Lesson 3: What are the effects of climate change and what will that look like here?

Farm-Educator prep:

  • One effect of climate change is sea level rise. Watch video of climate-resilient farming example in the Solomon Islands, threatened by rising seas.

  • Brainstorm list of effects that are relevant locally (e.g. hurricanes, wildfires, drought, disrupted seasonality, increased pests).

  • Compare to National Climate Assessment tool predictions for your geographic region.

  • Read up on Rocky Mountain Biological Lab warming experiments and NGEE-Arctic for examples of how climate scientists are trying to better understand future impacts. Additional news article citing RMBL.

  • Read impacts of climate change on agriculture article here and adaptation implications (of course, it is not just up to farmers to adapt to impacts; this requires off-farm consumer and policymaker participation as well!.


  • Recycled plastic containers for building mini-greenhouses


  • Warm-up: Journal exercise: what do you think are the impacts climate change is having on agriculture? List them in your journal.

    • Group Climate impact assessments. Students move to different corners/circles if they think the following statements are effects of climate change, or not effects:

      • A hurricane hits the east coast. [Not CC]

      • A hurricane drops 200% more rain than average upon making landfall on the east coast. [CC]

      • The largest wildfire ever recorded burns in California. [CC]

      • A “100-year drought” hits the west coast for the 2nd time in 10 years. [CC]

      • The depth to permafrost layer in the Arctic is growing each summer as permafrost near the soil surface melts. [CC]

      • The groundwater aquifers in California are becoming harder to access. [Trick question, both answers are somewhat correct; mostly a problem of overuse/over pumping, but this is climate-linked].

      • Agricultural soils are in a state of degradation. [Not CC effect, but degraded soils do contribute to CC on the “cause” side of the equation].

      • Pollinator emergence is no longer coinciding with flower bloom (main food source for pollinating insects). [CC]

      • Insect pests are surviving through the winters that aren’t cold enough to kill them off, and emerging in larger numbers each summer. [CC]

  • Mini Lesson: Discuss impacts already being felt on the farm, and those that are most relevant to this region. How can farmers mitigate and adapt to these effects? Bring in panel of local farmers if possible, or multiple perspectives from your farm.

    • Define adaptation vs. mitigation (responding to the problem vs. proactively taking steps to prevent it in the first place).

  • Activity 1: Build mini greenhouses out of recycled plastic containers or any available “found” materials on the farm. Set up seedling containers with potting soil, add seed to containers. Keep temperature thermometer on hand to measure soil temp in the greenhouse later in the day and throughout the week. Discuss why greenhouses might be good for starting seedlings, but bad for plants out in the field. What would happen if you covered all the plants in a row with a greenhouse? Would some plants like that better than others? Which ones?

  • Activity 2: (Indoor activity)- Watch Patagonia Provisions documentary “Unbroken Ground” about the intersections between food systems and climate change. Starts to move from effects of climate change to solutions through regenerative farming.

  • Wrap-up: Relate greenhouse activity to how researchers are simulating warming in parts of the Arctic and Rocky Mountains to learn more about what future effects of climate change might be (extinction of certain species, migration of plant/animal communities, soil carbon releases, etc). Share examples from Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory and NGEE-Arctic experiments. Journal about effects of climate change that are noticeable on the farm today.