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Lesson 9
Key Idea 1: Our Children's World

Imagine the world fifty years from now. What comes to mind? Although it is impossible to predict exactly what will happen in the future, the decisions we make today will affect the world we will grow old in - the same world we will pass on to our children and grandchildren. Our response to the challenge of climate change will impact the condition of the planet that we will give to future generations.

Throughout the previous 8 lessons we have seen how both natural and human activities are changing our climate. We have gained a scientific understanding of the way in which anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are altering the balance of our climate system. We have examined the difficulties that our changing climate poses for a variety of ecosystems and the effects that this could have on human civilization.

One way to estimate the impact of human activity on our climate is by measuring a carbon footprint. Open the CO2 Footprint learning tool and click on the continents to explore the current per capita carbon dioxide emissions for different parts of the world. Click 'Run Model' to compare the total CO2 contributions per continent to the per capita contributions of people living on that continent. For the moment click 'Hide Graph'. We will look at the output in the graph later in the lesson. Before moving on answer the following questions:

  • Which continent has the highest total CO2 output? The highest per capita?
  • Which continent has the lowest total CO2 output? The lowest per capita?
  • What factors do you think contribute to the differences between continents in total and per capita CO2 output?