Today, February 16 marks the six-year anniversary of the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, a global environmental treaty that seeks to reduce gas emissions that contribute to climate change. The treaty was ratified by nearly all of the world’s countries.
One notable exception is the United States, one of the largest and most industrialized nations in the world. The United States has a wide-reaching effect on the global environment, especially through the pollution its companies emit. Similarly, because of its wealth and economic influence, the United States can significantly hamper or help worldwide environmental cleanup plans.
Grades 6-8 Cultural Learning Activity
Have students refer to the CultureGrams – World Edition.
- Select Graphs and Tables
- Under Extremes select the Energy section
Point out to the class that the United States is one of the top (if not the top) polluters in almost every section listed. As a class, talk about why the United States pollutes the environment so much. You might look at major industries, the size of its economy and population, etc.
Using the Comparison Table, instruct students to pick “All nations” in the box on the left and “Population” and “Real GDP per capita” in the box on the right.
Have students make a list of countries whose population levels and/or Real GDPs per capita are similar to those of the United States. Go back to the Energy tables and have students compare the emission and usage levels of the countries on their list to those of the United States.
Are any pollution levels as high? If so, which ones?
Discuss with the class what the United States could do to reduce pollution (e.g., recycling, lowering factory and car emissions, using alternative sources of fuel, etc.). Who might oppose these changes and why?
On the board, make a chart that compares the benefits and costs of signing an international treaty, such as the Kyoto Protocol, that would commit the United States to clean up its emissions.