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Topic 7: Climate Change and Energy Production

7.1 Energy Choices & Security
Significant Ideas:
  • There is a range of different energy sources available to societies that vary in their sustainability, availability, cost and sociopolitical implications.
  • The choice of energy sources is controversial and complex. Energy security is an important factor in making energy choices.
Knowledge & Understanding:
  • Fossil fuels contribute to the majority of humankindís energy supply, and they vary widely in the impacts of their production and their emissions; their use is expected to increase to meet global energy demand.
  • Sources of energy with lower carbon dioxide emissions than fossil fuels include renewable energy (solar, biomass, hydropower, wind, wave, tidal and geothermal) and their use is expected to increase. Nuclear power is a low-carbon low-emission non-renewable resource but is controversial due to the radioactive waste it produces and the potential scale of any accident.
  • Energy security depends on adequate, reliable and affordable supply of energy that provides a degree of independence. An inequitable availability and uneven distributions of energy sources may lead to conflict.
  • The energy choices adopted by a society may be influenced by availability; sustainability; scientific and technological developments; cultural attitudes; and political, economic and environmental factors. These in turn affect energy security and independence.
  • Improvements in energy efficiencies and energy conservation can limit growth in energy demand and contribute to energy security.
Application & Skills
  • Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of different energy sources.
  • Discuss the factors that affect the choice of energy sources adopted by different societies.
  • Discuss the factors that affect energy security.
  • Evaluate the energy strategy of a given society.
Systems: YouTube Video Lesson
Systems & Models PPT
7.2 Climate Changes - Causes and Impacts
Significant Ideas:
  • Climate change has been a normal feature of the Earthís history, but human activity has contributed to recent changes.
  • There has been significant debate about the causes of climate change.
  • Climate change causes widespread and significant impacts on a global scale.
Knowledge & Understanding:
  • Climate describes how the atmosphere behaves over relatively long periods of time, whereas weather describes the conditions in the atmosphere over a short period of time.
  • Weather and climate are affected by oceanic and atmospheric circulatory systems.
  • Human activities are increasing levels of greenhouse gases (GHGs, such as carbon dioxide, methane and water vapour) in the atmosphere, which leads to:
    • an increase in the mean global temperature
    • increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events
    • the potential for long-term changes in climate and weather patterns
    • rise in sea level.
  • The potential impacts of climate change may vary from one location to another and may be perceived as either adverse or beneficial. These impacts may include changes in water availability, distribution of biomes and crop growing areas, loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, coastal inundation, ocean acidification, and damage to human health.
  • Both negative and positive feedback mechanisms are associated with climate change and may involve very long time lags.
  • There has been significant debate due to conflicting EVSs surrounding the issue of climate change.
  • Global climate models are complex and there is a degree of uncertainty regarding the accuracy of their predictions.
Application & Skills
  • Discuss the feedback mechanisms that would be associated with a change in mean global temperature.
  • Evaluate contrasting viewpoints on the issue of climate change.
NASA: Global Climate Change
PBS: Climate Change Debate
7.3 Climate Change - Mitigation and Adaptation
Significant Ideas:
  • Mitigation attempts to reduce the causes of climate change.
  • Adaptation attempts to manage the impacts of climate change.
Knowledge & Understanding:
  • Mitigation involves reduction and/or stabilization of GHG emissions and their removal from the atmosphere.
  • Mitigation strategies to reduce GHGs in general may include:
    • reduction of energy consumption
    • reduction of emissions of oxides of nitrogen and methane from agriculture
    • use of alternatives to fossil fuels
    • geo-engineering.
  • Mitigation strategies for carbon dioxide removal (CDR techniques) include:
    • protecting and enhancing carbon sinks through land management; for example, through the UN collaborative programme on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (UN-REDD)
    • using biomass as a fuel source
    • using carbon capture and storage (CCS)
    • enhancing carbon dioxide absorption by the oceans through either fertilizing oceans with compounds of nitrogen, phosphorus and iron to encourage the biological pump, or increasing upwellings to release nutrients to the surface.
  • Even if mitigation strategies drastically reduce future emissions of GHGs, past emissions will continue to have an effect for decades to come.
  • Adaptation strategies can be used to reduce adverse affects and maximize any positive effects. Examples of adaptations include flood defences, vaccination programmes, desalinization plants and planting of crops in previously unsuitable climates.
  • Adaptive capacity varies from place to place and can be dependent on financial and technological resources. MEDCs can provide economic and technological support to LEDCs.
  • There are international efforts and conferences to address mitigation and adaptation strategies for climate change; for example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Application & Skills
  • Discuss mitigation and adaptation strategies to deal with impacts of climate change.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of international climate change talks.
Systems: YouTube Video Lesson
Systems & Models PPT