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MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative


9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Social Studies, Economics, Civics

Resource Types

  • Lesson Plans
  • Podcasts, 10 minutes, 42 seconds
  • Articles and Websites
  • Activity - Classroom
  • Interactive Media

Regional Focus




Carbon Prices and Climate Change

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  • This lesson plan about carbon pricing, cap-and-trade, and carbon taxes includes a podcast, an article, and several challenges using the En-ROADS climate simulator.
  • Students will learn about this government-level solution and will try out a variety of real-world scenarios to see their effect on concentrations of carbon in the atmosphere. 
Teaching Tips


  • The podcast features an engaging interview with MIT professor of economics Christopher Knittel.
  • The wrap-up discussion questions are thought-provoking and require students to use critical thinking skills.

Additional Prerequisites

  • The guide includes teacher pages and student pages. A PDF of just the student pages is also available near the bottom of the educator guide description page.
  • Teachers should take some time to become familiar with the En-ROADS climate simulator before using it in the lesson.


  • Civics, social studies, or geography classes could examine carbon tax and cap-and-trade models that are being used in different parts of the world and think about which models might work in the United States.
  • Psychology or sociology classes could discuss barriers to carbon pricing using the following questions:
    • Do humans respond more to penalties, rewards, or a combination of the two?
    • Why would money motivate people more than the prospect of stopping climate change?
    • Is it possible that carbon pricing might make people feel like they are doing more to help the Earth than they actually are?
  • Other resources on this topic include this video on carbon taxes, this report on confronting carbon inequality, and this article on how individuals can lower their carbon emissions.
Scientist Notes
This resource includes a podcast in which an MIT expert is interviewed and discusses various ways in which we can put a price on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon taxes and cap-and-trade schemes are discussed, as well as how industry and consumers are likely to respond to these schemes. A transcript and educator's guide, along with additional resource links, are provided. This resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • HS-ESS3-2 Evaluate competing design solutions for developing, managing, and utilizing energy and mineral resources based on cost-benefit ratios.
    • ETS1: Engineering Design
      • HS-ETS1-1 Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.
      • HS-ETS1-4 Use a computer simulation to model the impact of proposed solutions to a complex real-world problem with numerous criteria and constraints on interactions within and between systems relevant to the problem.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Civics
      • D2.Civ.13.9-12 Evaluate public policies in terms of intended and unintended outcomes, and related consequences.
      • D2.Civ.14.9-12 Analyze historical, contemporary, and emerging means of changing societies, promoting the common good, and protecting rights.
    • Dimension 2: Economics
      • D2.Eco.1.9-12 Analyze how incentives influence choices that may result in policies with a range of costs and benefits for different groups.
      • D2.Eco.12.9-12 Evaluate the selection of monetary and fiscal policies in a variety of economic conditions.
      • D2.Eco.3.9-12 Analyze the ways in which incentives influence what is produced and distributed in a market system.
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Reading: Science & Technical Subjects (6-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.9 Synthesize information from a range of sources (e.g., texts, experiments, simulations) into a coherent understanding of a process, phenomenon, or concept, resolving conflicting information when possible.
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