Journal on Empowering Teaching Excellence


Non-science, first year regional undergraduate students from rural Utah communities participated in an online introductory geology course and were asked to forecast the rise of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere. The majority of students predicted catastrophic rise to 5,000-ppm sometime over the next 3,100 years, resulting in an atmosphere nearly uninhabitable to human life. However, the level of concern the students exhibited in their answers was not directly proportional with their timing in their forecasted rise of CO2. This study showcases the importance of presenting students with actual data and using data to develop student forecasted models. It also illustrates the challenge in environmental science with the cognitive issue of temporal discounting, in which the consequences of these future predictions tend to be viewed apathetically due to the long durations in which they play out.