Climate Change and the Power of Programming


Climate change is undoubtedly one of the most pressing issues of our time. As the use of computing in our daily lives has soared along with average temperatures and carbon dioxide levels, many researchers and hobbyists alike have thought about harnessing the power of computer programs to help with the climate crisis.

This resource discusses how we can understand the relationship between climate science and computing on a micro and macro level. First, the basics of traditional climate models are demonstrated through the medium of a Python GUI. A (hopefully) cool Raspberry Pi mini-project is then showcased to demonstrate interactive ways of improving sustainability in our homes.

We recommend you try some of the code mentioned in the lecture yourself. Or even better, challenge yourself to make your own personal sustainability-improving device!

Interdisciplinary study

The resource lies at the intersection of a
few disciplines, namely climate science, mathematics, and computer science. As
a result, a couple of mathematical equations are mentioned to give an idea of
how simple climate models work.

Although most of the important background
knowledge is discussed in the video, it is important to be aware of the
difference between weather and climate. Weather is the current state of
atmosphere which brings about the different conditions we see on earth, such as
rain and wind. Since the weather at a given time is based on so many randomly
interacting factors, we are never able to accurately predict it more than 10
days in advanced – so don’t believe weather apps that give the forecast for two
weeks’ time! This idea can be demonstrated with the idea of double pendulum
motion, which is visualised in one of the programs in the climate model

Video Resource

Resource activities

Climate Change and the Power of Programming: Worksheet

Want to challenge yourself? Have a go at this worksheet!


Activity questions

  • What are the five indicators we see of climate change today and how do you think these vary across different parts of the world?
  • How would the melting of the earth’s ice caps alter the average temperature of the earth, according to the energy balance model?
  • Climate models require lots of data to work; what role could machine learning, data science, and artificial intelligence play in helping the climate crisis?

Reflective questions

To answer and record these questions you will need to have an account and be logged in.

Task 1

What are the key arguments, concepts, points contained within it?

Task 2

What are you struggling to understand?

What could you do to improve your understanding of these concepts/terminology etc.?

Task 3

What further questions has this resource raised for you?

What else are you keen to discover about this topic and how could you go about learning more?

Can you make any links between this topic and your prior knowledge or school studies?

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Further reading