Author Topic: The Causes of Global Warming  (Read 8525 times)

kevincooper777

  • Established Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 364
    • View Profile
Re: The Causes of Global Warming
« Reply #15 on: May 23, 2009, 01:05:14 PM »
I  feel teaching about climate change - which we are all required to do, by new KS3 as well as by GCSE / A-level Specs - is fraught with difficulty.

I have read a number of posts by Stuart Hitch on this forum that make me think he feels it important to put forward a more sceptical view than has become the norm in the past few years - to counteract the hype and Orwellian think-speak that has begun to dominate in the climate change / global warming debate.  Apologies if I have misconstrued this Stuart.

Others (BST? - again, forgive me if I am wrong) seem a little incredulous that anyone could possibly be putting doubt in the minds of young people that anything other than a total commitment to reducing our carbon footprint might be OK - I suppose there is an 'Inconvenient Truth'-type argument here that the safe option IS total commitment to reducing greenhouse gases - even if it makes no difference, or sea-levels do not rise as they are predicted, it's not the end of the world, and probably will have generated some positive side-effects, like increase in health and fitness from less use of cars, etc., etc. - whereas if it turns out to be right, and we did nothing....

As posts in this thread have indicated, it is hard to know where to pitch things.  I found it hard when writing the CGP pages on this for the new AS-level guide (p76-85 if you have it) - the Edexcel Spec seemed to be quite 'PC' about it all, but I felt it important to avoid sweeping statements and over-confident conclusions, prefering to use phrases like "many / most researchers believe...", "there seems to be increasing amounts of evidence to support the view that..." etc.

I think there is fantastic 'thinking skills' type stuff here - e.g. seeing views on climate change as a SPECTRUM of possibilities rather than bi-polar - and I believe it is important to suggest to the students that there are lots of intelligent and sincere academics who take up positions almost right across the spectrum of views. 

Awareness of possible bias is another vitally important angle to explore - but even there I think we need to be wary about being TOO confident in concluding that e.g. Soon et al are motivated by their 'oil company pay cheques' to put forward views and policies which are patently scientifically snd morally wrong.

I also think we have a moral obligation to say to the students "this is what I think, but please be aware that (a) I am no expert; (b) many people have views different from my own" - and also to encourage them to develop their own views based on evidence and considered thought - whilst also being aware that they might well be wrong.

How do others pitch things?

swhitch

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1013
    • View Profile
Re: The Causes of Global Warming
« Reply #16 on: May 24, 2009, 12:39:06 PM »
I try to provide students the opportunity to think for themsleves, after all that is real learning isn't it? If this involves providing them with data that does not fit the percieved wisdom then so be it. The choice the students make is theirs not one that has been imposed upon them.

Stuart
FRGS, FGS, C.Geog.
Head of Geography

kevincooper777

  • Established Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 364
    • View Profile
Re: The Causes of Global Warming
« Reply #17 on: May 25, 2009, 12:30:29 AM »
I try to provide students the opportunity to think for themsleves, after all that is real learning isn't it? If this involves providing them with data that does not fit the percieved wisdom then so be it. The choice the students make is theirs not one that has been imposed upon them.

Stuart

I quite agree - I have always tried to have this approach - I'm especially sensitive to it having taught in a so-called brain-washing creationist academy (a media construct - Sir Peter Vardy doesn't even believe in a 'young earth', though like most Christians he believes God made the earth).

But I'm interested to know whether or not I have misconstrued you Stuart when I say "I have read a number of posts by Stuart Hitch on this forum that make me think he feels it important to put forward a more sceptical view than has become the norm in the past few years - to counteract the hype and Orwellian think-speak that has begun to dominate in the climate change / global warming debate" - I am not trying to take up an antagonistic view, I am neutral on this one, but I am interested as I hear so little these days from teachers (or even the media) that challenges the now conventional view of the issue - i.e. more or less as put forward by Al Gore etc.

