(Also see Government, Social Studies)

The historical record documents the social, economic, political, and ideological contexts and causes of our planet’s climate, fossil fuel, and sustainability crises. History classes provide many opportunities to explore and raise awareness of our ecological problems as well as suggesting alternatives that can help us avoid repeating past mistakes.

Following are samples of some specific areas where an exploration of climate change is a natural fit. Which of these would work in your classroom?

  • What are some of the key dates and contexts that led to the human use of fossil fuels?
    (Discovery of coal, petroleum, natural gas; awareness of greenhouse implications, …)
  • How did what was going on in the world at the time affect how they came about?
  • What are some key events in connection with climate action?
  • What is the Kyoto Protocol, how did it come to the attention of the international community, and when was it adopted?
    • How many nations have signed this global climate treaty?
    • Which nations have not signed? (Afghanistan, Sudan, and the United States)
  • How does implementation success for Kyoto compare to the 1987 Montreal Protocol (often named as a ‘successful’ international treaty initiative)?
  • What was the historic outcome of the negotiations at COP21 in Paris?
  • How has climate action evolved over the last 25 years in the US?
  • When did major oil companies learn that burning fossil fuels causes global warming?
  • What are some of the key events and contexts in the development of the various forms of renewable energy? (hydro-electric, solar heating, solar photovoltaic panels, tidal generation, large-scale wind turbines)
  • What are some of the key events and contexts in the development of nuclear power?
    When did the first nuclear power plant go into service?
    How long did it take (from planning to operation)?
  • What do we know about how and when the idea of providing for the needs of future generations first adopted as an essential element of planning? (Iroquois or Haudenosaunee confederacy, also known as League of the Iroquois)
  • What do we know about the history of the Iroquois confederacy?
  • What is the history of social movements challenging the use of fossil fuels, extractive industries, and threats to environments and to the global climate?

Big Ideas

  • History provides information and insight about the contexts and causes of our planet’s climate and sustainability concerns.
  • History provides information and insight about social movements that call attention to these concerns.

Additional Resources for History

Also see Resources That Apply To Many Subject Areas and Teacher-Recommended Readings for Students.