Greenhouse Gases

This overview outlines a series of sessions and activity options to support your planning to deliver the Key Stage 2 programme of study Properties and Changes of Materials alongside other curriculum areas. 

This unit enables pupils to ask questions about climate change and develop key scientific knowledge about Earth systems processes to support improved climate literacy. While they are engaging with these topics it is important to give young people space to share their ideas and feelings about what they are learning. From a National Education Nature Park perspective, learners can then explore nature-based actions as a response to climate change. 

Royal Meteorological Society climate change content quality mark


Unit of learning


Prior Knowledge

What do we already know about global warming and climate change? 
Begin by identifying what learners already know about gases, along with other concepts they remember about states of matter. As well as retrieving key concepts, use this session as an opportunity to find out what questions children have about greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

Explore I

How does the greenhouse effect support life on Earth? 
Support learners by using activities to explain what greenhouse gases are and their important role in trapping the sun’s energy and creating the conditions for life on Earth as we know it.  

Explore II

Why is our climate changing and why is it important?  
Building on their understanding of the role of greenhouse gases in maintaining the Earth’s temperature, use an activity to help them explore how by increasing the concentration of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, people are warming the climate.


What is our carbon footprint and how do we change it?  
This session will support learners to explore different activities that contribute to carbon emissions in their school. They can then reflect on their findings to make plans to reduce emissions together. This will help pupils understand their collective impact on global climate change and how they can help the environment.

Making Change

What can we learn from organisations about how they are responding to the challenge of climate change?  
This session is an important opportunity to introduce learners to what other people are doing to reduce carbon emissions, to conduct nature-based solutions and contribute to improving their environment.


What can we do together?  
Choose activities that allow learners to identify how they connect with nature and the environment. Support them to recognise some community actions they can encourage or be a part of.

Supporting Information

Climate literacy refers to the awareness of how everyday activities have costs and impacts in terms of greenhouse gases emitted, and also the knowledge to reduce these emissions, both on personal and wider-community level. This unit supports children and young people to develop an awareness of these human contributions and how to measure, reduce and offset them.  

Common misconceptions

Global warming and climate change are the same thing
Learners can be supported to know that global warming is the increase in the Earth’s average temperature mainly due to human activity. Climate change, however, means the changes in the climate over a long period of time, including precipitation, temperature and wind patterns.  

Greenhouse gases and air pollution are the same thing
Learners can be supported to know that not all air pollutants are greenhouse gases. Unlike air pollutants that create visible smog, greenhouse gases mixed throughout the atmosphere trap energy which increases the Earth’s temperature.  

While it is important not to confuse the issues of plastic pollution and climate change, it can be useful to highlight that plastics release greenhouse gases as they decompose.

It is important that children and young people have a secure understanding of the relationship between human activity, fossil fuels, greenhouse gases, global warming and climate change.

Key concepts

Greenhouse gases (GHGs) – Natural and manufactured gases, such as carbon dioxide, water vapour and methane, that trap heat from the Earth and warm its surface.

Fossil fuels – Fuels, such as natural gas, coal, and oil, formed in the geological past from the remains of living organisms. Some greenhouse gases are produced when fossil fuels are burnt for energy. 

Carbon footprint – The amount of carbon released into the atmosphere by a group or an individual, as a result of everyday activities, transport or the production of a specific things.  Carbon footprints do not only apply to people – they can be calculated for companies, events, places, and products. 

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – The United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change, providing policymakers (governments) with regular scientific updates about climate change.

Further Activities and Opportunities

Consider the importance of the National Education Nature Park programme as a nature-based, youth-led response to global warming and climate change.

Recommended books – BookTrust reviewed

The Earth Book by Jonathan Litton (ages 9-11). Learn about the inner workings of Earth, including earthquakes, volcanoes, thunderstorms and tsunamis; animal life on Earth; Earth’s regions and the impact of humans on the planet, including information on migration, population and sustainability in this comprehensive hardback book celebrating the biodiversity and structure of this fascinating planet.

The Incredible Ecosystems of Planet Earth by Rachel Ignotofsky (ages 9-11). This huge world we live in, with its infinitely varied regions, countries and communities, is – so we learn in Rachel Ignotofsky’s amazing book – an interconnected series of large and small ecosystems, all working together to make the best of our planet’s limited resources.

The above books recommended by BookTrust have not been quality assured for climate science accuracy. However, the Royal Meteorological Society recommend the following:

Climate Action by Georgina Stevens (ages 8-12) explains in detail the different causes and effects of climate change and empowers children and families to think of ways to create change and live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Full of inspirational stories of different young climate activists to inspire and galvanize, and beautiful and emotive illustrations by Katie Rewse. 

Weather in 30 Seconds by Jen Green (ages 8-12) provides an engaging introduction to blizzards, thunderstorms and climate.

Green Careers

Learners can hear about professions that contribute to our understanding of greenhouse gases, atmosphere and climate change. For example Mark Richards, an atmospheric scientist.

Preview image for the video "Inspiring scientists: Mark Richards' story".