The historical record of our world 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 to learn more about 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. 

General History – Related Questions

  • What are some key events in connection with climate action?
  • How has climate action evolved over the last 25 years in the US?
  • What is the history of social movements challenging the use of fossil fuels, extractive industries, and threats to environments and to the global climate?
  • What do we know about how and when the idea of providing for the needs of future generations was 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?

Energy History Questions

  • What are some of the key dates and contexts that led to the human use of fossil fuels?
    • Discovery of coal, petroleum, natural gas, etc.
    • Awareness of greenhouse implications 
  • How did what was going on in the world at the time affect how they came about?
  • 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? 
    • Examples: 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 for the first nuclear power plant to go into service (from planning to operation)?

International Environmental Agreements Questions

  • What is the Kyoto Protocol? How did it come to the attention of the international community? When was it adopted?
  • How many nations have signed this global climate treaty? Which nations have not signed?
    • Note: Afghanistan, Sudan, and the United States have not signed 
  • 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?

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 Government, Social Studies, Resources That Apply To Many Subject Areas, and Teacher-Recommended Readings for Students.