top of page

CLIMATE CHANGE SDG 13 What should children know by the end of KS2?


1.Scientific background

What is it?  Today's climate crisis is a long-term, large-scale rise in Earth's temperature that causes major changes in weather. Some scientists predict that the Earth's temperature  could rise by  4 degrees Celsius by the end of this century.

Here's how it works. Greenhouse gases  in the atmosphere (such as  CO2, methane and other gases) absorb solar radiation and trap it as heat.   Human consumption   (see Big Idea 3 below) relies heavily on energy from burning fossil fuels that release CO2[1] (cooking, heating, cars and  airplanes, computer storage and streaming, etc.). Meat production produces a lot of methane – a gas that is 25 times stronger than CO2.

The role of man. 97% of climate scientists agree that humans are the main cause of the climate change we  see today.


  1. Students can describe what climate change is.

  2. Students know that human activities have caused climate change.

  3. Students can list some examples of human activities that release greenhouse gases such as CO2.

2. Urgency of need

What is it?

The rise in temperature accelerates. Scientists agree that we are beginning to see the first phase of climate change, with some very serious changes that will likely be seen in our lifetimes. However, we may not see the full impact for years or even decades.

As the Earth gets hotter, a change takes place in the natural ecosystem, which in turn affects the climate.  This is called a feedback loop.  For example, permafrost is soil that remains frozen year-round. As  the Earth warms, it begins to melt, releasing a lot of trapped methane and carbon into the atmosphere. This makes climate change even worse.  These feedback loops, combined with other effects such as forest destruction, will reach a tipping point where climate change can no longer be reversed. Scientists have differing opinions on when these tipping points might be reached with a warning that they have already been crossed.

The role of humans Scientists have encouraged world leaders to make changes and address these problems. Scientists warn that greenhouse gas emissions need to be massively and quickly reduced so that we don't get to the point where we can no longer control climate change.  Human behaviour and actions must change.

2.1 Students can describe the speed of climate change in simple terms.

2.2 Students can  give  an example of a feedback loop and explain why tipping points are so important. 

2.3 Students can describe the urgent and significant need for action.

3. Impact

What is it? The effects can already be felt with a 1 degree Celsius increase in the earth's temperature compared to the industrial revolution. Some scientists predict an increase of 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century.  Century if we do not make any changes. This would lead to irreversible damage, a sharp decline in the human population and the extinction of many other species.

Here's how it works. The effects of climate change on the natural environment can be seen in the warming of the earth and oceans, sea level rise, rise, floods and  other extreme weather events. "Global sea levels have risen by about 8 inches in the last century. However, the rate over the past two decades is almost twice as high as it was in the last century" (NASA, 2018). The impact on flora and fauna is catastrophic and already underway. Scientists believe we may be on the brink of a sixth "mass extinction."  These changes could also have deadly consequences for humans, with direct effects on loss of life, as well as food shortages and the spread of diseases such as malaria.

3.1 Students can describe how major changes need to take place to prevent further warming of the Earth.

3.2 Students can describe some of the impacts of climate change if no changes are made.

4. Climate injustice

Most greenhouse gases come from older countries in the minority world,  where more people tend to eat larger amounts of meat, fly frequently, and deliver food from around the world, such as:  Bananas and avocados. However, the greatest effects of climate change are felt in the hotter countries of the European Union. The people in these countries who are least responsible for the problem will be affected first and hardest. Weather changes are already forcing many people to leave their homes in search of food – so-called "climate refugees".

4.1 Pupils can explain how some parts of the world will be affected by climate change much more than others.

4.2 Pupils can describe how these parts of the world most affected are least responsible. 


5. Feelings and responses Climate change is a huge and overwhelming issue and it is natural to respond to this with anxiety or fear. Nearly 3/ 4 of young people in the UK are anxious about climate change and 3 in 5 children are worried about the impact of climate change on their lives  Some people struggle with guilt knowing that society/ we as individuals are part of the problem. It’s easy to let this guilt stop us from doing anything. But realising how big (and urgent) this problem is can also motivate us to take action. Taking action, particularly with others, can help to address climate anxiety and build hope for the future.




6. Action

Many world leaders are making a promise to try and stop the earth’s temperature rising. Countries are starting to use more renewable energy (energy that doesn’t run out such as the sun, wind and water) rather than burning fossil fuels. Many people are looking at their ‘carbon footprint’ and making changes.


What can we do to help?


Use and buy less – food, clothes, toys

Encourage your school and family to use renewable energy suppliers

Help to protect and plant trees

Encourage your family to use a car less / consider switching to an electric car

Talk about climate change at school and with family and friends

5.1 Pupils can discuss their own and others’ feelings about the climate crisis.

5.2 Pupils know that anxiety is a normal response to the climate crisis.

 6.1 Pupils feel challenged to take action to tackle climate change.

bottom of page