Facts about Global Warming and Climate Change for Kids

Global Warming

Scientist around the world have been discussing global warming and climate change for quite a long time now, and there’s a good reason for that. Climate change is real, and it is about to affect our lives significantly. Children need to be aware of climate change and its effects as it is their generation that will be most impacted by it in the near future.

What is Global Warming?

Global warming is a rise in the average temperature of the earth as a result of certain natural and man-made factors. The emission of greenhouse gases is a major cause of global warming. Certain human activities like deforestation and burning of fossil fuels lead to an increase in global temperatures. It was observed that between 1901 and 2012, the earth’s average temperature increased by 0.89 degrees Celsius. Even though it may not seem much, this small change in temperature can have an adverse effect on weather patterns, sea levels, and life on both lands and the oceans. It is interesting to note that the 11 hottest years on record in the last 100 years occurred after 1995. This is because of our increased industrial activities and emissions of greenhouse gases.

What Causes Global Warming?

There are several factors that lead to warming up of the earth, and they are described below:

1. Natural warming and cooling cycles

The earth periodically goes through phases of natural warming up and cooling cycles over time, spanning thousands of years. Right now, it is in the middle of one of its natural warming cycle. Unfortunately, human activity in the recent past and present have only sped up the warming process.

2. Aerosol Sprays

Believe it or not, the next time you decide to put on some hairspray or use a room freshener, you may be causing global warming. In the earlier days, they contained ozone reducing compounds that reduced the Earth’s protective ozone layer. Though these harmful chemicals aren’t used these days, they contain hydrocarbons and sulphates which increase global warming.

3. Fossil fuels

Burning of fossil fuels

The major contributor to the production of greenhouse gases and global warming is our reliance on fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are formed from the remains of dead plants and animals. Industries rely on fossil fuels. The burning of fossil fuels leads to the production of carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas and thus contributes to global warming.

4. Deforestation

As the population is increasing, trees and plants are being cut down to meet the household and industrial demands. Deforestation is the process of cutting down of trees. However, excessive cutting of trees is detrimental to the environment. Deforestation results in an increase in the production of carbon dioxide, which in turn leads to an increase in the temperature of the Earth.

Effects of Global Warming

Global warming affects everything on the planet and can have catastrophic effects on some of the delicately balanced systems like the weather and the environment. Some of the effects are as follows:

1. Drastic changes in global weather patterns

The weather is driven primarily by the heat stored in the atmosphere, land mass, and the oceans. Global warming with increased temperatures and heat retention by the greenhouse gases can change existing seasonal weather patterns all around the world. This leads to weather phenomena such as hurricanes, disruption of seasonal rainfall, and extended periods of droughts.

2. The threat to animals and the environment

Climate change leads to loss of habitat of many animals, particularly the ones living in the polar region and the ones living in the desert and rainforests. It also affects their migratory paths and food sources, hence pushing them close to extinction.

3. Acidification of the oceans

Excess carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by human activities gets dissolved into oceans, rivers, and lakes. Acidification affects many of the biological processes that are critical for the survival of ocean life.

4. Melting of the polar ice caps

Melting ice

The polar icecaps store up most of the fresh water on the planet. When they melt, they dump in huge amounts of fresh water into the sea which affects its salinity. That, in turn, affects the ocean life and ocean currents. Satellite observations show that the Greenland ice shelf lost about 250 cubic kilometres of ice between the years 2002 and 2006. Antarctica lost 152 cubic kilometres of ice between the period of 2002 and 2005.

5. Rising sea levels

All the water added to the oceans by melting ice caps would raise sea levels by several feet over the next few decades. This means flooding across all the major coastal settlements and millions of people having to be displaced.

How to Prevent and Reduce Global Warming?

By reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, it is possible to slow down climate change. Here are some practical approaches on how to stop global warming for kids:

  • Use public transport or carpool as much as you can. By not using personal transport, you cut down on the emission of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide.
  • Use energy efficient electrical appliances and replace incandescent bulbs with LED lights that consume less power. In winters, avoid excess use of heater and in summer open the windows instead of using an air conditioner.
  • Teach children to turn off electrical equipment when not in use. This will save energy and money as well.
  • Engage your children in afforestation programs conducted by organizations and communities. Also, encourage them to plant trees around the house and in their schools.
  • Practice the three R’s: reuse, reduce and recycle. Things that can be reused and recycled help lower energy consumptions in manufacturing processes. This cuts down on the greenhouse gases.

