Investigating climate change

Climate change is an important and historic geographical process which looks into the past, present and future. But what is the evidence for climate change? What causes it, and what impact will it have on environments and people? The Royal Meteorological Society’s climate change updates series for geography teachers helps answer these questions, and acts as a summary for geography teachers and secondary and post 16 students investigating climate change, based on data chosen from recent reports on climate change by the Intergovernmental Panel.

Background - Six graphics that explain climate change

Check your understanding of climate change:

  • which of these are increasing, which decreasing: sea level; glacier volume; air temperature; water vapour? Check
  • what is 'forcing', and what effect does it have? Check
  • what has most impact on global temperatures in the last century - solar changes, volcanic eruptions or human activity? Check
  • do clouds warm or cool the earth’s surface? Check
  • what is the impact of climate change on food production? Check

On the GA website 

Related teaching resource

Managing flood risk: Part of the GA’s Flooding section, developed with the Environment Agency

Support and guidance

Think Piece global warming: Discussion about the educational opportunities and challenges for teachers

Think Piece physical geography: Includes some starting points to guide teachers’ thinking, and useful links

Thinking through climate change: First in a series in the journal Geography by Stuart Lane focusing on the critical role geography may contribute to current global debates

The geography of food: CPD Unit focused on sustainability

Climate change resources by BEACONS: Extracts suitable for class use and a reference source for teachers

GA publications

Key stage 2

SuperSchemes Unit 07: Hot, cold, wet, dry?

Climate change and key topics in the news - BBC Active interactive resource

Key stage 3

Geography Teachers' Toolkit: Changing My World - What difference can we make to the climate?


GCSE Toolkit: Hot and Bothered? A study of climate change

A level

Top Spec Geography: The Rapidly Changing Arctic

Credit: Rayburn Tours.

Click on the image to download PDF poster.

Government, agency and NGO resource links

BEACONS guides to climate change (KS3-P16)

Up-to-date information and in-depth resources on climate change for teachers and students. The guides can be used in class at key stage 3 - P16 and by P16 students for self study.

  • Guide One: The Greenhouse Effect and GHGs; measurements of atmospheric CO2; evidence of rising temperatures; likely consequences; mitigation measures; weather and climate.
  • Guide Two: Reducing CO2 emissions; the IPCC, pressure groups; UN climate conferences; impediments to an international treaty, energy consumption inequalities; sustainable development; geo-engineering and its problem.
  • Guide Three: Measuring energy; UK energy sources; UK GHG emissions, carbon trading; UK policy aims; pros and cons of different energy sources; reducing energy consumption; sustainability.

Energy Trump cards - Centre for Alternative Technology (Upper KS2/3)

‘Energy Trumps is a card game which enables players to learn more about different supplies of energy and the various positives and negatives associated with each.’

The cards provide information on 15 types of energy sources, both renewable and fossil fuels, including facts about their usage in the UK.

The Pod (Early years and primary)

The Pod – EDF Energy’s award winning education programme – is now the largest programme of its type. Teachers need to log their school on to the site to download resources. It usually takes two days for this to happen and details may be confirmed by phone. Linked to Eco Schools; by taking part in campaigns, e.g. Switch Off Fortnight, and logging school actions, this can count towards your Eco Schools Award.

Three main aims of the Pod:

  1. To inspire young people and their families to choose a more sustainable lifestyle.
  2. To promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) and encourage science and engineering as a career choice.
  3. To help children understand that a low carbon, secure and affordable energy supply is vital for the future. features free lesson plans, practical activities, assemblies, films, games and information, all with cross curricular links. The resources cover the topics of energy, waste, water, transport, biodiversity and climate science.

Oxfam - Climate Challenge (KS2)

Our Climate Challenge resources focus on the human impact of climate change: how communities around the world are being affected by climate change and how people are responding and adapting to these challenges. The activities are linked to a number of curricular areas including science, english and geography.

Oxfam - Go Bananas (KS2)

'Help your learners to understand the origins - and impacts - of the food they eat with these detailed resources. The resource includes a photo gallery and captions which follow the journey of a banana from the Caribbean to the UK. It gives a detailed example of how food grown overseas passes through many hands, stages and processes from planting to eating, and also highlights who makes money from the process.'

Climate Change Conference (KS3-P16)

The 2015 UN Climate Change conference is happening in Paris in November and December 2015. The UN’s aim is to negotiate a common binding agreement that will help the world move to a low-carbon future.

Why not take this opportunity to teach your students about climate change and the impact that it is having across the world by holding your own school Climate Change Conference? The GA has worked with Oxfam and the Global Learning Programme in England and Wales to produce activities and resources to help you and your pupils prepare for, run and follow up their own school Climate Change Conference.

Climate 2020 (P16)

Detailed updates and analysis from the United Nations Association UK, of interest to teachers and post 16 students.

The Royal Meteorological Society (P16)

The society has produced a comprehensive booklet for geography teachers called Climate Change Updates which summarises evidence from the 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report. You can download the whole booklet here or the individual factsheets below:

CAFOD - Climate change photopack (KS3)

People living in poverty have done the least to cause climate change, yet they suffer its worst effects. This photo pack will helps explore some of the issues with KS3 students.

Climate change - causes and consequences (KS2-3) The Powerpoint clearly lays out the difference between climate change, global warming and the greenhouse effect that are sometimes muddled up.

Met Office climate change pages includes latest research and resources for teachers and students, including an introductory video.

WWF Carbon Calculator/Earth Hour - Our lifestyle choices make up our environmental carbon footprint. Measuring yours takes less than five minutes and could change the way you live.

Al Gore Ted talk February 2016 - The case for optimism on climate change; USA and technologically based. links through to climate change policy and stories from the DECC and Environment Agency

Climate change and children – PDF booklet about climate change and development by UNICEF

Student websites

BBC Newsround climate change section includes videos, animations and quizzes for younger students

Climate Kids: includes videos, animations and quizzes for younger students from NASA

Exploring climate change: information from Education Scotland

Students' guide to climate change: includes videos, animations and quizzes for younger students from the US Environmental Protection Agency

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