Our world is getting progressively warmer, resulting in unpredictable weather patterns, damaging storms, and melting glaciers. Unlike natural disasters, such as hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes, all of which wreak havoc on localized areas, climate change is greatly affecting our entire planet.
The Earth’s climate has changed over time for a variety of reasons. Changes in the sun and carbon dioxide (CO2) are partly responsible, as are variations in the Earth’s orbit and volcanoes. Unfortunately, scientists have found that human activity and modern innovations have been the key contributors to the ever-rising temperatures. It’s disappointing that humans have played a main role in this change in climate, but the good news is, we can do something about it!
A Worthy and Necessary Cause
While climate change experts have identified key problems and made it their mission to get the message out, the changes are happening so gradually that the worldwide issues related to climate change are often put on the backburner or ignored altogether. Thankfully, we can all join forces and truly make a difference! By making seemingly small changes in our daily routines, we can collectively help slow down the impact of global warming, ensuring that we humans and all other living things will continue to survive and thrive.
In this Ultimate Children’s Guide to Helping Stop Climate Change, we’ll breakdown the meaning of global warming and its effects, as well as how it has changed over time. Finally, we’ll share how you can help slow down, and even stop, climate change.
You may be surprised to learn that the vast majority of items on our list are super simple and require very little effort. One example: Simply turn off and unplug anything electronic while it’s not in use. Not only will you be helping the environment; you’ll be saving some of your parents’ hard-earned money.
Later, we’ll dive into how your efforts can make a massive impact, but first, we’ll explain global warming and climate change. After reading this guide, you’ll be a climate change pro. Our hope is that you’ll feel inspired and empowered to spread the word and help make a change!
“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” – Robert Swan
Ready to make a difference? Great! Let’s get started.
Global Warming Explained
What is global warming?
Despite the ongoing conversation about global warming, many folks don’t understand it. Put simply, global warming is the gradual rise in temperature of the Earth’s surface.
When did global warming start?
Dating back to 1750 when the Industrial Revolution began, the Earth has slowly gotten warmer. In less than 270 years, the Earth’s temperature has risen approximately 1° Celsius, or 1.8° Fahrenheit. Although there is some debate as to the accuracy of these numbers, most scientists agree that the Earth is getting progressively warmer.
A degree or two may not seem like a big difference, but at its current rate, our planet could be 3° to 4° warmer by the year 2100. Put into perspective, the Earth was just 4° cooler during the most recent Ice Age than it was after the glacial event. A few degrees really do make a huge difference!
How did the Industrial Revolution affect climate?
The 18th and 19th centuries are celebrated for their major manufacturing innovations in Europe and the US. Notable inventions include electricity and the transcontinental railroad, as well as steamboats and factories, all of which utilized fossil fuels, such as oil, coal, and natural gas. Burning these fuels caused an increase of carbon dioxide and other harmful gases, greatly affecting the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect.
What is the greenhouse effect?
The Kids Britannica defines the greenhouse effect as “a warming of Earth’s surface and the air above it… caused by gases in the air that trap energy from the sun. These heat-trapping gases are called greenhouse gases. The most common greenhouse gases are water vapor, carbon dioxide, and methane. Without the greenhouse effect, Earth would be too cold for life to exist.”
As this Kids Britannica definition confirms, the greenhouse effect isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It becomes worrisome, however, as we continue to burn fossil fuels and the Earth gets warmer over time. Virtually every region of the planet is now experiencing the greenhouse effect, with the exception of Antarctica, which is likely due to the massive ocean surrounding the southernmost continent. Scientists believe that a combination of westerly winds and cold, deep waters have managed to keep the greenhouse effect from reaching the ice-covered landmass.
The Future of Climate Change
How the greenhouse effect and climate change could affect our future
Today, fossil fuels are being depleted at record speed. In addition to the petrol used in our cars and planes, and the power we use to light, heat, and cool our homes, fossil fuels are also used to create medicine, beauty products, plastics, and other synthetic materials. Along with causing changes in climate, the resources we’ve come to depend on are being used up much more quickly than they can be created. In fact, fossil fuels contain energy from the sun that takes thousands of years to develop.
Scarily, scientists estimate that many of these resources will be completely gone in a matter of decades, possibly within your lifetime. We’re currently using 4 billion tonnes of crude oil, or unrefined oil, every year on our planet, giving us enough oil for just over 53 years if we continue using it at the current pace. And if we use gas to make up for the lost oil reserves, gas could be depleted in 52 years. While we have more coal available than oil or gas, if we increase the amount of coal we’re using to make up for the loss of oil and gas, coal could be completely gone in 150 years.
While the loss of fossil fuels would drastically impact our planet, the long term effects of climate change could wipe out civilization altogether. Without change, sea levels would continue to rise at an alarming rate, eventually swallowing coastal cities and low-lying islands. As temperatures continually rise, many species would be unable to adapt to the heat. In fact, some researchers estimate that more than 30-percent of species may be extinct in a matter of decades.
In addition to mass flooding and increasingly damaging hurricanes in some areas, other regions would experience increased droughts and forest fires. Worryingly, water and food supplies would also be at risk.
The Crusade to Stop Climate Change
Big names making a big impact
Stopping climate change in its tracks may seem like an uphill battle, but more and more people are making changes and encouraging others to do the same. From scientists and other environmentalists to celebrities and everyday men, women, and children, there are a growing number of people taking responsibility and changing our world for the better.
One such change maker is American filmmaker, actor, and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio, who launched his foundation in 1998. The Titanic star and his organization are intent on restoring our planet by tackling tough issues like climate change head-on.
Many other notable environmentalists, including Prince Charles, Gisele Bündchen, and her husband Tom Brady, are using their platforms to make change at the global level.
