Illuminating Climate Change: Connecting Lighting and Global Warming

Warm-up: Global What?

1. Begin this lesson with a discussion of global warming. Find out what your students already know about the subject and try to fill in the gaps in their basic knowledge of the subject. Here are some questions you can use to get the discussion going:

a. What is global warming?

b.  What are greenhouse gases?

c.  What types of human activities create greenhouse gases?

d.  What are some of the negative effects of global warming?

e.  What are some steps individuals can take to halt or reverse global warming?


Activity One: Electricity and Fossil Fuels

1.Have students write down what they believe are America’s different sources of electricity.

2. Once they have individually completed their lists, ask students to share what they’ve written and create a comprehensive class list of energy sources on the board.

a. Add any sources your students might have missed. Your complete list should include the following[1]:

  i. Coal (49%)

  ii. Natural Gas (20%)

  iii. Nuclear (20%)

  iv. Hydroelectric (7%)

   v. Renewables (2.5%)

   vi. Petroleum (1.5%)

3. Make a list on the board of the percentages listed above (don’t list them with their corresponding electricity sources). Ask students to write down which percentages they believe match up with which sources of electricity.

4.After students have finished, write the percentages on the board with their actual corresponding electricity source

5. Ask students the following questions:

a. Which of these sources of electricity are fossil fuels?

               Answer:Coal, natural gas, petroleum.

b. What is the total percentage of the electricity the United States obtains from fossil fuels?


c. What are the problems associated with getting electricity from fossil fuels?

            Answer:Fossil fuels create undesirable by-products—greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide) that contribute to global warming and other pollutants that cause problems like smog and acid rain. Fossil fuels are non-renewable resources.

Activity Two: Electricity and Climate Change
1. Hand out Reproducible #1: Graphing State CO2 Emissions and have students complete it individually.  After students complete the worksheet, have the class discuss the following questions:

  1. Why do some states produce more CO2 per capita from electricity than other states?  Possible Answers: Higher electricity use, dirtier sources of energy (coal vs. solar), etc.
  2. Is it possible to reduce CO2 emissions from electricity without cutting down on electricity use? How?  Possible Answers: Yes, using cleaner energy sources and/or using electricity more efficiently.
  3. What can individuals do to help reduce their CO2 emissions?  Possible Answers: Use less energy, use energy more efficiently, etc.



Through an exploration of America’s energy sources and an analysis of state CO2 emissions from electricity, students should now have a basic understanding of the connection between lighting and climate change.

[1]Energy Information Administration.Electric Power Industry Net Generation. Retrieved 29 October 2008, from