Segment 7

In 2010, for the first time, the Pentagon focused on climate change as a significant factor in its Quadrennial Defense Review of potential risks and strategic responses. Rear Admiral David Titley, Oceanographer of the Navy, explains why the US military sees clear evidence of climate change, and how those changes will affect future military and humanitarian missions. (See also the full transcript of his Interview.) Of particular note is the likely impact of sea level rise on naval facilities which are, of course, primarily on coasts. Titley argues that earth and physical science offer useful projections of future climate that we can use to make sound decisions.

Annotated Script
Interactive version: panels 61-68

• Students will understand that global climate change is of concern to nations and has national security implications.
• Students will learn that the impacts of climate change can vary by degree, type and location.
• Students will understand that altering human behaviors based on climate projections can benefit our future.

Carbon dioxide, climate change, fossil fuels, glacier, global warming

Using a US or world map, begin by asking your students to place Post-it notes at any location where they have a relative who they think might be impacted by global warming. Lead a group discussion: who are they thinking about, and why did they place their notes where they did? Does anyone have grandparents who vacation in Florida? Is there a pattern to the note locations? What type of climate impact were they envisioning? Who should be concerned about global warming? Make a list of potential topics to explore.

Global climate change can often leave individuals feeling overwhelmed and unsure about how or if they can mitigate its effects. Yet recent research is showing that when climate change is portrayed in a local context or becomes personally meaningful, people become much more engaged. Introduce The Pentagon and Climate Change video and ask students to watch for who it is that’s paying close attention to the science, and to name at least one issue that he/they are concerned about.

It’s recommended that you follow the video with the first activity below to clarify what type of melting ice is involved with rising sea level. A high percentage of people have misconceptions about this concept. The additional activities offer increasingly more complex learning opportunities. Be sure to check out the Expand activity below, as it will bring climate change issues home in a more personal way.

1) CONCEPT: Different effects on sea level result from the melting of land ice versus sea ice.

Sea Level Change-Floating Ice versus Land Ice

Using readily available materials, students create mini-models of floating and grounded ice and calculate the result of the melting on the volume of water in two containers.

To simplify this experiment for younger students, you might have them draw a line where the water level is at the beginning, do one trial run for a few hours, and draw a line showing the results at the end. Video images of the set-up are included for you, as well as assessment questions. 


2) CONCEPT: Global temperatures and sea levels vary over time and place.

Climate Time Machine and Sea Level Viewer

NASA’s Global Climate Change web site offers multiple online simulations of climate change impacts for students to explore, using interactive tools. Computers and Internet access are needed. Teacher Tips are included at the URL above and specific examples of hurricanes or coastal impacts are included for student review.

This quick interactive simulation is an excellent follow-up for visual learners and portrays the “big picture” of changes in the climate.  Most appropriate for upper elementary and middle school students


3) CONCEPT: Sea level can be monitored using various technologies and is influenced by multiple, interacting factors.

This NOAA unit contains 5 progressive activities incorporating sea surface height and tide data.  Students use math to compute mean values and evaluation variables affecting sea level.

This sophisticated data-driven series of activities is offered for older students or teachers who want a more in-depth exploration of sea level concepts. Students need a solid understanding of math. Inexpensive hands-on materials are needed for some explorations, as well as a computer, projection and internet access. An assessment rubric is included.

An excellent way to wrap up this study is by having students investigate the potential local impact of climate change in their own particular region. For middle school students, an online, interactive exploration is available at:

Climate Change Wildlife and Woodlands:  Explore Your Eco-Region

This ecosystem-based investigation of climate impact on wildlife and woodlands includes case studies by region and multiple associated learning resources. An important element is a focus on how students can help. The web site offers a free DVD of the materials for non-web access.

For older students, NOAA’s climate education site offers major assessment and impact reports, as well as a mechanism for predicting climate by region:

Students can be challenged to choose an issue and a region and write a short essay on ways to mitigate the level of impact.

You might also have them read and comment on Admiral Titley’s interview

A class wrap-up can include students reflecting of what they have discovered and looking back at their initial brainstorming ideas.  Have their views about who should be concerned, or the types of impacts that are possible changed? 

Grades 6-8

ESS Core Idea 4:
Human activities are constrained by and, in turn, affect all other processes at Earth's surface.
Why are soil and water considered to be limited resources when they are so common on Earth?
How do human activities alter Earth?
How do human activities alter Earth's climate?
How can humans reduce climate change and minimize its negative effects?

ET Core Idea 3:
People are surrounded and supported by technological systems.
Effectively using and improving these systems is essential to long-term survival and prosperity.
How do systems relate to larger and smaller systems?

Grades 9-12

ESS Core Idea 3:
Earth's surface continually changes from the cycling of water and rock driven by sunlight and gravity.
How does climate change over space and time in response to both natural and man-made causes?
How do global climate change models predict future climate change?

ESS Core Idea 4:
Human activities are constrained by and, in turn, affect all other processes at Earth's surface.
How might global climate change affect humans?
What can be done to reduce global climate change and its negative impacts?

ET Core Idea 4:
In today's modern world everyone makes technological decisions that affect or are affected by technology on a daily basis.
Consequently, it is essential for all citizens to understand the risks and responsibilities that accompany such decisions.

What are unanticipated consequences?



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