Semester Project: Planet Earth

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Instructions in Detail

Please read all these instructions carefully. Investing some time in reading these instructions carefully will save you errors and confusion in the future. These instructions will help you understand what needs to be done for the semester project. The project will take time. Please start working on it as soon as possible and try to complete parts of it every week.

Also see: Planet Earth Museum Paper

Important : this project seeks to evaluate your personal writing, quantitative, critical thinking, speaking etc. skills. It is therefore an individual effort. The parts where you can collaborate with your group partner are some parts of the Experimental component labeled “Teamwork.” It is recommended you collaborate with a partner throughout the semester to gain teamwork skills. However, if you do not have a partner, please put “Worked alone” in the “Teamwork” section of your project report.

Background

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing our planet today. If we do not act, scientific models predict disastrous consequences. Life will be impacted on a global scale. Summer 2019 was the hottest on record for the northern hemisphere (NOAA https://www.noaa.gov/ ). The purpose of this project is to introduce us to some basic concepts of how human activity contributes to climate change.

The following videos will help review the science:

  1. Causes and Effects of Climate Change | National Geographic (3:04 min)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4H1N_yXBiA

  1. Understanding The Science Of Climate Change | Earth’s Survival | Spark (51:17 min)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3Iztt4D2UE

  1. Climate Change: Science and Policy’ Lecture by Mario Molina, Nobel Prize in Chemistry (78:50 min)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_bXzc6hfGM

  1. Bill Nye, and Neil de Grasse Tyson on Climate Change (2:57 min, and 9:26 min)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7Lu-R4EwQw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jm_YoL9ykC4

Other useful websites:

National Climate Assessment:

https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/

NASA Climate Change:

https://climate.nasa.gov/

NASA scientist, Kate Marvel, answers your questions on climate change (52:38 min):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQFWO-65gbQ

ESRI- The Science of Where:

https://storymaps.esri.com/stories/2018/hot-numbers/index.html

EPA Climate Change Indicators

https://www.epa.gov/climate-indicators

University of Colorado useful links

https://seec.colorado.edu/act/the-science.html

What the future might look like for Texas:

https://statesatrisk.org/texas/all

Carbon footprint

Global warming results from increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere. Human activity adds to atmospheric greenhouse gases. The carbon footprint is a measure of the amount of greenhouse gases released by a given system. The system may be an individual, family, organization, activity, and so on. Important greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO2), and methane (CH4).

Purpose

We will estimate our carbon footprint to see how our own greenhouse gas emissions contribute to global warming.

Procedure

Go to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website:

https://www3.epa.gov/carbon-footprint-calculator/

Enter the information for energy usage, transportation, and waste for you, or your family. If you do not have exact numbers, you may approximately estimate these values. After entering the information, view “Your Household Family Report.” Record your contributions in the table below:

Table 1

Household contributions without remedial actions.

ActivityCO2 emissions (lbs)CO2 emissions (kg)

Divide lbs by 2.2 to convert to kg

Home energy
Transportation
Waste
Total

Next, calculate how making a few changes can reduce your carbon footprint. Changes to consider are:

Driving a more energy efficient car, performing regular maintenance on your car, car-pooling, driving less, turning down the thermostat in winter, using ENERGY STAR products (those that are certified by the U.S. Department of Energy), washing your clothes in cold water, hang-drying your clothes, and recycling your waste. All of these are “sustainable activities.” Please take a picture of one or more of these as evidence for the sustainable activity required for your project report.

A list of actions recommended by the United Nations is listed at the following website:

This is a useful New York Times article:

https://www.nytimes.com/guides/year-of-living-better/how-to-reduce-your-carbon-footprint

List the actions you could take and the resulting reductions in CO2 emissions in Table 2 below. The savings in cost and pounds will be listed on the EPA footprint calculator website.

Table 2

Reduction in CO2 emission by taking remedial actions

ActivityAnnual savings in cost (Dollars saved)Annual saving in pounds of CO2
Total

Teamwork

  1. Communicate with your group partner to compare your contributions to CO2 emissions with and without remedial actions.
  2. Enter your group’s information in Table 3 below:

Table 3

Team contributions without and with remedial actions.

Group member’s nameTotal CO2 emissions (lbs) WITHOUT remedial measuresTotal reduction in CO2 emissions (lbs) WITH remedial measures
  1. Discuss with your partner ways to realistically implement these remedial measures in your day-to-day life.

