web research.

Exploration 5A: What Happens When You Breathe Into Water?
Exploration 5B: What are the Sources and Sinks of Greenhouse Gases?
Exploration 5C: Why are Greenhouse Gas Levels Rising?

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

SESSION 6: Are You a Significant Source of Greenhouse Gases?

In this session you will use laboratory investigations and stoichiometric calculations to determine whether you personally are a significant source of greenhouse gases. You will examine your daily activities to estimate which have the greatest impacts on greenhouse gas levels. For instance, are you responsible for more carbon dioxide emissions if you drive to Boston or fly? Balancing equations, mole calculations, stoichiometry, unit conversions, experimental design, and order of magnitude estimation are skills that will be developed during this session.

Exploration 6A: Are You a Significant Source of Carbon Dioxide?
Exploration 6B: Which Daily Activities Contribute to Rising Greenhouse Gas Levels?

SESSION 7: Is The Earth Warming?

Has the average temperature of the Earth increased significantly over the last century? Is this increase attributable to human activities? These are the questions you will tackle during this session.

Temperature Trends

Culminating Activity: What Should We Do About Global Warming?

In this culminating activity, you will be asked to reach a conclusion about what we should do about global warming. This activity will force you to articulate what you have learned during the module and to support your conclusions with scientific data. Your instructor will decide the format of this activity; papers, debates, posters, and discussions are possibilities.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Effects of Climate Change