Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative - ACT
Educating for Sustainability Through the ACT Curriculum contains units of work (P-10) in water, waste, biodiversity, energy and climate change. The units were developed by teachers, curriculum consults and experts in each of the focus areas.
Schools can adapt the units to their own school curriculum organisers, formats and class groupings.
Greenhouse Effect and Enhanced Greenhouse Effect
The greenhouse effect is a natural process in which the absorption of infra red radiation by an atmosphere warms a planet. Without human influence, transfers between these stores roughly balance each other – for example, plants absorb carbon as they grow, but release it as they decay.
But when humans cut down trees or burn fossil fuels, they release extra carbon into the atmosphere, increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This has been significantly accelerated by the emission of greenhouse gases primarily caused by the use of fossil-based fuels. This increase in greenhouse gases means that they are absorbing more heat and warming up the planet. This increase in greenhouse gases is called the enhanced greenhouse effect and is responsible for our changing climate.
Measuring climate change
Weather stations, balloons, ocean buoys, and satellites provide information about the Earth’s temperature today. Ice cores, sediment layers, and tree rings advise us about the history of the Earth’s climate. With this evidence, scientists are learning how climate changes over time.
Across the world, Governments (national, state and local) and business are monitoring their greenhouse gas emissions through inventories.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been established, by World Meteorological Organisation and United Nations Environment Program, to assess scientific, technical and socio- economic information relevant for the understanding of climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.
The IPCC 4th Assessment Report identified the following key global climate change predictions:
It is difficult to provide generalisations of climate change impacts as each country and region will be affected differently. For example some regions will receive more rainfall and others less.
It is hard to generalise about climate changes in Australia, as different regions will have different impacts. The complexity and interactions of the global climate system make it difficult to provide very specific predictions. There is often a wide band of error. However, the CSIRO has provided some predictions.
It is important to understand that scientists don't know for sure what climate change will bring. However it will result in social, environmental and economic changes on an international, national and local level.
Climate change may affect people's health both directly and indirectly.
Indirectly ecological disturbances are likely to have a greater impact. For example, changes in food and water supplies, or some vector borne diseases such as malaria and coastal flooding are all examples of changes with possible impacts that might affect human health.
Generally, poor people and poor countries are less likely to have the money and resources they need to cope with preventing and treating health problems. Very young children and the elderly will run the highest risks.
As with economic impact, social impacts are indirect effects from climate change. However they are likely to have significant influence. Impact to society include:
Climate change may alter the world's habitats and ecosystems – all living things are included in and rely on these places. Many of these places depend on a delicate balance of rainfall, temperature, and soil type. A rapid change in climate could upset this balance and seriously endanger many living things.
Climate change and the subsequent change in rainfall patterns, drought and fire regimes, is predicted to:
The Australian Business Roundtable on Climate Change was formed to undertake research to advance the understanding of business risks and opportunities associated with climate change. They found the economic impacts are potentially significant and widespread. In particular:
The ACT business community is likely to be affected by climate change through:
Many ACT businesses operating in tourism and specialty agriculture (wineries, olives) will be affected by changed weather and rainfall patterns.
Addressing climate change currently has two approaches:
Abatement or mitigation is any action to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities. This include global actions such as the Kyoto Protocol or emissions trading to every day actions such as using public transport and being smarter in our use of energy and water in our homes and offices.
Adaptation is any action to respond to the anticipated or actual conditions related to climate change. We have produced so many greenhouse gases already that there will be changes to the climate even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases right now. Adaptation strategies can reduce the vulnerability of a community to the effects of climate change. They change the way that humans interact with their local environment in response to tangible changes such as more/less rain or increase in bushfires.
They include action such as developing a strong renewable energy industry, planning for water supply to help avoid crises and undertaking research to develop a full understanding of the changes that may be faced and how it will impact on our society.
We can all make a difference by taking simple steps like …
What are greenhouse gases?
Greenhouse gases are gases that can absorb the thermal energy emitted by the earth, creating the greenhouse effect, which warms the earth. There are approximately 30 gases that qualify as climate-changing greenhouse gases, these gases have been chosen due to their Global Warming Potential (GWP) and the quantity in which they are released. GWP is the concentration of the gas and is measured compared to carbon dioxide, for example, methane has 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.
The six greenhouse gases specified in the Kyoto Protocol are:
Has climate changed in the past 100 years?
The average surface temperature of the world is now 0.4 to 0.8°C higher than it was late in the 19th century. Most of the warming occurred over two periods in the 20th century: from 1910 to 1945 and from 1976 to 2002. This coincide with increased industrial and technological development in the world.
What is carbon neutral?
Being carbon neutral means that you produce no net emissions of carbon dioxide. This can be achieved in a number of ways. Firstly by not producing emissions, for example using energy only from renewable sources does not generate greenhouse gas emissions. Secondly, by offsetting any emissions that are produced, for example using energy from fossil fuels, generates carbon dioxide emissions, but as long as new trees are planted soak up the carbon, then the level of emissions doesn't change. But a lot of trees need to be planted to offset the electricity we use in our houses, offices and cars!!!
What is the Kyoto Protocol?
The Kyoto Protocol is a global agreement made under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Countries that have ratified the protocol are committed to reducing their emissions of 6 greenhouse gases. More than 160 countries (not including Australia) have signed the Kyoto Protocol and which means it covers over 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Other protocols, such at the Montreal Protocol also limit or stop the use of greenhouse gases.
What is Emissions Trading?
Under an emissions trading scheme, limits (or caps) are set on the amount of a pollutant (greenhouse gas) that can be emitted. Companies or groups are given credits which represent the right to emit a specific amount. Companies that pollute beyond their allowances must buy credits from those who pollute less than their allowances. The more firms that need to buy credits, the higher the price of credits becomes -- which makes reducing emissions cost-effective in comparison.
What is carbon sequestration or offsets?
Sequestration is capturing and permanently storing carbon dioxide to reduce the amount in the atmosphere. This is done naturally through oceans and growing forests. There are now man made systems of capturing and storing carbon. Carbon can be mixed with metal oxides to form carbonates, these become liquids or solids and can be easily stored. Additionally, carbon can be directed injected into underground geological forms (geosequestration). Ocean storage has also been proposed.
http://www.olliesworld.com/ - Ollies Island and Ollies world – water, waste, sustainability and energy (Australian)
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/ great remote satellite images
http://www.ipcc.ch/ - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) website. Assessment reports provide useful global information