4.4 Climate change

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4.4 Climate change

4.4 Climate change



Essential idea:


4.4.1  Concentrations of gases in the atmosphere affect climates experienced at the Earth’s surface.


Permafrost: The Tipping Time Bomb


Symphony of Science - Our Biggest Challenge (Climate Change Music Video)


Nature of science:


4.4.2  Assessing claims—assessment of the claims that human activities are producing climate change. (5.2)




4.4.3  Carbon dioxide and water vapour are the most significant greenhouse gases.


Article about Greenhouse effect

Article about greenhouse effect


4.4.4  Other gases including methane and nitrogen oxides have less impact.


4.4.5   The impact of a gas depends on its ability to absorb long wave radiation as

well as on its concentration in the atmosphere.


4.4.6   The warmed Earth emits longer wavelength radiation (heat).


4.4.7   Longer wave radiation is absorbed by greenhouse gases that retain the heat in the atmosphere.


4.4.8   Global temperatures and climate patterns are influenced by concentrations of greenhouse gases.


4.4.9   There is a correlation between rising atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide since the start of the industrial revolution 200 years ago and average global temperatures.


4.4.10   Recent increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide are largely due to increases in the combustion of fossilized organic matter.




4.4.11  Application: Threats to coral reefs from increasing concentrations of dissolved carbon dioxide.


4.4.12   Application: Correlations between global temperatures and carbon dioxide concentrations on Earth.


4.4.13   Application: Evaluating claims that human activities are not causing climate change.





4.4.14  Carbon dioxide, methane and water vapour should be included in



4.4.15  The harmful consequences of ozone depletion do not need to be discussed and it should be made clear that ozone depletion is not the cause of the enhanced greenhouse effect.


Drought in California – in pictures




4.4.16  Release of greenhouse gases occurs locally but has a global impact, so

international cooperation to reduce emissions is essential.


Theory of knowledge:


4.4.17  The precautionary principle is meant to guide decision-making in conditions where a lack of certainty exists. Is certainty ever possible in the natural sciences?





4.4.18  Syllabus and cross-curricular links:


Topic 8.2 Thermal energy transfer


Part 1.3 Patterns in environmental quality and sustainability/Atmosphere and


Environmental systems and societies

Topic 7.2 Climate change—causes and impacts





4.4.19  Aim 7: Databases can be used to analyse concentrations of greenhouse


               Aim 8: There are interesting parallels between humans that are unwilling to reduce their carbon footprint and cheating in social animals. When the level of cheating rises above a certain level, social behaviour breaks down.

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