Have you ever visited a greenhouse where plants are grown? Great panels of glass trap heat from the sun and moisture to create a warm, cozy place for plants to grow. Greenhouse owners must run fans and open vents to keep the greenhouses from getting too warm on hot days. If the greenhouse gets too warm, the plants might die.
The Earth is a bit like a giant greenhouse. Carbon dioxide, methane and water vapor in the atmosphere create a blanket around the Earth that traps warmth from the Sun. But what happens if those gases work too well? Since 1900, the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have increased by 30 percent. This increase has been caused by burning fossil fuels, such as oil, gas and coal. These fuels contain carbon and when they’re burned, the carbon is released into the air as carbon dioxide.
Depending on where you live, the weather is probably a little different every day. In the summer, one week might be really hot and another week might be cooler and rainy. In the winter, one week might be cold and dry. Next week, though, a big snowstorm might arrive.
Climate change is different than daily weather changes. Climate change happens slowly over thousands and millions of years. The tilt of the Earth’s axis can affect climate. So can natural phenomenon like volcanic eruptions. When a volcano erupts, the ashes from the explosion can block out the Sun’s rays, causing cooler weather for many years.
In recent years, human choices have altered the climate. When we cut down trees or use gasoline and other fossil fuels, we release carbon dioxide and other gases. These gases hold in heat. The climate is becoming warmer because of these gases.
Fun Facts about Climate Change for Kids
- Like a greenhouse without fans, the Earth is heating up. It has warmed by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1880s. This number seems pretty small until you consider that the planet warmed only 7 degrees in the previous 12,000 years.
- Glaciers and ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctic are melting quickly. Water from the melting ice falls into the oceans and causes the sea level to rise.
- Animals, such as polar bears, that live in Arctic regions may become extinct as they lose habitat.
- Low-lying cities, such as New York, may become permanently flooded. Sea levels could rise by as much as 82 feet if the glaciers all melt.
- In South America, farmers burn rain forests to create farmland. Burning the forests releases more carbon dioxide into the air, causing more damage to the atmosphere. Since 1990, 163,000 square miles of rain forest have been cut down in Brazil.
- Over millions of years, the Earth has experienced warm, wet periods, as well as cold Ice Ages.
- Animals, people and plants must adapt to climate changes.
- Storms sometimes become more common and severe as the climate changes.
- Animals may have to find new homes or migrate.
- People must change the ways they live and grow food.
Climate Change Vocabulary
- Greenhouse: a building with glass walls designed to stay warm
- Vent: openings that allow air to circulate
- Cozy: snug, comfortably warm
- Atmosphere: the layer of gases that surround our planet
- Phenomenon: events
- Erupt: explode
- Ashes: burnt materials
- Alter: change
- Adapt: modify or change
Learn All about Climate Change
Here’s the best kids climate change video you can watch right now to learn more all about climate change:
A video for kids that explains all about climate change.
Climate Change Q&A
Question: What can I do to help slow or stop climate change?
Answer: Scientists are working hard to find new sources of clean energy. Until then, you and your family can be careful with the resources we have. Avoid making unnecessary car trips. Walk to school. Did you know that trees and plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air? Grow your own vegetables and plant some trees. Maybe you’ll become a scientist who invents new, greener energy sources.
Question: Can we do anything to control climate change?
Answer: We can limit our use of fossil fuels. Walk or ride your bike when you can. Drive energy efficient cars and use energy efficient appliances.
Question: Are sea levels rising?
Answer: Yes, sea levels are rising and more quickly than anticipated some years ago. As the sea waters get warmer the water expands and rises. Increased glacier melting is contributing to rising sea levels.
Question: What climate changes have been observed so far?
Answer: As mentioned previously melting glaciers and rising sea waters have been observed. Animal migration has been observed as starting a lot earlier.
Question: Do we know what the main greenhouse gases are?
Answer: The three most important gases to note when talking about the greenhouse gases are – Carbon Dioxide – Methane – Nitrous Oxide.
Question: How are temperatures on our Earth changing?
Answer: Observation with weather instruments in the last 157 years have shown that the earth’s surface temperature has risen.
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