Lesson Plan: The Greenhouse Effect

As a High School or Undergraduate Economics or Social Sciences teacher, you can use this lesson plan to teach about the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as outlined by the United Nations for nations to adopt and work towards, for a sustainable future.

This lesson plan will allow you to introduce the SDGs to your students, stress on their socio-economic importance and enable discussions on the efforts taken by governmental and non-governmental agencies of their nations towards achieving these goals. This lesson plan will also draw attention to how climate change may affect the efforts towards achieving the SDGs.
Thus, the use of this lesson plan allows you to integrate the teaching of a climate science topic with a core topic in Economics or Social Sciences.


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

  1. What is the Greenhouse Effect of the Earth’s atmosphere?
  2. What are Greenhouse Gases?
  3. Explain the role of Greenhouse Gases in causing global warming.

About Lesson Plan

Grade Level Middle School or High School
Discipline Environmental Sciences, Chemistry
Topic(s) in Discipline Greenhouse Effect, Greenhouse Gases (GHGs), Greenhouse Gas Emissions,

Global Warming, Global Warming Potential (GWP)

Climate Topic The Greenhouse Effect, Introduction to Climate Change
Location Global
Language(s) English, one resource also available in  various languages
Access Online, Offline
Time Required
60 min



(30 min)

A reading that introduces the greenhouse effect, explains
what greenhouse gases are and describes their role in
causing global warming. It includes in-section questions,
discussion points and suggested activities for extending
students’ understanding of the topic. This document is
available to download in English, French, German, and
This can be accessed at:
Go to the Reading

(pages 7-9)


(30 min)

An interactive simulation to explore the role of different
greenhouse gases and their atmospheric concentrations in
causing the greenhouse effect. This resource is available in
several languages including English, French, German, and

Go to the Simulation

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.

Step 1: Topic introduction and discussion

  • Use the section, ‘A. Understanding global warming’, pages 7-9 of the document, ‘IPCC Special Report “Global Warming of 1.5 0 C”- Summary for Teachers’ by the Office for Climate Education (OCE), France, to introduce your students to the topic of greenhouse gases and the greenhouse effect of the atmosphere.
  • Discuss how the industrial revolution has resulted in an increase in the concentration of some GHGs in the atmosphere.
  • Use the in-section questions and tasks to discuss the global warming potential of various GHGs.
  • Further, use the document to emphasize how an increase in the atmospheric concentrations of such gases has potentially caused global warming of the planet.
  • This document is available in English, French, German, and Spanish.

Go to the Reading (Page 7-9)


Step 2: Extend student understanding of the topic using an interactive simulation

  • Use the interactive PhET simulation, ‘The Greenhouse Effect’ by University of Colorado, Boulder, to enable your students to visualize the greenhouse effect of the atmosphere.
  • Use the simulation to show students how certain gases in the atmosphere absorb outgoing terrestrial radiation and re-radiate the energy back to Earth’s surface.Emphasize that this is the greenhouse effect of the atmosphere and increased concentration of these gases causes warming of the Earth’s surface.Instruct your students to explore different scenarios such as ‘Ice Age’, ‘1750’ (pre-Industrial Age) and ‘Today’ to visualize the effect of corresponding concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases on observed temperatures.
  • Direct your students to adjust the concentration of different greenhouse gases and to note the corresponding surface temperatures of the planet.
  • You may also use the ‘Photon Absorption’ tab in the simulation to help your students visualize the interaction of infrared radiation with different greenhouse gas molecules.
  • This resource is available in several languages including English, French, German, and Spanish.

Go to the Simulation