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The Climate Question


9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, AP® / College


Science, Social Studies, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Type

  • Podcast, 27 minutes, 14 seconds

Regional Focus


Can Flying Ever Be Climate Friendly?

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  • This podcast explores the negative climate impacts of flying and some potential ways to make it more environmentally friendly.
  • Carbon offsets, one of the most popular solutions, are scrutinized but other possible solutions are discussed including alternative fuel sources, slightly adjusting flight paths to reduce contrails, adjusting flight paths to be more direct, and reducing consumer demand.
Teaching Tips


  • The audio is engaging with fun sound effects and dialogue.
  • Students will be able to activate their critical thinking skills while assessing the challenges and potential solutions to sustainable flying.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should already be familiar with climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, and the carbon cycle.
  • The main content ends at 23 minutes and an advertisement plays at the end of the podcast starting at 26 minutes, 23 seconds.


  • In social studies classes, discuss or write about the disparity between the emissions of the "Global North" and the "Global South" and the implications for justice and equity issues.
  • Advanced students can act as a climate disinformation reporter, like the host of the episode, and create their own podcast or article about a climate change question or misconception.
  • Science or STEM students can choose a solution they find particularly compelling and research it further, presenting their findings to the class or a small group.
  • Cross-curricular connections can be made with civics classes by considering the role of government in regulating the environmental impacts of the aviation industry.
  • Economics classes can discuss the economic factors that affect the feasibility of alternative fuels and the potential impact of government subsidies.
  • Other resources about the climate impacts of flying include this detailed article for high-level students, this longer video by Vox, and this short video by ClimateScience.
Scientist Notes
Students are introduced to the topic of how flying affects the climate in this podcast. To decarbonize the aviation industry, there is a window of opportunity to transition to sustainable and eco-friendly aircraft fuels. The topic of carbon offset is also covered. However, it doesn't seem like an efficient tactic. Reduced air travel and the use of sustainable aviation fuels are two effective strategies for making this industry carbon zero. It is advised to use this resource when instructing.
  • Science and Engineering
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • HS-ESS3-2 Evaluate competing design solutions for developing, managing, and utilizing energy and mineral resources based on cost-benefit ratios.
      • HS-ESS3-4 Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.
    • ETS1: Engineering Design
      • HS-ETS1-1 Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.
      • HS-ETS1-3 Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.
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