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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Reduce: the 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.