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Climate Change – Mitigation and Adaptation: What do we mean by ‘mitigation’ and ‘adaptation’?

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Minimum time required

45 minutes

Learning objectives

  • To define the terms ‘mitigation’ and ‘adaptation’ with respect to climate change
  • To give at least one example of a mitigation strategy, one adaptation strategy and one that could potentially be both

Resources needed

Methodology and teacher’s notes

  1. As a settler/starter activity, provide the students each with a copy of the coded sheet of 12 mitigation/adaptation strategies. Can they guess what these icons mean? How they approach this (discussion, rough notes etc) is up to you. To add extra challenge, you can ask them to think about what they have in common, rather than tell them they are responses to climate change.

For your reference, here are the ‘answers’, but do not place too much importance of them just yet!

  1. Put the terms ‘mitigation’ and ‘adaptation’ on the board. Before you define either, challenge students to choose one icon that would suit each one. Ask some students to tell you why, with the aim of developing a definition for each in terms of climate change. FYI, some dictionary definitions:
  • Mitigation – “the action of reducing the severity, seriousness, or painfulness of something.”
  • Adaptation – “the process of change by which an organism or species becomes better suited to its environment.”
  1. Hand out the Climate Change Mitigation & Adaptation worksheet to each student. Guide students to write their own definitions of ‘mitigation’ and ‘adaptation’ on the sides of the sheet. If you feel it best, you can leave the writing of these definitions until the very end of the activity.
  2. Distribute each of the 12 strategy picture sheets amongst the class (so there will be one sheet per pair or group of three, depending on the number of students you have). For a defined set of time (minimum of two minutes), students to figure out where on the Venn Diagram the strategy they have could be placed. Is it a mitigation strategy? An adaptation strategy? Or could work as both?
    • See ‘Further challenge and extension’ regarding the speech bubbles. Optional: students can cut out each of the strategies on their ‘coded sheets’ from the starter activity and place them on their Venn Diagram.

You can use the answers below to help guide students, but allow for justified arguments where students may place things differently. For example, ‘energy efficient buildings’ could also be adaptation, especially if they passively cool themselves during hotter weather.

  1. After two minutes (or whatever defined time you’ve set), swap their picture sheet with another pair or group for one they haven’t seen yet. Repeat rotating/swapping picture sheets until everyone has seen all 12.
  2. Students choose one strategy in each part of the diagram and annotate it with a justification for why they put it there. The prompts in the speech bubbles can help.
  3. Displaying the ‘answers’, not to correct student decisions, but to help them develop their justifications through discussion and reflection.
  4. Finish the activity by drawing attention to the term ‘climate resilience’ at the bottom of their sheet. Come to a class consensus what this means in terms of mitigation and adaptation.

Further challenge and extension

The speech bubbles on some of the picture sheets provide both some prompts to help students think about categorising each strategy, but also opportunities for deeper thinking and challenge.

Students could consider ranking the strategies in different ways. Perhaps they could do this considering:

  • Effectiveness.
  • Affordability. (And how accessible is each to Lower Income Countries?)
  • How easy/difficult each would be to achieve.
  • The extent we already do these strategies, and which are new.
  • The impact and disruptiveness to the ‘business as usual’ way of life.

“The window for climate change mitigation is rapidly closing, we should focus more on climate change adaptation”. To what extent do students agree or disagree with this statement. Why do they think so?

References, sources and credits:

Carbon Brief, 2017

Heidarinejad and Esmaili (2015), Numerical simulation of the dual effect of green roof thermal performance

View the other lessons in this series:

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