Lesson Plan: A Climate Friendly Future Unit and the Stabilization Wedges Game

Written By: Melinda Crimmins
Grade Level: High School

Time Allotment

One 40-50 minute class period is needed for the introductory license plate activity and discussion and the Wedges Powerpoint Presentation . The next day as an over view show the video Co2 and the Grenhouse Effect (www.undeerc.org)and (7 ways to Reduce Carbon). CMI (Carbon Mitigation Initiative) suggests using 2-3 standard (40-50 minute) class periods to prepare for and play the Stabilization Wedges game. In the first period, the Stabilization Triangle and the concept of wedges are discussed and the technologies introduced. Students can further research the technologies as homework. In the second period, students play the game and present their results. Depending on the number of groups in the class, an additional period may be needed for the presentation of results. Assessment and application questions are included and may be assigned as homework after the game has been played, or discussed as a group as part of an additional class period/assignment.


Students will be introduced to an overview of the carbon and climate situation. They will complete an introductory license plate activity, read article, collaborate with peer, research a variety of carbon cutting strategies, culminating in the playing of the Princeton University developed Stabilization Wedges Game.

Supplemental Materials
Downloadable Lesson Plan
Write A Story
Write A Text
Write A Essay

Stabilization Game
Teachers Guide

Subject Matter

Carbon and Climate Problem & Solutions, Language Arts, Social Studies, Science

Learning Objectives

The core purpose of this game is to convey the scale of effort needed to address the carbon and climate situation and the necessity of developing a portfolio of options. By the end of the exercise, students should understand the magnitude of human-sourced carbon emissions and feel comfortable comparing the effectiveness, benefits, and drawbacks of a variety of carbon- cutting strategies. The students should appreciate that there is no easy or “right” solution to the carbon and climate problem.

Media Components - Video/Web

License plate activity http://www.acme.com/licensemaker

Videos Clip: Co2 and the Greenhouse Effect
• Youtube: 7 ways to reduce carbon http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wcDHZ7Z-hQ
• Introduction to the Wedges (Flash) • Wedges Presentation and Game, AAAS Annual Meeting 2007
More stabilization wedge resources, including background articles and slides, are available at http://cmi.princeton.edu/wedges


Stabilization Wedges Articles & Videos
Please note that the original "wedges" article published in 2004 showed seven (7) wedges in the stabilization triangle, but that, as emissions have continued to increase, the number of wedges needed to stabilize emissions has been raised to eight (8) in newer publications and graphics.
Articles(links in downloadable Lesson Plan in Overview Section)
• Climate Game Gives Real Options to Save World, NPR, 2007
• Stabilization Wedges: Solving the Climate Problem for the Next 50 Years with Current Technologies
S. Pacala and R. Socolow, Science, 2004.
• Solving the Climate Problem: Technologies for Curbing CO2 emissions (PDF)
R. Socolow, R. Hotinski, J. Greenblatt, S. Pacala, Environment, 2004.
• Can We Bury Global Warming? (PDF)
R. Socolow, Scientific American, 2005.
• A Plan to Keep Carbon in Check (PDF)
R. Socolow and S. Pacala, Scientific American, 2006.
Materials (see Student Game Materials at end of downloadable lesson plan)
• 1 copy of Instructions and Wedge Table per student (print single-sided to allow use of gameboard pieces!)
• 1 Wedge Worksheet and 1 Gameboard with multi-colored wedge pieces per group, plus scissors for cutting out game pieces and glue sticks or tape to secure pieces to gameboard • Optional - overhead transparencies, posters, or other materials for group presentations

Teacher Preparation

Make copies of blank License template. Make Wedge Game Pieces. Make copies of Wedge Worksheet.

Introductory Activities

  1. Distribute license templates. Instruct students to design a personalized license plate. Have student use a combination of seven numbers and/or letters in the center of the plate. Have student create a motto about an important place on the bottom of their plate. Instruct students to create a picture or symbol about something they consider important about activities they participate in their community. Have students choose a month in one corner and two numbers of importance to them in the other corner. Have audience make a license place by:
    Distributing TEMPLATES Have them fill in their template with:
    Distribute markers/ colored pencils. Allow time to finish. Then go around and tell why you picked those Why are they important. Are any linked to family traditions centered on nature, seasons, and climate? You choose the items you did because of your unique culture, family and places Would any of these significant items change if the climate changes? How would you feel if your children and grandchildren do not have that same connection or opportunities because of our changing climate. Show the Wedges Powerpoint Presentation.
    • Motivation. Review the urgency of the carbon and climate problem and potential ways it may impact the students’ futures.
    • Present the Concepts. Introduce the ideas of the Stabilization Triangle and its eight “wedges”.
    • Introduce the Technologies. Briefly describe the 15 wedge strategies identified by CMI, then have students familiarize themselves with the strategies as homework. Participants are free to critique any of the wedge strategies that CMI has identified, and teams should feel free to use strategies not on our list.
    • Form Teams. Teams of 3 to 6 players are best, and it is particularly helpful to have each student be an appointed “expert” in a few of the technologies to promote good discussions. You may want to identify a recorder and reporter in each group.
    • Explain the Rules. See instructions in Student Game Materials at back of packet