And I certainly think that encouraging a little healthy cynicism can't be such a bad thing (but then, how much is 'healthy' in a potentially world-changing issue like this?)

zyxwvut

  • Established Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 412
    • View Profile
Re: The Causes of Global Warming
« Reply #18 on: May 25, 2009, 10:53:46 AM »
Just came across this site when I was looking for something else. Although all the lesson plans etc. are set up for a Scottish audience there is an excellent links page. If you click through the 'Encyclopaedia of the Atmospheric Environment' link you'll find loads of information/resources designed for KS3 & KS4.

http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/climatechange/resources/index.asp

 

swhitch

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1013
    • View Profile
Re: The Causes of Global Warming
« Reply #19 on: May 30, 2009, 12:39:03 AM »
The thread is entitled "The Causes of Global Warming" ....... not "The Human Causes of Global Warming" and therefore one should assume that there maybe both natural and anthropogenic causes of climate change.

Whether or not I am sceptical of global warming is irrelevant what is relevant is that students are provided with all possible causes including the ones that do not fit the current wisdom being driven long and hard at them in all key stages and across a number of subjects. I would hope that good science sees the students make conclusions based on all the evidence they have reviewed and not first conclude only then to accept the evidence that fits their conclusion. We should be creating critical thinkers not robots.

In relation to global warming are we considering the following?

Polar regions free of permanent ice caps and covered with forest vegetation. In the northern high latitudes in the Canadian Arctic broad-leaved deciduous forests dominated by dawn redwood (Metasequoia) along with pines, spruce and larch. Flowering trees such as alder, birch, and hickory and animals such as turtles. Polar summers with relatively high temperatures (24 °C) and with winter temperatures that remain mild, even as far as 80°N.

If so that is actually a return to the PAST, the past of about 50 Million years ago according to Professor Jane Francis ( view the Geol. Soc Lecture here http://www.geolsoc.org.uk/gsl/site/GSL/lang/en/arctic )."Fifty million years ago during the Eocene the climate was globally warm with atmospheric CO2 levels much like those predicted for our future warm world."........... when humans had NO impact upon  CO2 and climate change and climate changed as a result of wholly natural fluctuations. The Geological record shows many periods of extreme climates both hot and cold.

A concerned student, or citizen, must surely ask "What caused this global warming 50 Million years ago when no humans were burning fossils fuels?", "Has it happened before in geological history and could it happen again?"

Any viewing of reliable data on global temperatures will show a great cyclicity between Ice Ages and Interglacials, way before any human influences were on the scene. Should students not be encouraged to ask: "What caused those Ice Ages? Why are they so cyclical? How and why did they end? etc. etc.

When predictions for the weather cannot be forecast accurately enough for a Bank Holiday weekend in Bournemouth ( http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/5394066/Bournemouth-attacks-Met-Office-for-negative-forecasts-that-cost-millions.html ) then how, students may ask, can we rely on predictions for the climate for the next 100 years plus? Fortunately students are prepared to question and to challenge and they deserve to be provided with the range of "causes".

Seems immoral to have to tell students "Don't write this in an exam as you are unlikely to score highly but there are other causes to global warming than simply anthropogenic impacts".

Simply, there are many different causes and it is an awareness of the relative importance of these that is crucial to an understanding of what is actually going on.


Stuart
« Last Edit: May 30, 2009, 04:21:20 PM by swhitch »
FRGS, FGS, C.Geog.
Head of Geography

lidlest

  • Guest
Re: The Causes of Global Warming
« Reply #20 on: May 31, 2009, 04:09:27 PM »
Brilliant link - UPD8 stuff, I am going to use that with the powerpoint i made last year working through the inconvient truth , and do the activity comparing it with the GGWS. I know that my little eco-warriors will come down on the side that even if we may not be the cause of global warming there is no point polluting for pollutings sake. Ergo... i've totally pushed the sustainability agenda whilst letting them reach that conclusion themselves.

Thanks so much for that link, i was totally stuck in a funk with 5 lessons of work for 8 lesson.

x

kevincooper777

  • Established Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 364
    • View Profile
Re: The Causes of Global Warming
« Reply #21 on: June 01, 2009, 05:06:11 AM »
Sorry to hijack a 'resources' thread with more philosophical stuff...

