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How do we know about climate change?

Celebrating Earth Day 2023, this live lesson takes an in-depth look at how we know about climate change. It is an agreed fact by the science community that the climate is changing rapidly and that this is being driven by increased levels in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a result of fossil fuel combustion.

In this live lesson, working with the Convex Seascape Survey team, we will examine how we know about past climate change over millions of years in the absence of direct scientific records. Classes will also learn about the use of climate proxies and sediment cores. The lesson will then end with a look at how this analysis of past climate helps us to predict the future.

This live lesson will introduce classes to one of the themes of the Convex Seascape Survey: understanding how the seabed sediment has stored carbon over thousands of years.

Broadcast on Tue 18 Apr 2023
  • 45 mins
  • Ages 11-16 / KS3 / GCSE
Learning objectives
  • Understand the evidence for changes in past climate
  • Learn how human activity is driving climate change
  • Discover how scientists predict future changes in climate

This is a standalone lesson to celebrate Earth Day 2023. No specific preparation is needed but teachers and students may wish to review prior learning on climate change. The topics covered in this class will be presented against GCSE topics. It may be suitable for KS3 classes as part of a preparation for GCSE or as an extension activity.

A student sheet is being finalised with the science team to support learning during the lesson.

If you have never joined a live lesson before, visit the support centre where you can find a range of technical and educational information.

Questions generated by your class can be submitted via the interaction app that will appear on this lesson page once you have booked the lesson.

Lesson steps

1. Introduction (5 minutes)

We welcome classes to this live lesson for Earth Day 2023, meeting our speakers, and learn about the Convex Seascape Survey.

2. How and why does the climate change? (5 minutes)

In this section of the lesson we will examine how Earth’s environment has changed over millions over years. We will look at graphs that show how the temperature and levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have changed over time.

3. How do we know about past climate? (5 mins)

To learn about both climate and the factors affecting it over the past 100,000s of years, scientists cannot rely on direct observation. Scientists use a variety of different clues to reconstruct past climate.

4. Climate clues (10 mins)

How do scientists use the different clues to reconstruct past climate? We work through a sediment core analysis and look at how different clues can help scientists to piece together how the environment has changed.

5. How does this help us in the future? (5 mins)

The science team will then share how understanding past climate can help us predict the future. It also helps us to find solutions to the climate crisis.

6. Q&A (15 minutes)

This is a chance for students to ask any questions they may have about climate science and the methods used to understand past and future changes.

Further ideas

There are further resources on the carbon cycle related to this lesson, both a full lesson, and an interactive diagram.


SPEAKER James Scourse

Prof James Scourse

Professor of Earth Systems Science, Head of Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter

SPEAKER Zoe Roseby

Dr Zoe Roseby

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Convex Seascape Survey, University of Exeter

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