Indicators of climate change

There are various physical indicators that can help study, and track climate change. We will look at three in this part of the project.

  1. Temperature
  2. Go to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) website:

This website allows you to plot recorded temperature data for over 100 years.

Click on “Display Trend,” and then click on “Plot” in the blue box. Study the resulting graph. It shows a record of the temperature measured in the US for the same month, for over a century. The blue line shows you the way the temperature has been changing. You may need to “refresh” your browser page to see the plot.

If you continue to have problems seeing the plots, please try using a different browser.

  1. Change the month to the coldest month of the year (January), click on “City” at the top, and make a similar plot for your city (e.g., Dallas, TX). Study the resulting graph, make sure the blue “Trend” line is visible. Take a screenshot of one such graph and paste it in the “Results” section of your project report. Add a few words describing what the graph is in figure caption in the Results section of your project report.
  2. Write a few words about what you learned about the trend in the temperature in “Discussion” section of your project report.
  3. You can change the parameter from “Average Temperature” to “Maximum temperature” etc. to investigate more on your own. You can also study the global temperature trends by clicking on “Global” at the top.
  4. Sea level
  5. Go to the NOAA website:

https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-global-sea-level

  1. Study the plot that shows change in global mean sea level from 1880 to 2020.
  2. Take a screenshot of this graph and paste it in the “Results” section of your project report. Add a few words describing what the graph is in the figure caption in the Results section of your project report.
  3. Write a few words about what you learned from this website in the “Discussion” section of your project report.
  4. Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI)
  5. Go to the NOAA website:

https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-annual-greenhouse-gas-index

  1. Study the plot that shows the warming influence of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere since 1980.
  2. Take a screenshot of this graph and paste it in the “Results” section of your project report. Add a few words describing what the graph is in the figure caption in the Results section of your project report.
  3. Write a few words about what you learned from this website in the “Discussion” section of your project report.

Report

Use the “Project_Report_Outline” document to complete your project report. This report is in the form of a template to guide you, and is available in the “Project” folder on eCampus. It has all the sections you need to complete your report in one, single Word document. These sections are typically found in a paper published in a scientific journal and will therefore give you valuable experience in scientific writing. You will be submitting this completed outline document as your project report. Below, are some tips to help with completing the individual sections in this report template:

  1. Introduction: write a short introduction (one or two paragraphs) giving background information about the project to a newcomer. Describe how greenhouse gases contribute to climate change. Address the question: why should we be concerned about climate change? Use in-text citations in APA style to support your statements throughout your report. In scientific writing, a statement conveying new information is generally followed by its source. For example:

Climate change can be defined as “the change in the usual weather found in a place” (National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 2017).

Look for credible sources of information (e.g., peer-reviewed journal articles).

The Dallas College library can help you with this. Please visit their website:

https://www.dcccd.edu/libraries/pages/default.aspx

  1. Materials needed: list the materials needed to do this project. For example, list of websites in APA style, other resources, etc. The purpose is to tell the brand-new person what they would need to do the project. List the websites in APA style:

Author. (Year). Title. Retrieved from (give the URL here).

  1. Procedure: briefly describe the procedure you followed to calculate your carbon footprint in the “Procedure” section of the “Project_Report_Outline” document. If you like, you can also briefly describe procedures for other things you did for your project that you think the reader may not know.
  2. Results: copy-paste your carbon footprint tables (Tables 1 to 3 above) into the Results section of the “Project_Report_Outline” document. Paste screenshots of your graphs of indicators of climate change here. Add a few lines explaining what the tables and graphs are in the captions below the tables and graphs.
  3. Discussion: here, you need to interpret and clarify your results for the reader. What does it all mean? Bring out the most important information for the reader. Help them digest this information because it is new to them. Explain what you found/learned/discovered while working on your project. Some other points that can be included in this section are:
  4. What do the measured indicators of climate change tell us?
  5. Carbon dioxide can last in the atmosphere for thousands of years (see websites below). How will this affect future generations?
  6. a) EPA post:
  1. b) Journal article:

http://climatemodels.uchicago.edu/geocarb/archer.2009.ann_rev_tail.pdf

  1. c) NOAA article:

https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-atmospheric-carbon-dioxide

  1. d) EDF post:

http://blogs.edf.org/climate411/2008/02/26/ghg_lifetimes/

  1. Compare your carbon footprint to the U.S. average for your zip code.
  2. What source (activity) is the major contributor to your carbon footprint?
  3. By how much can you realistically reduce your CO2 emissions per year?
  4. Can you plant a tree, or can you help tree planting efforts in your community?

