For Instructors

"Blue Planet Prize Story" contains three supplementary units on environmental issues: "Guide to Understanding the Story, " "Reference Information, " and "For Instructors. "
This contains useful information that instructors can use to help students understand the content.
Please use these during classes and for self-learning by students.

[Target Audience: Teachers, parents, and others who are engaged in education]

Summary of the Story

Professor Schellnhuber is the leading expert on climate change and contributed significantly to the adoption of the 2-degree-C target set in the Paris Agreement. He is a physicist familiar with the chaos theory that deals with complex and unpredictable natural phenomena. As the Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), he has promoted research on climate change prediction.
"Why do we need to prevent global warming? Because global warming may cause irreparable damage to the earth." His research started to prove this simple fact. He made the list of Tipping Elements, which are what we must avoid. He proposed a specific index, the 2-degree-C target, at international discussions to prevent the tipping elements, and finally changed the direction of global warming measures.
Professor Schellnhuber has achieved these great works by having continued to show the world what his studies have revealed. He believes that it is the mission of scientists to explain what they have learned from their research to society. This firm belief has been the foundation of his activities. Please take a moment to think about this as well.

Teaching Examples

Useful information for teaching

Impact of global warming


Professor Schellnhuber says that everything depends on individual decisions. People need to try hard to gather and consider information to make decisions.
While we can acquire a large amount of information with ease on the Internet, there is much speculation and false information too. Since global warming issues are closely related to political and economic problems, some express opinions with no scientific evidence. It is very dangerous to believe such views and information without question.
This work summarizes the scientific premises of each phenomenon that may be caused by global warming and gives students a chance to discuss their opinions about them and develop the ability to select trustworthy information and consider it proactively.

1. Check phenomena that may be caused by global warming
(1) Each student chooses and looks up one phenomenon that may be caused by global warming.
It is also helpful to make groups of students who chose the same themes.

* The teacher may show some examples of research themes. "Tipping Elements" listed by Professor Schellnhuber can be used as reference material. If you find other phenomena from other sources, you can use them too. However, there is uncertain information about global warming as we described above, especially when students use the Internet. Teachers should recommend that students search for trustworthy information such as that provided by government offices and public institutions.

(2) Students summarize what they have learned.
(Example) Theme: Will sea ice in the Arctic Ocean disappear?
The size and thickness of ice in the Arctic Ocean have become smaller and thinner. The ice in the Arctic Ocean may disappear in summer by the end of the 21st century.
Ice melts as temperature increases. Although white ice reflects sunlight, the blue sea absorbs it. Once ice melts and the range of blue ocean becomes broader than white ice, temperature increases more, which in turn melts more ice. This is why the temperature in the Arctic and Antarctic tends to increase more than in other regions at lower latitude.
  • The ecosystem in the Arctic may be destroyed. For example, polar bears that hunt seals on the ice to live may face extinction.
  • The life and culture of Inuits, who live by hunting in the Arctic Circle, have also been threatened.
Why have you chosen this theme?
  • Because I like polar bears and it is very sad if they disappear.
  • Because I wondered why the ice in the Arctic melts easily by increasing the temperature for a few degrees, despite the Arctic seems to be cold and have lots of ice.
(3) Each student makes a presentation about the results and answers questions from others.
[Important Points!]

Teachers should ask students to write their reasons for selecting their theme to encourage them to think independently and lead them to the next phase of discussion.
It is possible that they may have a wide variety of reasons, including personal interest, vague anxiety, or global-scale concern. Clarifying the ideas and background leads them forward smoothly. Even if it is because of their individual preference, a preference such as liking polar bears, the reason can motivate them to look up more information and expand the range of survey. For example, teachers can suggest that students look up other animals other than polar bears that may be affected by global warming.

2. Discuss what humans should do
(1) Based on the presentations, students should discuss what humans should do.

"Ecological destruction is a crisis. We should prevent the ice from melting."
"Is loss of ice always bad? It may be convenient because ships can pass through."
"But once living organisms become extinct, they cannot come back."
"The more the amount of ice decreases, the more the temperature increases. Then, the effects of global warming advance not only in the Arctic but in our country too."
"Global warming should be stopped."
"But ice has already decreased. While we think about how to increase the amount of ice, we should also think about the ways that existing living organisms can continue living in the Arctic Ocean."

[Important Points!]

Teachers should accept even positive opinions about global warming, opinions such as that it being easier for people in cold areas to live if it becomes warmer. However, the fact that the need for global measures to stop global warming based on scientific findings should be explained to students.
Besides, while measures for global warming aim to control temperature increase through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and other means, these cannot wholly prevent global warming. Therefore, some adjustments are also included to reduce the negative impact of global warming. Based on understanding such concepts, students should be encouraged to deepen their understanding through discussion.


Prof. Hans J. Schellnhuber