Climate change was explained to our children

How do we know the climate is warming? Why? What can we do there? Climate issues are becoming increasingly urgent and affect us all. But it is not always easy to convey this information to children. For you, Western France compiled a list of about ten questions and answers to easily explain climate change to 7-12 year olds. The latter is planned to be expanded with new questions and interactive content for children.

How do we know the climate is warming?

Global warming is the rapid increase in temperature on our planet. For more than 150 years, people have been measuring temperatures around the world. This lets you know what the temperature was in Rennes when your grandfather’s grandfather lived!

Scientists today can even predict what the temperature will be long before the advent of the thermometer!

Thanks to this, we can know how the temperature increases. The world is estimated to be 1.25 degrees Celsius (or °C) warmer in 2020 than in 1900.

Here is a graph showing the difference between observed global temperatures and average temperatures between 1850 and 1900.

Since 1950, scientists have observed a decrease in the number of cold days and nights, and an increase in the number of warm days and nights.

If you want another example, last year was the hottest year on record in France!

Is a 1.25°C temperature increase over 100 years too much?

It doesn’t seem like it, but yes, and the results of this growth are already visible.

All over the world, the ice is melting, the areas with less water are even less, and the areas with more are flooded!

Here you can see the evolution of the Muir and Riggs glaciers in Alaska.

In this photo, you can see the drying up of Lake Mead in the United States between August 2000 and August 2021.

Lake Mead drying up, August 2000 to August 2021. | PHOTO: LANDSAT PHOTO GALLERY / PUBLIC DOMAIN

Another example: in India, where it rains a lot in summer monsoon (a set of warm winds that blow through Southeast Asia that produce a lot of rain. The monsoon is an expected weather phenomenon in the region because it brings water to farmers to grow crops. But it is also feared because the rains can be destructive), more water is observed each year.

How long can we sustain today’s climate?

Unfortunately, it is impossible to remain as it is now. The effects of global warming on the planet are long and slow. It will take seven to ten years for the climate to adapt to the consequences of our activities. In other words, the way we live today will only be seen in seven years.

We can adapt somewhat to these changes. For example, when it is very hot, our body sweats to lower the temperature. When it is very cold, we wear sweaters to keep warm. However, this adaptation is only possible up to a certain point, it should not be exceeded.

Will the temperature continue to rise?

Yes, climate change is expected to accelerate in the coming years. Experts estimate that if no action is taken, the average temperature could rise by only 1.5°C, 2°C or more.

But humans are fighting to protect our planet and its inhabitants, be it us or the animals. For example, the Galapagos penguins, threatened by climate change, were saved by a group of researchers! You can listen to our Green Capsule episode on the topic here:

What is the greenhouse effect?

To understand the rise in temperature, we need to look at the greenhouse effect. This is a natural phenomenon and necessary for life! Thanks to it, the heat of the sun is found blocked on the Earth.

Without it, the planet would be -18°C! It is created by the atmosphere surrounding the planet.

But the composition of the atmosphere can change. Since 1850, for example, there is 40% carbon dioxide or CO2 (a gas produced by burning carbon, for example found in oil or coal. Living things also create) in addition. It changes the greenhouse effect and increases the temperature.

Why is there more CO2 in the atmosphere?

This is a direct result of human activity on the planet. From 1800 to the present, the world experienced an important event: the industrial revolution (the historical period marked by the emergence of industry, the development of transport, etc.). People started using coal to power the machines. This allowed mankind to improve their living conditions.

Unfortunately, primarily by burning coal, as well as other fossil fuels, humans release a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere. Electricity, heating, air conditioning, but also transportation (planes, trucks, cars), even factories, agriculture… all these activities pollute.

What is a fossil fuel?

Coal is an energy source found in the ground, such as oil or gas. Fossil fuels are buried underground and formed from the very slow decomposition of plants over millions of years! These energy sources are limited, unlike renewable energy that can be obtained from, for example, wind, sunlight, or moving water.

In 2022, the world broke the record for the number of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere as a result of the consumption of fossil fuels.

Do all countries pollute equally?

There are some countries that have never been very polluted because they haven’t really industrialized. Others, like France, polluted heavily and then reduced their CO2 emissions.

To learn more, you can watch the video below that we made about the question.

Is this the first time the planet’s temperature has changed?

No, the planet has already experienced periods of climate change. 250 million years ago, the climate of metropolitan France, for example, was tropical, and the area was covered with lush forests and giant insects!

This climate change is due to the Earth’s rotation around the sun. It sometimes moves closer to it, causing the temperature to rise, and also moves away from it, causing the temperature to drop.

But this is the first time that climate change has been caused by one species on the planet: us humans.

What can we do?

Many people are doing something every day to limit climate change. For example, the governments of almost every country on the planet have signed an agreement to limit global warming to 2°C by 2100.

A video explaining how countries are coming together to limit global warming.

Even if the experts, as well as the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, still believe that we are not going fast enough, there are great advances in technological means to solve the problem!

Ordinary citizens also act on their own scale. They take initiatives to reduce pollution or help animals. Their work is commendable! We list some of them on our page Do it tomorrowyou can watch it here.

But me personally?

It’s okay to want to help at your level! There are several ways to limit yourself carbon footprint, that is, the number of CO2 emissions you put into the atmosphere. For example, avoid air travel and cruises, which are very polluting.

You may also prefer cycling and public transport over cars.

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