Explaining Global Warming to Little Kids

Here is some basic information that might help when children ask what global warming is and what to do to help.

Weather vs. Climate

Weather includes lots of things that should be familiar – temperature, rain, snow, wind speeds, or wind direction. Climate refers to the average weather conditions in a certain place over many years. For example, the climate in Minnesota is cold and snowy in the winter, and the climate in Hawaii is warm and humid all year long. The climate in one area, like the Midwest or Hawaii, is called a regional climate. The average climate around the world is called global climate.

The Earth is wrapped in a blanket of air called the ‘atmosphere’, which is made up of several layers of gases, such as carbon dioxide. The sun is much hotter than the Earth and it gives off rays of heat (radiation) that travel through the atmosphere and reach the Earth. The rays of the sun warm the Earth, and heat from the Earth then travels back into the atmosphere. The gases in the atmosphere stop some of the heat from escaping into space. These gases are called greenhouse gases and the natural process between the sun, the atmosphere and the Earth is called the ‘Greenhouse Effect’, because it works the same way as a greenhouse. The windows of a greenhouse play the same role as the gases in the atmosphere, keeping some of the heat inside the greenhouse.

The Natural Greenhouse Effect

The atmosphere has a number of gases, often in tiny amounts, which trap the heat given out by the Earth. To make sure that the Earth’s temperature remains constant, the balance of these gases in the atmosphere must not be upset.

The Enhanced Greenhouse Effect

Some of the activities of humans also produce greenhouse gases. These gases keep increasing in the atmosphere. The balance of the greenhouse gases changes and this has effects on the whole of the planet.

Burning fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas – releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Cutting down and burning trees also produces a lot of carbon dioxide. Cows flatulence -ask your parent what that means -produce methane which is linked to global warming.

Because there are more and more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, more heat is trapped which makes the Earth warmer. This is known as GLOBAL WARMING.

A lot of scientists agree that humans activities are making the natural greenhouse effect stronger. If we carry on polluting the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, it will have very dangerous effects on the Earth.

The Effects

With more heat trapped on Earth, the planet will become warmer, which means the weather all over Earth will change. For example, summers will get hotter, and winters too. This may seem a good idea, but the conditions we are living in are perfect for life, and a large rise in temperature could be terrible for us and for any other living thing on Earth.

All over the world, these weather changes will affect the kind of crop that can be grown and even the nutrients in that crop. Plants, animals and even people may find it difficult to survive in different conditions.
Sea Levels

Higher temperatures will make the water of the seas and oceans expand. Ice melting in the Antarctic and Greenland will flow into the sea.

Higher sea levels will threaten the low-lying coastal areas of the world, such as the Netherlands and Bangladesh, and closer to home, New York City, Florida and parts of California. Throughout the world, millions of people and areas of land will be at danger from flooding.

Farming

The changes in the weather will affect the types of crops grown in different parts of the world. Some crops, such as wheat and rice grow better in higher temperatures, but other plants, such as corn and sugarcane do not. Changes in the amount of rainfall will also affect how many plants grow.

The effect of a change in the weather on plant growth may lead to some countries not having enough food. Brazil, parts of Africa, Southeast Asia and China will be affected the most and many people could suffer from hunger.

Water

Everywhere in the world, there is a big demand for water and in many regions, such as the Sahara in Africa; there is not enough water for the people. Changes in the weather will bring more rain in some countries, but others will have less rain.

In Danger!

Plants & Animals

It has taken million of years for life to become used to the conditions on Earth. As weather and temperature changes, the homes of plants and animals will be affected all over the world. For example, polar bears and seals will have to find new land for hunting and living, if the ice in the Arctic melts.

What can you do?

Reduce, reuse, recycle, repair: Remember your four R’s!

Reducethe most important. If you don’t buy so much stuff in the first place, then you don’t need to reuse or recycle it.

Reuse whatever you can (like plastic supermarket bags). If you can’t reuse something,

Recycle it! means that something is used again by converting it into something else. Broken class can be made into new glass!

Repair it! Do you know how to sew on a new button?- as just one example.

If you can’t do any of those things, the waste you generate ends up in huge landfills. Much of what you find in these stinking dumps is plastic waste.

Make your own climate… in your home or your room!

Turn off things that use electricity when nobody’s using them

Leaving lights, heating, air conditioning, computers, TVs and other electronics on when you don’t need them wastes a lot of energy.

If it’s warm in one room and cold in another, close the door. The door helps keep heat in.

Leaving things on standby (like TVs, computers and stuff) also uses a surprising amount of energy. Newer models mostly use much less standby power but if you’re away for a few days, it still makes sense to turn stuff off.

Make your own climate… around you!

When it’s hot, dress cool

When it’s cold, dress warm

Every little thing helps! You can make a difference.

