Important environmental lessons made simple. That’s the goal of Modern Kids Design's ECO 101, a series breaking down big ideas like ecosystems, climate change, the food chain, energy, healthy food, water, and more into quick, easy fact sheets for busy kids and parents.
Climate change is an especially tricky thing to talk to kids about. Here are some ideas for how to approach this topic.
Climate change and global warming are not happy topics, but kids will inevitably ask about them. With all the bad news about climate change, it can be a scary subject to approach. However, teaching kids the facts can empower them with knowledge—and with ways to fight the problem.
Where to Start When Talking About Climate Change: Terminology
First, it’s good to explain what exactly is going on—not always an easy task with such a complicated subject. It’s good to choose which term you’ll use: climate change or global warming. We recommend climate change. Most scientists agree this is a more accurate term as the effects of climate change are extreme temperatures, not just hot but also cold, as well as drought, hurricanes, and other unusual, extreme weather patterns.
Once you’ve decided on your term, it’s time to discuss how carbon dioxide affects climate.
Carbon Dioxide and Climate Change
Carbon dioxide is a gas that occurs naturally in the world. In fact, it plays an important role in helping to keep our Earth at just the right temperature to sustain life as we know it.
The amount of carbon dioxide in the world has been in balance for millions of years, regulated by the carbon cycle. That cycle ensures that much of the carbon in the world is stored in both living plants and animals as well as dead ones (in the form of coal and oil).
But now, human activity is changing that. When we burn coal and oil, it goes into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide and causes the atmosphere to trap more heat. This makes the world a hotter place—kind of like what would happen if you put an extra heat-trapping layer on a greenhouse.
This change in temperature is leading to big changes in climate, or long-term weather patterns, all around the world. For a great description of the effects of climate change, visit this EPA webpage.
These changes affect just about every living thing on earth. Plants might suffer because of hotter temperatures or lack of rain; animals like the polar bear suffer because they are losing their habitat, ice, as it melts under hotter temperatures. Even humans are affected by heatwaves, long periods of drought, and severe storms like hurricanes and tornadoes.
These are just a few ideas on how to get the conversation rolling. When talking about topics of this magnitude with kids, we think it is also important to leave them with the sense that they can make a difference. So, in our next post, Part 2, entitled 3 Climate Change Activities for Families, we'll share a few tips on how to continue the conversation with your kids and take some action steps so they feel empowered to make a difference.
Have you discussed climate change at home? If so, how did you approach it? We'd love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are wondering about the pictures, we took them last spring in Paris. The weather patterns were extreme and the flooding was extrordinary to say the least. Thought we'd share them as food for thought. As always, thanks for reading.