Learn About Climate and Culture
It’s important to know that every action you do, has an impact somewhere around the world. Whether you drive to a destination, purchase a new item, or change your diet, these decisions can change the atmosphere, temperature, or levels of pollution in another place.
What’s at Stake?
Watch this video from our favorite scientist, Bill Nye to learn how and why our climate is changing and what’s at stake.
Below, you will find different ways the climate crisis affects the planet. Click on each topic to learn more about the subject! While reading through them, keep in mind how each of the topics affect your community. You will be sharing these during your next meeting or video with your sister school.
*Note: If you are participating in the RISE Climate Solutions Campaign, this will be the same education you have already reviewed.
E-Waste is a Growing Problem
In 2021, humans generated 57.4 Million Metric Tonnes (Mt) of E-waste–a number that increases every year. Electronic items such as phones, televisions, computers, tablets, etc. are created with toxic substances like mercury that are harmful to the environment and humans. As humans continue to rely on technology across the world, the amount of E-Waste will continue to grow without protocols to ensure the majority of E-Waste is properly managed and recycled. The solution is to make smarter choices when buying these products and learn how to properly recycle our electronic waste. 
Landfills Accelerate Climate Change
Clothing, electronics, single-use plastics, and all the other stuff we buy/use has significant effects on our climate. If our waste is not recycled or burned, it will most likely end up in a landfill. Landfills are the third largest source of methane emissions in the United States. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is created as organisms decompose organic materials below the surface. According to scientists, 25% of our current climate change crisis is driven by methane created by humans. If we reduce our use, manage our waste responsibly, and recycle to send less waste to landfills, we can help mitigate climate change. 
Plastics Are Immortal and Not Easily Recycled
Most plastic items never fully disappear; they just break down into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics over the course of hundreds of years. Every year, around 380 million metric tons of plastic are being produced, with 150 million tons coming from single use plastics which are designed to be used once before being discarded. Where does all this plastic go? Most waste is either incinerated or landfilled–it is rarely recycled. However, all three of these options produce greenhouse gas emissions.The best solution to reduce greenhouse gasses caused by waste is to reduce our use of single use plastics and other products we don’t need. 
Food Waste Creates Greenhouse Gasses
It’s estimated that 30-40% of food in the US is thrown away every year. When done eating, many people throw their scraps in the trash, which creates food waste. That leftover food is often sent to landfills and as it rots, it releases a gas called methane. Methane is one of the leading greenhouse gasses that causes climate change. It is 28 times more powerful at heating the planet than carbon dioxide, one of the other major greenhouse gasses. 
Producing Food Has a Climate Impact
The process of growing the food we eat and getting it to stores/restaurants can be very carbon intensive. Some foods have a greater impact on our climate than others. For instance, Livestock accounts for about 14% of all greenhouse gas emissions globally according to the United Nations. What can you do to help? Making the choice to eat less meat every week can make a difference on your personal carbon footprint. 
Transporting Food Has a Climate Impact
Food miles refers to the distance food travels between production and when it reaches the consumer. The amount of emissions attributed to the transportation/delivery of food makes this another factor used when considering the environmental impact of food. In a single year, the total miles of international food transport contributed to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions. This accounts for 8% of all global emissions per year. The best solution is to buy food from local sources in addition to reducing the amount of food we purchase. 
Plants & Animals
Deforestation Leads to Climate Change
CO2 emissions from tropical deforestation accounts for 10 percent of Greenhouse gas emissions. About 30 percent of carbon emissions can be absorbed by trees and soil which equates to 16 billion metric tons of CO2 annually. One acre of mature trees removes up to 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide each year. When trees are cut down, we lose our natural carbon capture system which means there will be more carbon in the atmosphere leading to climate change. If we plant more trees or prevent deforestation, we could remove up to two-thirds of CO2 from earth’s atmosphere. 
Algal Blooms Negatively Affect the Environment
Direct sunlight, warmer water, and increased precipitation influenced by climate change provides the perfect opportunity for uncontrolled growth of blue-green algae. As climate change, illegal waste dumping, and run-off from agricultural lands continues, algae blooms will become more frequent which can suffocate aquatic plants and animals. Scientists have also discovered that specific algae species are harmful to the health of humans By convincing the government and local farmers to employ Best Management Practices, nutrients run-off can be prevented from entering water sources. International environmental education and political efforts to mitigate climate change are another yet longer term solution to help minimize the effects of climate change and the occurrences of algal blooms. 
Climate Change Can Lead to Extinction
As global temperatures continue to rise, the environment will change and some animal species will no longer be able to survive in their natural habitats. These conditions allow invasive species to thrive, further throwing the environment off balance. Without proper management of climate change, 33% of all species could be extinct within 50 years. Losing one-third of our plant and animal species will have irreversible consequences for human health, ecosystem functionality, and biodiversity. Keeping a balanced ecosystem means that we’ll have clean air and water, pollinated plants, and storage of carbon in trees and soil. With healthy ecosystems, we’re able to reduce 37% of the carbon emissions needed to prevent rising temperatures. 
Changing Climate Limits Resources
Climate change is an important issue for humans because it not only affects the climate, but it also affects natural resources. As global average temperatures continue to increase, weather patterns and seasons will become increasingly difficult to predict. This means resources humans have historically relied on, such as water reservoirs, will subside and it will be extremely difficult to predict when they will refill or when new sources will become available. 
