This article, along with two associated ones listed here, examines various needs and actions related to the necessary shift from our reliance on fossil fuels to the use of environmentally friendly renewable energy sources. The other two articles are Canadian green bond market expands with push to environmentally friendly projects, by Alexandra  Posadzki, on April 22, 2019; and Massive reallocation of capital needed to address climate change, warns Bank of England governor Mark Carney, by Shawn McCarthy and Jeff Lewis, on April 18, 2019.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Environmental studies, world issues, politics, social studies, business studies

Key Questions to Explore:

  • Why is this need so urgent?
  • Why are governments such as those in Ontario, the newly-elected UCP in Alberta and the Trump government so reactionary and, indeed, blocking in their approach to addressing effectively the need to respond to climate change?
  • How are investors and business proceeding despite these political laggards?

New Terminology:

Renewable power

Benefits of scale

Materials Needed:

Copies of the articles for the various groups

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

It is well understood by most level-headed individuals that climate change is a clear and present danger to the very existence of the human race. Yet our reliance on and continued use of fossil fuels continues and, indeed, is exacerbating the situation even more than we generally understand. In his book, The Uninhabitable Earth, Life After Warming, David Wallace-Wells states: “It is worse, much worse than you think.” He goes on to say:

In fact, more than half of the carbon exhaled into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels has been emitted in just the past three decades. Which means we have done as much damage to the fate of the planet and its ability to sustain human life and civilization since Al Gore published his first book on climate change than in all the centuries – all the millennia – that came before.

Yet we continue to dither; the evidence continues to mount and governments continue to get elected that promise to fight to put money back in your pocket at the cost of addressing the very real threat that our reliance on fossil fuels presents to our very existence. In 1992 the United Nations established its climate change framework and warned of the impact of global warming. Nevertheless, countries have failed to approach their promised targets, Canada included, and in the case of The United States, which has withdrawn from the Paris Accord and its goals, taken little or no real action. This lesson will highlight for the students the need to examine seriously what is and isn’t happening regarding climate change and to have them consider what actions they expect of themselves, people in general and government in order to address this urgent and real challenge.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • Begin the lesson by asking the students to explain why there is all this “hype” about climate change.
  • Ask them to outline why there is this urgency to address the problem and have them identify what consequences will result from failing to act.
  • Ask them to explain why, if this is the case, so many governments – both regionally and nationally – are failing to act or, indeed, denying the need to act.
  • Once they have identified the reasons as they see them, focus the discussion on the debate about climate change action versus what some say would be the negative impact on the economy by tackling it, and ask them if they believe that there is, indeed, a necessity to make a choice.
  • With this as background divide the class into three groups (six groups if it is a large class or you prefer smaller work groups) and provide each group with copies of one of the articles.
  • Inform them that they are to read the article and become experts on the material contained in it as they will be responsible for teaching that content to other groups.
  • Allow them time to read and prepare their material.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Once they have had time to prepare their task, divide each of the groups into three sub-groups by having them number off one to three and then regrouping the students into their numbered groups.
  • Have the sub-groups present their reports to their members in the following order: “Massive reallocation…” first, followed by “Power shift…” and then “Canadian green bond…”.
  • Once the sub-groups have completed their reports, hold a plenary session to hear comments or concerns that have arisen.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

The students will:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the urgent need to address climate change;
  • Be able to articulate what apparent shifts are occurring in the economy that will assist in addressing the climate change challenge facing us.

Confirming Activity:

  • As a homework assignment, have the students complete a writing assignment in which they will explain what personal actions they are going to take to reduce their carbon footprint and outline what action their class needs to take to start bringing about meaningful action on climate change.