Learn how the amount of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere has changed over time and how it affects Earth’s temperature. The first video, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), uses multiple datasets to graphically show the changing level of atmospheric CO2 from 800,000 years ago until 2016. A graph from the National Academy of Sciences shows the historical record of Earth’s temperature and CO2 levels from Antarctic (Vostok) ice core data. In the second video, from NASA, climate scientist Peter Hildebrand explains that although atmospheric CO2 levels have lagged behind temperature changes historically, that is no longer the case. Since the Industrial Age, rising CO2 levels are driving temperature changes.
To view the Background Essay and Teaching Tips for this media gallery, go to Support Materials below. This resource was developed through WGBH’s Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project, in collaboration with NASA. Click here for the full collection of resources.