Alyssa is an environmental scientist. This article breaks down climate change in simple terms so that you can teach it to kids.
What Is Global Warming?
Global warming refers to the rising average temperatures of the Earth. This is not limited just to land, but it includes—more importantly—air and sea. This has been occurring since 1850, when the temperatures began to climb decade after decade. Within the past century, the temperature has increased by 0.8 C (1.4 ºF). While this may not seem like much, it is a significant amount which could change the world as we know it.
Global warming is caused by the rising amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Factories, mining, burning and automobiles are all factors which contribute to the growing carbon dioxide emissions. The gases become trapped in the atmosphere, covering the earth like a blanket. This traps the heat of the sun and causes the globe to rise in temperature. This is known as the greenhouse effect. Other greenhouse gases include methane and nitrous oxide. These greenhouse gases are necessary to the maintenance of our environment. Too much, however, can cause catastrophic effects. The increase in human population and production contributes to the ever-growing presence of greenhouse gases.
- Record-Setting Heat Across the U.S. in 2012 - Graphic - NYTimes.com
A map showing which parts of the country were warmest.
Is Global Warming a Hoax?
Many of us have seen the worst winters of our lives in these past few years. Temperatures for some have remained below freezing for long periods of time, while the south has experienced multiple freeze overs in the United States. How is global warming an issue when we're so cold? Look back at the name: Global Warming. While various parts of the country may experience fluctuations in temperature, the entirety of the earth is experiencing a rise in average temperatures.
What Is Climate Change?
So, how is global warming related to climate change? The two go hand-in-hand. Global warming leads to climate change. As carbon emissions increase and Earth's temperature rises, we experience changes in our climate never before seen. According to NOAA, there are 10 indicators which demonstrate the presence of climate change:
- Temperatures over oceans
- Sea surface temperature
- Tropospheric temperature
- Land temperature
- Sea level
- Ocean heat
- Sea ice
- Snow cover
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On this planet, climate change will continue so long as global warming is an issue. At the same time, weather patterns will continue to shift.
- Climate Change and Global Warming Introduction — Global Issues
This page introduces what climate change is, the potential impacts and resistance to the otherwise accepted understanding that it is man-made climate change.
Clues of Climate Change
Changes in Weather Patterns
Changes in weather patterns are a direct result of climate change. As the Earth's temperature rises, the sea level rises alongside that. The air, earth surface and the atmosphere result in shifts of weather patterns on a global scale. This is the basis of climate change. So the next time someone claims that global warming is a hoax, it is not just the weather in one area, it is the changing climates and weather patterns world-wide which should be cited.
Evidence of climate change can be seen in the increases of severe weather over the past several decades. The amount of large-scale hurricanes has increased over the past 40 years. 1999-2002 and 2006 saw some of the worst droughts in Western United States in the history of US weather. Some areas are also experiencing record-breaking rainfall totals. In 2006, the Northeast had it's wettest summer on record. The rising sea levels and increased precipitation could ultimately erase coastal communities - wiping New York off the map.
While we experience extreme weather never thought likely, new areas of the globe will see a permanent change in their climate. This could not only have an effect on the ecosystems and people living in these communities, but also the goods in which they produce. Crops will have to change with the shifting weather patterns along with tourism and species habitat.
Consequences of Climate Change
As previously mentioned, climate change will result in shifting weather patterns and increased cases of extreme weather. Other effects reach all aspects of the world as we know it: health, ecosystems, and biodiversity just to name a few.
Carbon emissions and green house gases not only makes allergies worse but also has an adverse effect on the lungs. Air pollution can create a while slew of health issues, and deadly ones at that. It is not only the air that will create problems. Periods of intense heat and drought will also create health hazards along with "super-storms" that, if unprepared, could create loss and destruction.
Ecosystems will also experience their fair share of problems as a result of climate change. The ocean is the major example in this instance. An increase in carbon emissions and rising sea levels will destroy habitats through ocean acidification. Not to mention the melting of the ice caps which will inevitably result in the loss of the polar bears, unless, of course, we do something to stop it (and quick!) Ultimately, the result of all of this is the loss of biodiversity. This means that species will be lost as habitats are destroyed and negative human intervention persists.
What Can You Do to Stop Climate Change?
- We must conserve as much as possible. The three R's—Reduce, Reuse, Recycle—are key!
- Avoid the use of plastics by using reusable materials whenever possible - water bottles, grocery bags, lunch boxes, etc.
- Every little act contributes to something much greater. Take the small steps in your own household first to conserve on whatever you can.
- Most importantly: Educate others while educating yourself. Knowledge is power, everyone will benefit from the knowledge of global warming and climate change.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.