As a high school Chemistry teacher, this set of computer-based tools will help you to introduce the topics of hydrocarbons in fossil fuels, carbon dioxide release by fossil fuel combustion and the effect of high atmospheric carbon dioxide on climate change.

This lesson plan helps students to learn about hydrocarbons, different types of hydrocarbons, and how the products of their combustion reactions can potentially lead to climate change. Thus, the use of this lesson plan allows you to integrate the teaching of a climate science topic with a core topic in Chemistry.


Use this lesson plan to help your students find answers to:

  1. What are hydrocarbons?
  2. What types of hydrocarbons are found in commonly used fossil fuels?
  3. Discuss whether methane is a cleaner combustion fuel than methanol/ethane.
  4. Explain how the burning of fossil fuels is a potential contributor to climate change.

This is a Teacher-submitted Lesson Plan.

Contributed by Dr. Sharda Pasricha, Associate Professor, Sri Venkateswara College (Delhi University), India

Want to know more about how to contribute? Contact us.

About Lesson Plan

Grade Level High School
Discipline Chemistry, Environmental Sciences
Topic(s) in Discipline Chemistry: Fossil fuels, Hydrocarbons, Combustion reactions

Environmental Sciences: Carbon dioxide and global warming

Climate Topic
  • Climate and the Atmosphere
  • Climate and the anthroposphere
  • Energy sources and Climate change
Location Global
Language(s) English
Access Online, offline use
Approximate Time Required 45-60 min


Micro-lecture (video) (~4 min) A short video that introduces the topic of fossil fuels, how they are formed, and how the combustion/burning of fossil fuels may lead to an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide and potentially contribute to global warming.

Find the video here:

Reading (~15 min) A reading that describes hydrocarbons as primary components of fossil fuels, types of hydrocarbons and their structures, and the products of combustion of different hydrocarbons.

Find the Reading here:

Classroom/ Laboratory activity (~ 40 min) A classroom/laboratory activity that demonstrates the thermal properties of CO2, its role as a greenhouse gas, and how increased CO2 concentrations due to combustion of different hydrocarbons in fossil fuels may contribute to global warming.

Find the activity here:

Here is a step-by-step guide to using this lesson plan in the classroom/laboratory. We have suggested these steps as a possible plan of action. You may customize the lesson plan according to your preferences and requirements.

1. Introduce the topic through a micro-lecture (video)
  • •  Introduce the topic of fossil fuels to your students by using the video micro-lecture “What’s the deal With Fossil Fuels?” developed by California Academy of Sciences and available at
  • •  Emphasize how carbon dioxide released from fossil fuel combustion may lead to global warming.
  • •  You may use this teaching tool to discuss common fossil fuels and their formation, and renewable and non-renewable sources of energy.


2. Discuss the topic further by using an online reading
  • •  Explore the topic in greater detail through this reading titled “Hydrocarbon Combustion” from University of Calgary, available at
  • •  Use this teaching tool to demonstrate the products of the combustion of different hydrocarbons and to show the potential costs and benefits of using different fossil fuels.
  • •  You may demonstrate this by having your students note how much CO2 per molecule is released due to the combustion of different fossil fuels.


3. Conduct a classroom/laboratory activity
  • •  Now help your students investigate the thermal properties of CO2, its role as a greenhouse gas, and how increased CO2 concentrations due to combustion of different hydrocarbons in fossil fuels may contribute to global warming.
  • •  Use the classroom/laboratory activity titled “The carbon dioxide greenhouse - is it effective?” developed by the Royal Society of Chemistry and available at, and proceed with the lab activity as instructed.
  • •  While conducting the classroom/laboratory activity, have your students observe the effect of applying heat and light energy on carbon dioxide and air.
  • •  Ask your students if their observations of the thermal properties of CO2 and air allow them to better understand the relationship between increased atmospheric CO2 due to combustion of fossil fuels and an increase in Earth’s surface temperature since the industrial revolution.
  • •  You may further discuss impacts of climate change on local and global scales and on different sectors.