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King's Centre for Visualization in Science


9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Chemistry, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Types

  • Lesson Plans
  • Interactive Media

Regional Focus


Is Climate Change Happening?

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  • In this lesson, students will learn about the evidence for climate change including ice cores and current and historical trends in temperatures and atmospheric gases. 
  • This is part 2 of 9 in Explaining Climate Change, a series of lessons from The King's Centre for Visualization in Science. 
Teaching Tips


  • Students get to analyze actual data evidence of climate change and draw conclusions from it.
  • The online simulator provides an excellent visual for understanding the change that has happened in temperatures and greenhouse gases.

Additional Prerequisites

  • This lesson assumes students already have a basic understanding of climate, as well as chemistry concepts like atomic mass, isotopes, and mass ratios.
  • The lesson is designed for students with strong math skills.
  • Note that "Key Idea 5: Rates of Change in the Past 250 Years" features a graph that only shows CO2 data through the year 2000. For up-to-date information on atmospheric carbon dioxide, visit NOAA's Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide.


  • Cross-curricular connections can be made with math classes as the lesson include interpreting graphs, slope in real-world contexts, and calculations based on graphs and data.
  • This lesson can connect to chemistry classes as students will need to use their understanding of atomic mass and isotopes to answer questions about ice cores.
  • The lesson is set up so that students can proceed at their own pace.
  • Students can complete the lesson individually or as a small group. For some of the more difficult math problems, it may be best to work through them as a class. 
  • Other helpful resources about the evidence for climate change include this lesson for grades 6-12, this interactive webpage by NASA, this video on ice cores, and this video on greenhouse gases.

Scientist Notes
The method used in testing and determining temperature data from ice cores to know isotopic abundance is factual and scientific. This resource is recommended for teaching paleoclimate.
  • Science
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • HS.ESS2.2 Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.
      • HS.ESS2.6 Develop a quantitative model to describe the cycling of carbon among the hydrosphere, atmosphere, geosphere, and biosphere.
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • HS.ESS3.5 Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth’s systems.
      • HS.ESS3.6 Use a computational representation to illustrate the relationships among Earth systems and how those relationships are being modified due to human activity (i.e., climate change).
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