Life on a Farm

Life on a Farm is part of DirectionThree: how our Earth’s health affects our health and vice versa.

Kids love this Life on a Farm lesson. If we teach this in the morning, we might make a veggie scramble with farm fresh eggs. If this is part of a farm tour that’s even better; purchase some goods from the farm and have a no recipe- recipe when you return to class.

Life on a Farm: Then and Now

In the 1930’s, a family farm raised several kinds of animals, selling some and butchering a few to feed their family. Other animals were a source of income and food. Cows provided milk and meat, while chickens provided eggs and meat.

Horses and mules were used to plow, plant and harvest the crops. Tractors were beginning to replace horses, but even by 1940 only 23 percent of the nation’s farmers had tractors. As more farmers traded their horses for tractors, they planted their rows of corn and other crops closer together. Instead of rows that were wide enough for a horse to walk through (42 inches), the rows were 30 inches apart. Production increased.

In 1900, almost all farms – 98 percent – had chickens, 82 percent grew corn for grain, 80 percent had at least one milk cow, and pigs. Most of the farms were diversified, growing multiple crops and raising various animals.

By 1992, only 4 percent of farms reported having chickens, 8 percent had milk cows, 10 percent had pigs and only 25 percent were growing corn.

Grasshoppers were picked by hand in the fall. Farmers used manure from farm animals, gypsum, ground animal bones and crop residue to fertilize their fields.

Today, more than 98 percent of the U.S. farmland planted in corn is chemically fertilized.

Pesticide residues from industrial agriculture enter our bodies through food, water, and air, and they raise risks for certain cancers as well as reproductive and endocrine system disorders

1 billion pounds of pesticides are used per year in the U.S.

35 percent of food is contaminated with pesticides

5 billion pounds of pesticides are used per year worldwide

Federal agricultural programs launched during the 1930s changed how and what farmers planted by paying them to plant certain crops or paying them not to produce a crop at all and allow the land to rest or lie fallow. Farmers who signed up for federal programs agreed to limit the number of acres planted with corn and wheat which depleted the soil, and increased the number of acres with legumes and grasses which helped renew the soil.

Farmers began rotating their crops on a regular basis in the 1930s, but the practice lost popularity as farms got larger and specialized equipment became more expensive and needed to be kept in use. Farmers now concentrate on growing just one crop such as corn, soybeans, or wheat.

In the 1940’s, America entered World War II. More and more farm workers left for the cities or serve in the military, and a tractor became the only way to get things done on the farm. The beginning of the war coincided with the end of the 1930s drought, but farmers remembered the dry years and irrigation systems were built.

There was greater demand for farm products; American farmers were feeding the world. The war effort produced new technologies that revolutionized agriculture and effected urban and rural life. New technology created a dramatic increase in productivity as farmers could do much more work in fewer hours.

  • Post-WWII fertilizer production has increased yields, but also nitrogen and phosphorous pollution.
  • High resource use (soil, water, energy, etc.)
  • Environmental consequences and changes include land and water degradation, pollution by fertilizers and pesticides and soil loss.
  • Artificially inexpensive fuel and water
  • Agricultural subsidies (the farm bill)
  • USDA has dueling roles:  To promote U.S. agricultural products and to offer nutrition education.
  • Threatened biodiversity

One of the continuing themes of American agriculture in the 20th century was a decline in the number of farms, farmers and rural residents coupled with an increase in farm size and specialization.

In the 1950’s to the 1970’s the number of farm declined by half before leveling off. More farms were consolidated or sold during this period than in any other period in our history. The number of people on farms dropped from over 20 million in 1950 to less than 10 million in 1970. The average size of farms went from around 205 acres in 1950 to almost 400 acres in 1969.

  • ·      In 1900, 41 percent of workforce employed in agriculture
  • ·      In 1930, 21.5 percent of workforce employed in agriculture;
    Agricultural GDP as a share of total GDP, 7.7 percent
  • ·      In 1945, 16 percent of the total labor force employed in agriculture;
    Agricultural GDP as a share of total GDP, 6.8 percent
  • In 1970, 4 percent of employed labor force worked in agricultureSource: Compiled by Economic Research Service, USDA. Share of workforce employed in agriculture, for 1900-1970, Historical Statistics of the United States; for 2000, calculated using data from Census of Population; agricultural GDP as part of total GDP, calculated using data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Land in farms peaked in 1950 at 1.2 billion acres. Today, land in farms has dropped to around 0.95 billion acres. Most of the lost farmland was converted to suburban and urban sprawl. However, land that is devoted to actually raising crops has remained relatively constant. In other words, as some farmland is taken out of production, farmers convert other land from pasture or lands once considered marginal for crops into cropland by installing irrigation systems, and applying fertilizers and pesticides.