Astronomy can increase understanding of global climate change by focusing attention on the parameters of Earth’s existence, the forces acting on it, and the major factors producing the variability in the conditions and the context for life on the planet. It also provides a good way to explore questions of the extent to which global warming is caused primarily by natural astronomical cycles and by human activity.
The following are a few example questions that might help initiate or deepen student discussion and exploration –
- What conditions are required for a planet to be habitable for humans?
- In what ways does the sun affect the planet we live on?
- In what ways does the moon affect the planet we live on?
- What causes the seasons?
- What impacts do long-term astronomical cycles have on climate?
- What other factors determine global climate?
- Understanding the Earth’s changing relationships with the sun is crucial for understanding many phenomena on Earth.
- Changes in Earth’s surface and atmosphere affect global temperatures and climate by containing or reflecting the sun’s energy.
Additional Resources for Astronomy
- Astronomy and the Climate Crisis, by Antony Cooke. Springer, 2012.
- Astronomy, Cycles, and Climate Change, Geological Digressions blog, 2016.
- Calculating the Energy from Sunlight Over a 12-hour Period National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).