A Climate of Extremes

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Higher temperatures are only part of the climate-change forecast. Are current extreme weather events a sign that warming is already here? What do climate models forecast for weather around the globe? Why is it so hard to predict the climate?

Flat desert landscape with nine dead cattle in foreground and five live cattle walking in line behind them

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Discussion Questions

  1. How might climate change affect future weather, according to climate scientists?
  2. How could this type of weather affect people?
  3. What are some recent weather extremes (including drought, fire, floods and storms) that are causing concern about the warming climate?
  4. What factors make it difficult to predict weather patterns due to climate change?
  5. One way to test climate models is to use past data to model present weather. How much do climate-change predictions rely on models, and how much on data?

Lesson Plans/Activities

  1. In the news! Have students research the media coverage of extreme weather and climate change (e.g. have them focus on one event or do a general search, to see what they can find). Conduct an in-class discussion or have students write an essay about how extreme weather and climate change are portrayed. Who do the journalists interview? What are some possible reader reactions to these articles?
  2. Uncertain science. Conduct an in-class discussion or have students write an essay answering, what are the standards for accepting or rejecting scientific evidence? Can we really predict the future? How can we know scientists are right? How should scientists and the public deal with uncertainty?
  3. What’s YOUR Impact? Have students research/study the “Environmental Footprint” concept. What is it all about? How is consumption related to greenhouse gases and global warming? Then, have students use the Environmental Footprint Calculator to assess their personal environmental impact. Ask students to imagine living somewhere else — like a big city, a small rural town or a different country — and recalculate their footprint. How does environmental impact differ in these various places? Discuss why.