 - I would hope all teachers explain that climate fluctuations are a natural process - that has to be the baseline to then discuss the extent to which the human causes have altered the natural pattern (at A-level you have to do this, it's part of the Specs - don't know about new GCSEs)

 - I would also hope that teachers see as a vital part of their jobs the need to encourage students to analyse the evidence and come to their own conclusions rather than just take what anyone says uncritically (especially TV, but including us as teachers!) - and part of this for me is to raise the issue of 'greenwashing' - I suspect (possibly unfairly) that many teachers inadvertantly fail to do this

 - it is hard to say to a class, genuinely, "this is my view, but I could well be wrong" (especially in topics with such a high degree of complexity) - but VITAL, I believe - getting students, even at A-level, to consider 'degrees of certainty' is not easy - words like 'might', 'possibly', 'probably', 'almost certainly', 'current consensus is that...', 'it has been suggested that...' - an INSET on getting As at A2 I went on a few years ago (by Gill Miller) suggested that one of the key differentiators for recognising A-grade students was those who wrote clearly about 'grey areas'

Thanks for posting your stuff Stuart

Blue Square Thing

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2452
  • What's blue and square?
    • View Profile
    • That Blue Square Thing
Re: The Causes of Global Warming
« Reply #22 on: June 01, 2009, 10:16:19 AM »
Others (BST? - again, forgive me if I am wrong) seem a little incredulous that anyone could possibly be putting doubt in the minds of young people that anything other than a total commitment to reducing our carbon footprint might be OK - I suppose there is an 'Inconvenient Truth'-type argument here that the safe option IS total commitment to reducing greenhouse gases - even if it makes no difference, or sea-levels do not rise as they are predicted, it's not the end of the world, and probably will have generated some positive side-effects, like increase in health and fitness from less use of cars, etc., etc. - whereas if it turns out to be right, and we did nothing....

I tend to approach this more from a How Science Works perspective actually.

The fact that the data is incomplete and the hypothesis speculative is fantastic. It's exactly what we should be teaching.

The problems I have are: a) it's complex; b) there's a lot of very non-sexy work going on out there (and the ipcc stuff is very long and couched in non-specific terms very often); c) there's a hell of a lot of plain ignorance about a lot of that work.

The ignorance is my real issue. I see, regularly, blogs and so on picking up one part of a set of research findings. I see people in the pay of oil companies put forward incomplete evidence to support their pov on this. That's misleading at best, a downright lie at worst. The problem then is that this all gets picked up on by people and they take from it the idea that the theories (now, there's a word which justifies a HSW approach in itself) are essentially flawed.

I'm very happy to teach the issues with the evidence. From a scientific pov. This is what makes climate change (another phrase that causes so many doubts because of ignorance...) funky tbh.

Oh, ignorance isn't used in a specifically negative way in this btw. It's just that so many people don't know stuff.
I loved the words you wrote to me/But that was bloody yesterday

Blue Square Thing

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2452
  • What's blue and square?
    • View Profile
    • That Blue Square Thing
Re: The Causes of Global Warming
« Reply #23 on: June 01, 2009, 10:24:57 AM »
- I would hope all teachers explain that climate fluctuations are a natural process - that has to be the baseline to then discuss the extent to which the human causes have altered the natural pattern (at A-level you have to do this, it's part of the Specs - don't know about new GCSEs)

I'd agree with that entirely. But you have to understand, for example, when you're talking about the Maunder Minimum (aka little ice age) *for example* that all the data for that is based on studies of northern hemisphere - predominantly European and eastern North American - climates. There's actually some evidence that the temp fluctuations in the southern hemisphere were nowhere near as great.

And I'd suggest that that's a specific example of how "evidence" can be skewed in itself through nothing worse than a superficial look (there's a whole pile on this in the ipcc reports btw...)

