Activity Introduction

greate-barrier-reefQuick summary: Students investigate the process of ocean acidification, and in particular the role of water temperature in CO2 absorption. They begin the activity by looking at an image describing ocean acidification and responding to associated questions. They are then asked to design an experiment aimed at demonstrating the role of water temperature in CO2 absorption. Students will then summarise their knowledge of ocean acidification in the form or an advertising campaign.

These activities “… are an invaluable tool for teachers to address climate change in an educationally relevant, scientifically sound, and action-­based way.” – Tim Flannery (Read more)

Learning goals:

  • Students understand how CO2 is absorbed by sea water.
  • Students design and conduct and experiment to demonstrate the role of water temperature in CO2 absorption.
  • Students understand the cause and consequences of ocean acidification.

General capabilities: Critical and creative thinking.

Cross-curriculum priorities: Sustainability OI.1, OI.2.

Australian Curriculum content description:

Year 10 Science

  • Global systems, including the carbon cycle, rely on interactions involving the biosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere (ACSSU189)

Syllabus OutcomesSC5-12ES

Topic: We Are the Weather Makers

Time required: 60 mins

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium – oversee activity

Resources required: Internet access, student worksheets, OPTIONAL: soft drinks and ice.

Digital technology opportunities: Digital sharing capabilities, video making.

Homework and extension opportunities: None.

Key reading from We Are the Weather Makers: Chapter 3 – The Greenhouse Gases

Further reading from the book: Chapter 19 – How Can They Keep On Moving, Chapter 15 – Rising Waters

Keywords: Ocean acidification, Carbon Dioxide, ocean temperatures, CO2 absorption.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.

Cool Australia would like to acknowledge:

  • Tim Flannery
  • David Harding, Rose Iser, Sally Stevens
  • Text Publishing and Purves Environmental Fund
  • Climate Council



Teacher Worksheet

greate-barrier-reefTeacher preparation

Overarching learning goal: By participating in this activity students will understand how CO2 is absorbed by sea water. They will design and conduct and experiment to demonstrate the role of water temperature in CO2 absorption and will understand the cause and consequences of ocean acidification.

Teacher content information: Climate change is predicted to have a range of effects on our environment, some barely noticeable, others devastating. One of those predicted devastating effects is the impact on our oceans.

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the oceans are exchanged at the surface layer between these two environments. When the concentration in the atmosphere increases, the ocean takes in much of it, sequestering the CO2 from the atmosphere. In this way, the oceans are moderating the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Without the oceans, atmospheric CO2 levels would be even higher.

Unfortunately, this process may cause long-term damage to life i

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Student Worksheet

Thought starter: The term 'ocean acidification' is not entirely accurate; the oceans are actually becoming less alkaline.

Part 1. What is ocean acidification?

Look at this infographic describing the cause, process and effect of ocean acidification. Answer the questions below:


Answer the following questions:



Imagine you are talking about ocean acidification to a group of 5 and 6 year old's: how would you describe it?


What role do you think ocean temperature plays in carbon absorption and ocean acidification?



Part 2. Ocean acidification experiment

In his book, Flannery says "Scientists are worried that changes in ocean circulation brought about by global warming might degrade the effectiveness of this 'carbon kidney'. There are many ways that this could happen, one of which you can see in a warm can of soft drink. That fizz on opening the can fades - indicating that the liquid has quickly released the CO2 that gives

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