Climate Change Facts for Kids
We will discuss what climate change is, what causes climate change, and ways to help - all in ways that are easy to understand for our little eco-warriors.
What is Climate Change?
Climate change is the process of our planet heating up.
It has been estimated by scientists that since the industrial revolution, human activity has caused the Earth to warm up by approximately 1°C. While this might not sound like much, it means big things for the people and wildlife and for us on our Earth.
Rising temperatures do not (unfortunately!) cause only nicer weather - they also make our climate more extreme and unpredictable. This means that events such as extreme heatwaves and heavy rainfall will happen more often.
What Causes Climate Change?
1. Burning Fossil Fuels
For the past 150 years, industrialised countries (such as the UK) have been burning large amounts of fossil fuels.
Fossil fuel is a material formed naturally in or on the earth's crust from the remains of dead plants and animals that is extracted and burned as fuel. The main fossil fuels are coal, crude, oil, natural gas, and peat.
During the process of burning these fossil fuels, the gases released into the atmosphere act like an invisible ‘blanket’, trapping heat from the sun and warming the Earth. This is known as the “greenhouse effect.”
Believe it or not, cows’ eating habits contribute to climate change. Just like us, when cows eat, methane - a type of greenhouse gas - builds up in their digestive system and is released in the form of… a burp! This might sound funny, but when you imagine that there are almost 1.5 billion cows releasing all that gas into the atmosphere, it sure adds up!
3. Cutting Down Trees
Forests absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide - another greenhouse gas – from the air and release oxygen back into it. The Amazon rainforest is so large and efficient at doing this that it acts like our planet’s air conditioner – limiting climate change. Sadly, many rainforests are being cut down to make wood, and palm oil and to clear the way for farmland, roads, oil mines, and dams.
This is why here at ZeroSmart, we plant trees every day! We cannot prevent all deforestation happening around the world but no one can stop us from planting millions of trees in places where they are most needed, such as our reforestation area in Madagascar. You can support our efforts in tree planting via a monthly subscription or a one-off gift purchase.
How Will Climate Change Affect the Planet?
Even though the earth has had many different tropical climates and ice ages over the millions of years it has existed, it has never changed temperature so quickly. This is because we, as humans, are causing this temperature rise. It is not happening naturally.
A warmer climate could affect our planet in several ways:
Shrinking sea ice
Rising sea levels
How Will Climate Change Affect Wildlife?
Climate change is already affecting wildlife all over the world, but certain species are suffering more than others. Polar animals – whose icy natural habitat is melting in the warmer temperatures – are particularly at risk. Experts believe that the Arctic sea ice is melting at a shocking rate – 9% per decade! Polar bears need sea ice to be able to hunt and raise their young and as places to rest after long periods of swimming. Certain seal species, like ringed seals, make caves in the snow and ice to raise their pups, feed, and mate.
Polar bears are just one of the thousands of species that are becoming increasingly in danger because of climate change. Click here to learn about other species which are going extinct or becoming endangered.
How Will Climate Change Affect People?
It isn’t just animals that are being affected by climate change - people are too. Climate change is already affecting people in a number of ways, including death and illness from extreme weather events, how we can grow food and where in the world it can be grown and how much safe drinking water there is left in the world.
As the planet continues to warm up, sea levels will continue to rise. Sea levels have risen by about 23cm (more than a small ruler!) since 1880. Every single year this level goes up. This is going to leave entire communities in extreme danger. Examples of these communities are the East and Gulf Coast. Here, flooding is predicted to occur ten times more often in 2050 than it does today.
But it isn’t only communities that are far away that are going to be in trouble as the sea continues to rise. Places in Britain, including hull, north Norfolk, parts of Suffolk, and the Wirral, are all going to be left extremely vulnerable to rising sea levels. Some predict that by 2050, many of these places is going to be completely underwater.
Click here to see which places in the UK are going to be underwater and by when.
As our weather continues to change because of global warming, the danger of extreme weather events will increase as they become more and more likely. Examples of these extreme weather events which have been seen recently are the California Raging Fire, Hurricane Ida, and floods in Germany. To learn about more of these extreme weather events, click this article here.
Here in the UK, changes to our climate are going to include an increase in warm spells, as well as cold spells and rainfall. This is going to mean our winters are warmer and wetter, our summers drier and hotter and the extremes of both are going to increase. In turn, this is going to lead to problems such as snow melting very quickly, before freezing again as the temperatures plummet and our roads and pavements being left very unsafe for us to get to school and work.
As our climate warms and rainfall patterns change, it may be harder to grow enough food in some areas. The climate will change which crops can grow in different regions. Some places may be able to grow new crops, but many places will experience reduced crop production, especially in hotter countries.
Here in the UK, we could be five degrees warmer by the end of the century - meaning that south and east Britain may be too dry to grow crops. This could result in a significant loss of food for us and thousands of farmers out of work.
What Can You Do to Help Reduce Climate Change?
There are several things you can do, no matter your age, to help reduce climate change:
Reduce the amount of meat/dairy you eat and drink (click here for more ways to be a green eater)
Take shorter showers (click here for other tips and tricks on how to be a water saver!)
Ride a bike or walk where you can
Use public transport (like the train or bus)
Turn off things such as your computer and the TV when they are not in use.
Other Resources for Kids to Learn More About Climate Change
If your eco-warrior is eager to learn even more about climate change, there are several really amazing resources you can use. We will list our favorites below - if you have any others you think deserve some recognition, please don't hesitate to contact us @zerosmartuk on Instagram.
A great resource for fun family nature activities to try at home - from how to make a pine cone bird feeder, to tips on how to explore wildlife in your garden.
The No. 1 children’s book on ocean plastics and climate change. They also offer free teacher resources.
The first children’s magazine of its kind to be environmentally friendly and compostable with no plastic toys attached.
In this informative book on recycling for children, you will find everything you need to know about our environment - from pollution and litter to renewable energy and plastic recycling.
A program educating youth on climate change through science, art, and storytelling.
We hope this article gave you some ideas on how you can begin to explain what is happening to our planet and how we can help.
Find more ideas for climate change facts and activities on our Pinterest.