- I would also hope that teachers see as a vital part of their jobs the need to encourage students to analyse the evidence and come to their own conclusions rather than just take what anyone says uncritically (especially TV, but including us as teachers!) - and part of this for me is to raise the issue of 'greenwashing' - I suspect (possibly unfairly) that many teachers inadvertantly fail to do this

Yep, agree totally. Bias identification is something we should be much more specific about in schools in general - there's a cross curricula theme that the guys in suits didn't decide to put into all their oh so useful stuff then...  ;)

- it is hard to say to a class, genuinely, "this is my view, but I could well be wrong" (especially in topics with such a high degree of complexity)...

See, that's where I'd disagree entirely. I've never had any problem whatsoever saying that I don't know or that this might not be the way it works.

The How Science Works emphasis now in science should make this easier (hmm....) - but even with stuff like plate tectonics we can put forward the basic idea - we think it works this way, the evidence points us to thinking this, but, you know, it could still be a big old turtle.
I loved the words you wrote to me/But that was bloody yesterday

kevincooper777

  • Established Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 364
    • View Profile
Re: The Causes of Global Warming
« Reply #24 on: June 01, 2009, 04:48:55 PM »
Thanks BST, really interesting and educational.

As I say to the kids, I have no problem with ignorance - there's so much that I'm ignorant about, even in my 'specialist' fields - the important thing is to be aware of your (potential) ignorance.

swhitch

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1013
    • View Profile
Re: The Causes of Global Warming
« Reply #25 on: June 18, 2009, 10:12:50 AM »
Looks thought provoking and will give the students the chance to see how CC is affecting them at their very own post code ....... will be interesting to see how close the similarities are between neighbouring postcodes ......."Using a range of online tools including a "weather generator", people will be able to enter their postcodes and see projections of how conditions are likely to change within 25 sq km grid squares at different points in the future." Being pedantic should this really be a "climate predictor" rather than a "weather generator" as if there is going to be a problem we could simply generate some cooler weather / wetter weather couldn't we? Most geography students are drilled in the difference between climate and weather, aren't they?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8106104.stm

"The projected impacts are "worse than the government had feared," according to a source familiar with the project"

"....the picture it paints is an alarming one," said Keith Allott, head of climate change at WWF-UK."

"Campaigners say that the UK impacts are likely to be minor compared to other parts of the world.

Last month a report from the Global Humanitarian Forum, the think tank chaired by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, said that the UK was among the 12 countries likely to be least affected by climate change."

Stuart
FRGS, FGS, C.Geog.
Head of Geography

Andrew Stacey

  • Global Moderator
  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 134
    • View Profile
    • The Geography Department
Re: The Causes of Global Warming
« Reply #26 on: June 18, 2009, 01:36:34 PM »
Possibly today's publication of the UK Climate Projections 2009 report will throw some more detailed light onto things.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8107014.stm
Retired Head of Faculty
Home Tutor

phill.monk

  • Guest
Re: The Causes of Global Warming
« Reply #27 on: November 11, 2009, 05:56:55 PM »
Every time I here the words 'An inconvenient truth' a cold shudder goes down my spine.

I've seen that film so many times, his voice!

ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh :o

" Hi I'm Al Gore, I used to be the next president of the United States of America. "

Best bit of the whole film....after this, it all goes downhill.

Blue Square Thing

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2452
  • What's blue and square?
    • View Profile
    • That Blue Square Thing
Re: The Causes of Global Warming
« Reply #28 on: November 11, 2009, 07:12:33 PM »
" Hi I'm Al Gore, I used to be the next president of the United States of America. "

Best bit of the whole film....after this, it all goes downhill.

I've never seen it - why does it go downhill?
I loved the words you wrote to me/But that was bloody yesterday

IanMurray

  • Guest
Re: The Causes of Global Warming
« Reply #29 on: November 11, 2009, 07:35:33 PM »
Apart from what it might demand in specs and SOWs another aspect here is when do we kind of say:

'Job sort of done on that one, it's everywhere, let's be the pioneers for the next really important topic - what should it be?'

Ian Murray