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The Climate Reality Project


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Social Studies, Economics, History

Resource Type

  • Videos, 3 minutes, 26 seconds, CC, Subtitles

Regional Focus

Global, North America, United States, USA - West, USA - South, USA - Northeast, New Jersey, Oceania, Europe

The Cost of Carbon

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  • This video explains carbon pollution, provides a history of climate science (beginning with Joseph Fourier in the 1820s), and makes the connections to livelihoods, lives lost, and the economic costs of carbon pollution and climate change. 
  • It shows that all humans on Earth are impacted by climate change right now. These impacts include economic costs, personal costs, environmental costs, and geopolitical costs.
Teaching Tips


  • This video can be used to concretely connect climate change and its impacts on all people everywhere, every single day.
  • It is useful to show that climate change is not distant in time or place but is affecting all of us now.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should have some knowledge about weather (short-term changes in temperature and precipitation) vs. climate (long-term patterns of temperature and precipitation, usually over 30+ years).
  • The video omits climate scientist Eunice Foote, who made great strides in the 1850s but has often been overlooked due to her gender.


  • This video can be used as an introduction when studying climate disasters and their economic impact. It can be used to think about cost-benefit analysis. Should governments spend billions or trillions of dollars to mitigate climate change? What is the economic cost if we do nothing?
  • This video can also be used when discussing a carbon tax or carbon cap-and-trade models. What is the actual cost of one tonne of carbon? Can we price it? Should we price it? Is that the best way forward?
  • Other resources on this topic include this Table of Solutions to climate change, this video, and this article.
Scientist Notes

This video illustrates the history of climate change by Joseph Fourier, a Physicist in 1824. Then it outlines the 1880s, the Industrial Revolution, the carbon boom, and the 1960s where climate science data were quantified. Comments from expert scientist: The video shows evidence of global temperatures increase by NASA. It is accurate. Only the caption "perfect storms" seems misleading; we do not have a perfect storm, but we do have storms occurring from different categories. For instance, storms can be category 3, 5, etc. Importantly, we do have "Orogenesis" (beginning or source origin of the storm, processes, and development). The resource is recommended for teaching.

  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • MS-ESS2-2 Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth's surface at varying time and spatial scales.
      • HS-ESS2-2 Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-2 Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects.
      • HS-ESS3-5 Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth systems.
    • 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.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Economics
      • D2.Eco.1.6-8 Explain how economic decisions affect the well-being of individuals, businesses, and society.
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