Learning Activities

Lesson Procedure/Methodology
  1. Playing the Game (40 minutes)
    a. Filling in the Stabilization Triangle. Teammates should work together to build a team stabilization triangle using 8 color-coded wedges labeled with specific strategies. Many strategies can be used more than once.
    b. Wedge Worksheet. Each team should fill in one stabilization wedge worksheet to make sure players haven’t violated the constraints of the game, to tally costs, and to predict judges’ ratings of their solution.
    NOTE: Costs are for guidance only – they are not meant to be used to produce a numerical score that wins or loses the game! c. Reviewing the Triangle. Each team should review the strengths and weaknesses of its strategies in preparation for reporting and defending its solutions to the class.
  2. Reports (depending on the number of groups this may require an additional class period)
    a. Representatives from each team will defend their solutions to the class in a 5-minute report. The presentation can be a simple verbal discussion by the group or a reporter designated by the group. If additional time is available, the presentations could include visual aids, such as a poster, PowerPoint presentation, etc.
    b. Students should address not only the technical viability of their wedges, but also the economic, social, environmental and political implications of implementing their chosen strategies on a massive scale.
  3. Judging In CMI workshops, the teams’ triangles have been judged by experts from various global stakeholder groups, such as an environmental advocacy organization, the auto industry, a developing country, or the U.S. Judging ensures that economic and political impacts are considered and emphasizes the need for consensus among a broad coalition of stakeholders. For a classroom, judges can be recruited from local government, colleges, businesses, and non-profit organizations, or a teacher/facilitator can probe each team about the viability of its strategies.

Culminating Activity

Closure/Assessment of Student Learning
In addition to addressing the game and lessons learned, discussion questions are provided below that give opportunity to develop and assess the students’ understanding of the wedges concept and its applications.
1) Given physical challenges and risks, how many wedges do you think each wedge strategy can each realistically provide?
2) In choosing wedge strategies, it’s important to avoid double counting – removing the same emissions with two different strategies. For example, there are 6 strategies for cutting emissions from electricity, but we project only 5 wedges worth of carbon produced from the electric sector 50 years from now. Can you think of reasons, other than the adoption of alternative or nuclear energy, that emissions from electricity would be lower or higher than we predict? Examples: increased use of carbon-intensive coal versus natural gas (higher), slower population growth (lower), substitution of electricity for fuel, as via plug-in electric cars (higher).
3) Industrialized countries and developing countries now each contribute about half the world’s emissions, although the poorer countries have about 85% of the world’s population. (The U.S. alone emits one fourth of the world's CO2.) If we agree to freeze global emissions at current levels, that means if emissions in one region of the world go up as a result of economic/industrial development, then emissions must be cut elsewhere. Should the richer countries reduce their emissions 50 years from now so that extra carbon emissions can be available to developing countries? If so, by how much?
4) Nuclear energy is already providing one-half wedge of emissions savings – what do you think the future of these plants should be?
5) Automobile emissions are a popular target for greenhouse gas cuts. What percent of greenhouse gases do you think come from the world’s passenger vehicles? (answer: about 18%)

Cross-Curricular Activity

(links in downloadable Lesson Plan) • Climate Game Gives Real Options to Save World, NPR, 2007
• Stabilization Wedges: Solving the Climate Problem for the Next 50 Years with Current Technologies
S. Pacala and R. Socolow, Science, 2004.
• Solving the Climate Problem: Technologies for Curbing CO2 emissions (PDF)
R. Socolow, R. Hotinski, J. Greenblatt, S. Pacala, Environment, 2004
• Can We Bury Global Warming? (PDF)
R. Socolow, Scientific American, 2005.
• A Plan to Keep Carbon in Check (PDF)
R. Socolow and S. Pacala, Scientific American, 2006.

Have students complete the following:
Do you think the government should try to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases even if it slows down the growth in your country’s standard of living?
a) Which of the following answers do you think is the best one?
1) No, I don’t think the government should make any effort to reduce these emissions
2) No, the government should only take measures to reduce emissions that do not harm business or slow down growth.
3) Yes, measures that leads to a slight reduction in growth is worth it as long as we still get richer year by year
4) Yes, we should do whatever it takes to reduce these emissions even if it costs us quite a bit
b) Write a text (100–300 words) where you give the reasons for your answer in
a). What will be the consequences for our way of living?
Mathematical: Imagine that you buy a cotton sweater made in China. Make an overview of the various parts of the production, transport, marketing and sale of the sweater and how each part implies the use of energy
Poem writing: write a poem about what nature might look like in the future for your grandchildren if we do nothing about climate change
Create A map with co2 emission globally. You may use these websites to do your country research:
CountryWatch.com (http://aol.countrywatch.com/) Country @ a Glance (http://cyberschoolbus.un.org/infonation/index.asp)
Encarta Encyclopedia (http://encarta.msn.com/artcenter_/browse.html)

Community Connections

Check your local environment Find out how your local community is encouraging (or discouraging?) a "climate-friendly" lifestyle: Does it have well-functioning public transport, bicycle paths, recycling bins, etc.?