Teaching Teachers about Climate Change

In my 30 years as a university professor before coming to Environmental Defense (2 years ago today!), I gave a lot of lectures in a lot of classrooms. But last Thursday I had one of the strangest lecture experiences of my professional life.

This time the classroom was virtual. I gave a two-hour webcast on climate change to teachers as part of the Tennessee Department of Education’s continuing education program. This afternoon I’ll give the second lecture in the series – this one on technologies for saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Here’s how the webcast worked. I sat in a small room with a couple of technicians monitoring the feed. There was a camera sitting about three feet in front of me, focused on my upper torso (I was told). To my right, on a small table and off camera, was a laptop with my PowerPoint presentation. The presentation was projected on a screen in front of me. I used a mouse to click through the slides, and the mouse’s cursor as a pointer. My students, sitting in front of their own computers, could view two windows – one of me, and the other of the PowerPoint presentation.

In my lecture, I went over the basic scientific evidence establishing the cause-and-effect relationship between increasing carbon dioxide emissions, rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, higher global temperatures, and the increasingly severe impacts we’re seeing as a result.

All through the lecture I wondered… Is anyone there? Are they awake? I like to add a little levity to my lectures from time to time with a joke or two. Did anyone laugh? I had no idea! It was an eerie disconnect with my students.

After the 90-minute lecture, it was time for questions, transmitted over the net to one of the technicians. I was nervous. Would there be any questions? Was there anyone left to ask questions? After a tense few moments, the questions (thankfully) began to flow in.

Why do some gases act as greenhouse gases and others not? What will global warming do to ocean currents and fisheries? Will there be impacts on health? Which ecosystems have been affected the most so far?

Thirty minutes later the webcast was over. It was only then that I found out we had 56 students in attendance – not bad!

The 90-minute course is online, if you’d like to see it for yourself. Here are some other useful websites for teachers and parents:

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