See how trees can reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at:

https://onetreeplanted.org/blogs/stories/planting-trees-reduce-carbon-footprint

  1. Is it worth taking remedial actions now?
  2. What would happen if you did nothing?

9 How would you educate others about what you learned while working on this project?

  1. If you would like to help our planet, below are a couple of links to help you get started.

“Project Drawdown” is a worldwide effort led by Dr. Katharine Wilkinson with over eighty solutions in different sectors. You can learn more in this YouTube video (11:13 min):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iz5pfXXLB4Y

The Project Drawdown website is:

https://drawdown.org/

The link below has a list of fifty non-profit organizations that need your support.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iz5pfXXLB4Y

You can choose a cause, and an organization you feel most passionate about. An example is 350.org, which is a global grassroots movement working to address climate change:

https://climatestore.com/take-action/get-involved/non-profit-organizations-working-on-climate-change

Conclusion: summarize your take-home message for the reader. What is the one most important thing they should learn from your project – and not forget when they wake up the next morning?

References: list all the sources you consulted while working on your project. The reference list must be in APA style. You need to have at least three references cited in the text, and then listed at the end. Some examples are below however, you would need to have your own references.

  1. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (2017.). What is Climate Change? Retrieved from https://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/k-4/stories/nasa-knows/what-is-climate-change-k4.html

(Note: this is the reference we cited as an “in-text” citation in our Introduction section at the top).

  1. Hewitt, P. G., Suchocki, J., and Hewitt, L.A. (2017). Conceptual Physical Science(6th ed.). Glenview, IL: Pearson.

(Note: this is an example of a book reference).

  1. Wikipedia (2019). Carbon footprint. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_footprint.

(Note: this is a Wikipedia article).

There are several websites that have instructions on the APA style. A google search will help you find them. One example is:

https://guides.libraries.psu.edu/apaquickguide/intext

Quantitative component

Please complete the accompanying quantitative section as instructed. Instructions for this section are posted on eCampus.

Sustainable activity

You are required to participate in at least one sustainable activity this semester. Sustainable activities are ones that help or support the environment. Examples are recycling, reducing energy consumption, carpooling, planting trees or plants, community action, involvement in an Earth-friendly organization, etc. Provide evidence (take a picture of you participating in this activity – you do not need to show your face, or the face of other people in the picture if you do not wish to). Paste this picture in the “Experimental section” of the “Project_Report_Outline” document.

Grading scheme in brief

Semester project report = 50%

Quantitative component = 20%

Experimental component = 30%

Total = 100%

Grading scheme in detail

Semester project report = 50%

You will be evaluated for:

  1. i) Written communications skill: content development, follows rules of academic writing, gives sources or citations, grammar, mechanics, and syntax.
  2. ii) Personal responsibility: ethical choices, decision making, consequences.

iii) Social responsibility: cultural competence, civic responsibility, and community engagement.

  1. iv) Critical thinking: explanation of issues, providing evidence, analysis of the issues, takes a position, makes a thesis or hypothesis, makes a conclusion explaining the implications and consequences.
  2. v) Teamwork: contributes to meetings, facilitates participation of members, completes all assigned tasks, fosters constructive team climate, responds to conflict.

Quantitative component = 20%

You will be evaluated for:

Interpretation (of equations, graphs, tables, figures etc.), representation (convert relevant information to mathematical forms such as equations, graphs etc.), calculations, analysis, assumptions, and communication with clarity and quality.

Experimental component = 30%

You will be evaluated for:

  1. i) Written communications skill: content development, follows rules of academic writing, gives sources or citations, grammar, mechanics, and syntax.
  2. ii) Personal responsibility: ethical choices, decision making, consequences.

iii) Social responsibility: cultural competence, civic responsibility, and community engagement.

  1. iv) Critical thinking: explanation of issues, providing evidence, analysis of the issues, takes a position, makes a thesis or hypothesis, makes a conclusion explaining the implications and consequences.
  2. v) Teamwork: contributes to meetings, facilitates participation of members, completes all assigned tasks, fosters constructive team climate, responds to conflict.

Last Updated on March 14, 2021