Interesting Facts about Global Warming for Children

Here is some global warming information for kids that doubles up as interesting facts for them to remember.

  • The greenhouse effect is needed for the survival of life on Earth as it helps regulate the temperature on Earth. The global warming debate is centred on just how much greenhouse gases we can release into the atmosphere before it begins to overheat the planet and cause harm.
  • Since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the later 1700s, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have gone up by 41% and most rapidly after 1960s.
  • In the recent decades, about 600,000 people have lost their lives due to weather-induced natural disasters. More than 95% of these deaths are from developing countries.
  • The Glacier National Park has steadily lost glaciers since the year 1910 from 150 to 25 glaciers.
  • Automobiles and transportation are the major contributors of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere followed by industries and commercial farming.
  • Over 10 million people residing in coastal areas will lose their homes if the sea levels rise by three feet.
  • Coal industries are working on finding ways to capture carbon dioxide and store them under the seabed.
  • Lesser energy consumption and improving efficiency can lower the carbon footprint we leave on the planet.

What Is Climate Change?

Climate is the static weather phenomenon that is experienced over a region for decades to millions of years. It refers to seasonal rainfall, snow, sunshine and other weather conditions in the region. To go with a simple climate change definition for kids; it is the change in average weather patterns that can last for an extended period of time such as decades to hundreds of years. Climate change is not new. Earth’s climate has constantly changed for millions of years going from very cold to very warm depending on the natural cycles of the planet. Everyone is familiar with the term Ice Age, which is a period of cooling of the earth as a consequence of climate change. However, the climate change we are concerned about right now is the accelerated warming up of the planet due to the activities of mankind.

What Causes Climate Change?

El Nino effect drought

Weather and climate, in the long run, are driven by the movement of heat our planet receives from the sun. Heat is absorbed by land, sea, and the atmosphere. Exchange of heat between these three causes the movement of air, moisture and ocean currents which drives weather. When any one of these factors is disturbed, weather patterns can change in unpredictable ways. As greenhouse gases increase in the atmosphere, it can absorb more heat and bring about a change in weather. Such changes are already being seen in erratic weather patterns such as El-Nino and La-Nina which can cause severe rainfall or severe drought at the same time in different places. It is speculated that emission of greenhouse gases by automobiles, industries and other human activities is causing the atmosphere to retain more heat.

Impact of Climate Change on Environment

To teach children about climate change, a thorough explanation of the effects of climate change on the environment should be given. It is imperative they understand it as our well-being is intimately tied to the well-being of our environment. Ecosystems on the Earth are delicately balanced with the seasonal weather patterns; any drastic change can have major consequences on the plants and animals. For example, the polar ecosystems are well adapted to low temperatures and low rainfall with little sunlight. Excessive warming there can change the growth of plants which in turn affects the animals that depend on them. Migration of many birds, insects and animals depend on the timely change of seasons and weather. Climate change can upset this cycle by changing their natural habitats and their migratory and mating behaviour by upsetting their finely balanced timing. Studies show that about 50% of breeding habitats of some birds can disappear eventually. Warmer oceans that are acidic can kill coral reefs and vast marine life along with it. Some predictions say climate change can wipe out 30-40% of the species on the planet.

Impact of Climate Change on People

Human life will be affected badly because of the changes in climate. Long spells of El-Nino can cause severe drought on one side of the globe and severe storms and flooding on the other. Third world countries, which mainly depend on seasonal rains such as the monsoon, will be affected by the change in rainfall. Warmer temperatures will spread diseases quicker, and rising waters will leave 100-200 million people homeless along the coastlines.

Other Climate Change Facts for Kids

These facts can be used for explaining global warming to a child.

  • Sea levels have risen by 8 inches in the last century due to melting polar ice caps. That rate has doubled over the last two decades.
  • 97 percent of the scientists who study climate change agree that the current increase in temperature is caused by humans.
  • Acidity in the world’s oceans has increased by 30%.
  • The Earth is in an Ice age that started 2.5 million years ago, and we’re in an interglacial period called Holocene.
  • Every 40,000 years the earth’s axis changes orientation which causes climate change.

Every action we take to cut down global warming contributes is small. However, cumulatively it can help slow down or stop global warming.

Also Read:  Pollution Facts for Kids