Temperatures Affect Water Quality
In addition to climate change affecting the quantity of reservoirs, it also has a significant impact on the quality of water as well. As temperatures, waste dumping, and greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, pathogens that contaminate our water increase as well. This can lead to processes such as eutrophication, which is the overgrowth of bacteria and algae in aquatic systems. Consequences of eutrophication include reduced oxygen, reduced primary production (plant death), and loss of habitat for animals. 
Most Water is Used for Industry
While water is an important resource for maintaining all life on Earth, a majority of its uses by humans are centered around industry rather than drinking. In fact, high income countries use around 60% of our water reservoirs for industrial development and maintenance instead of drinking purposes. Some of these industrial processes include fossil fuel production, electricity turbine cooling, and cleaning of machinery. 
Energy & Transportation
Plastic Affects Our Energy Consumption
While many people associate plastic with waste in regards to the climate crisis, it’s also a significant issue in the energy/transportation sector. The production, processing, and incineration of plastic is an intensive process that is responsible for emitting 850 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere in a single year. If this is not addressed, this number could increase to 2.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide by 2050. 
Transportation is Largest Emitter
While there are many inputs to greenhouse gas emissions, the transportation sector contributes the largest percentage in the United States. In 2021, the transportation sector accounted for 29% of all greenhouse gas emissions which included vehicles, air travel, shipping, and many more. Without proper reduction plans, emissions will continue to grow which can lead to issues like increasing temperatures, reduced air quality, and extreme weather events. 
Energy Use is Continuing to Grow
Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have been emitting a significant amount of greenhouse gasses which has altered the global climate. In 2021 alone, humans were responsible for releasing 36.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere with a significant majority being used for the production of electricity. Every year, the magnitude of emissions continues to grow and the need for reduction becomes increasingly important. 
Learn About Culture
Now that you have learned more about the climate crisis, it’s time to learn more about global cultures!
Research Your Own Culture
Before meeting your sister school for a second time, your team will gather information about your country’s culture to share with your sister school. Using the questions below, answer how people in your country practice each cultural topic. Keep your answers on a piece of paper or computer document to share during your next meeting.
- What are the main languages/dialects spoken in your country?
- What are significant holidays that are celebrated every year?
- What type of ethnic groups, tribes, subcultures, etc. do you have in your country?
- How do people interact with one another? What are best practices when speaking with peers or your elders?
- Where do people meet for large gatherings/events?
- How are current events, news, or education shared throughout your country?
- What seasons do you have in your country and when do each of them occur?
- What is the typical weather like during each season?
- What is the size and population of the city you live in?
- What are popular locations in your city/country and what are their functions?
- What type of landscape do you have in your country (desert, rainforest, temperate forests, etc.)?
- Where do people mostly live in your country? Do they live in the city, suburban areas, rural areas, etc.?
- What are the most popular foods in your country?
- What is the national dish of your country?
- Is meat commonly eaten in dishes in your country?
- What type of food is grown in your country?
- What are the most popular fruits in your country?
- When do people typically eat throughout the day?
- What type of clothing is typically worn day to day?
- What type of clothing is worn for special events and how are they made?
- What are the most popular sports in your country?
- Who are famous public figures (musicians, artists, athletes, etc.) recognized in your country?
- What type of music is played everyday and for special events?
- What are the most popular instruments for music in your country?
Research Sister School’s Culture
Now, your team will research cultural practices about your sister school’s country. Using the questions below, research how your sister school’s country practices each cultural topic. Keep your answers on a piece of paper or computer document to share during your next meeting. This will help guide you to have questions to ask during your next meeting/video.
- What are the main languages/dialects spoken in your sister school’s country?
- What are significant holidays that are celebrated every year in your sister school’s country?
- What type of ethnic groups, tribes, subcultures, etc. live in your sister school’s country?
- How do people interact with one another in your sister school’s country? What are best practices when speaking with peers or your elders?
- Where do people meet for large gatherings/events in your sister school’s country?
- How are current events, news, or education shared throughout your sister school’s country?
- What seasons do your sister’s school country have and when do each of them occur?
- What is the typical weather like during each season in your sister school’s country?
- What is the size and population of the city in your sister school’s country?
- What are popular locations in your sister school’s city/country and what are their functions?
- What type of landscape do exist in your sister school’s country (desert, rainforest, temperate forests, etc.)?
- Where do people mostly live in your sister school’s country? Do they live in the city, suburban areas, rural areas, etc.?
- What are the most popular foods in your sister school’s country?
- What is the national dish of your sister school’s country?
- Is meat commonly eaten in dishes in your sister school’s country?
- What type of food is grown in your sister school’s country?
- What are the most popular fruits in your sister school’s country?
- When do people typically eat throughout the day in your sister school’s country?
- What type of clothing is typically worn day to day in your sister school’s country?
- What type of clothing is worn for special events and how are they made in your sister school’s country?
- What are the most popular sports in your country in your sister school’s country?
- Who are famous public figures (musicians, artists, athletes, etc.) recognized in your sister school’s country?
- What type of music is played everyday and for special events in your sister school’s country?
- What are the most popular instruments for music in your sister school’s country?
Meet Each Other (Live or Video)
Congratulations! You have finished Stage 1! Now it’s time to meet with your sister school and share what you have learned! After the meeting, you will move to Stage 2!
Next Step: Stage 2 – Pick Your Project
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