“I believe humankind has looked at climate change… as if it were a fiction, happening to someone else’s planet, as if pretending that climate change wasn’t real would somehow make it go away.” – Leonardo DiCaprio.
How you can help stop climate change
You don’t have to be a star-studded celeb to make a difference. Europe is among the top three gas-emitting regions, contributing approximately 9-percent of the planet’s harmful gases. While it’s true that change is needed at the global level, you can start making a difference at home and in your community.
Become aware of your carbon footprint
As humans, we all need energy to survive. We need food and clothing, as well as electricity to light, heat, and cool our homes, schools, etc. Getting from place to place via car, bus, train, etc. also requires energy.
You’ve probably heard the term “carbon footprint,” which refers to the amount of carbon dioxide you release into the environment. So, is it possible to reduce your carbon footprint? Absolutely! We encourage you to make the following tweaks to your daily routine and encourage your loved ones to do the same. Your actions and passion are sure to inspire others.
- If it’s not in use, turn it off: Have you gotten into the habit of leaving your computer or desk lamp on when it’s not in use? Making an effort to turn off lights, appliances, and electronics after each use is an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint.
- Go ahead–unplug: In addition to turning off lamps, electronics, appliances, etc., be sure to unplug them as well. You’d be surprised how much energy we use without even knowing it. If you’re not keen on regularly unplugging all of your electronics one by one, consider using a power strip that you can power off. From game consoles and controllers to cell phone and laptop chargers, each and every item you unplug adds up to a major reduction in energy.
- Get creative with transportation: You might be surprised to learn that a two mile trip in the family car will pump approximately two pounds of carbon dioxide into the environment! Greener alternatives include walking, jogging, biking, skating, or riding your scooter. Carpooling also helps cut down on unnecessary energy use.
- Don’t use air conditioning at home: If your family uses air conditioning at home, suggest opening the windows instead. For extremely warm days, use fans instead of air conditioning, which uses a lot more energy.
- Don’t use air conditioning in vehicles: Encourage your family members to roll down car windows rather than using the vehicle’s a/c.
- Don’t crank up the heat: During chillier months, bundle up in sweaters, coats, and blankets, and use a hot water bottle for warmth. Keep the thermostat low at home to cut down on energy (and the heating bill).
- Avoid waiting in the drive-thru—especially if there’s a line: It’s much more energy efficient to park, turn off the car’s engine, and walk inside the restaurant.
- Eat less meat: Believe it or not, the animals that provide the meat we eat contribute to harmful gases in our environment. As more people choose to eat less meat, the need for meat-producing animals declines.
- Eat locally grown fruits and vegetables: Sure, fruits and veggies are healthy, but produce is often transported via gas-guzzling semi-trucks that fill our environment with harmful greenhouse gases. Opt for locally grown, in-season produce.
- Pay attention to how much water you’re using. We’re lucky to live in a region where safe, clean water is abundant, which is not the case for other areas of our planet. You can help conserve water by turning off the sink while brushing your teeth and taking shorter showers. Baths generally use more water than showers; filling a bathtub uses approximately 36 gallons, while the average shower uses five gallons per minute, so your best bet is a quick, refreshing shower. It’s also helpful to reuse towels rather than throwing them in the laundry after each use.
- Let your hair air dry. Skip the blow dryer to save energy. Bonus: Your hair will thank you!
- Hang your clothes to dry. Your clothes dryer uses a lot of energy. Hang your clothes to dry when possible.
- Don’t forget the kettle. When you re-heat the kettle, you’re using unnecessary energy.
- Recycle whenever you can. Getting into the recycling habit is one of the most effective ways you can help halt climate change. Ever-growing landfills are releasing more and more toxic greenhouse gases, so it’s more important than ever to up your recycling game. Here are a few ways you can help:
- Always use reusable grocery bags, and encourage everyone you know to do the same. An astounding 500 billion single-use plastic bags are used every year, 13 billion of which are being used right here in the UK.
- Shop at thrift stores and charity shops. Encourage family members to use hand-me-down clothing and other second-hand items when possible.
- Utilize a reusable water bottle. You’ve probably heard that plastic water bottles are polluting our major bodies of water. Here in the UK, we’re using (and pitching) 7.7 billion plastic water bottles each year. If you want to take water on the go, purchase an inexpensive, reusable water bottle. The average person in the UK uses 150 plastic water bottles every year, so you’ll drastically reduce your carbon footprint by breaking the habit.
- Below is a list of items that are recyclable. If there are no recycling programs in your area, contact your local leaders. Use your voice and knowledge to start making important environmental changes in your community:
- Anything made from paper is recyclable, including newspapers, magazines, junk mail, and cardboard.
- Aluminum cans. You can even make money recycling those old soda and food cans. Look for a Cash for Cans centre in your area.
- Although plastic gets a bad rap, many plastics are recyclable. You can check each plastic item for the number inside the recycling symbol (a triangle made from three clockwise arrows). Numbers 1 to 5 are generally recyclable, but some items/categories need to be approved by local authorities. Check out this helpful guide for recycling plastics in the UK. It breaks down each type of plastic and what those plastics can be turned into.
- Look for products with minimal packaging. The process of recycling paper uses energy, so the less packaging materials, the better!
More ways to help
In addition to the energy-saving ideas listed above, we urge you to write a heartfelt letter to your local editor to spread the word about the small changes we can make on the individual and community level. You can also send a letter or set up a meeting with local leaders to discuss ways to stop climate change.
Help your family become more green
Another way to help is by asking your family to use an online carbon footprint calculator. Many people don’t realize how much energy they’re using, and these surprising calculations often drive change.
Choose a green career
If you’re passionate about climate change, consider a green career. You may choose to become a water quality technician, a clean car engineer, a natural scientist, or a wind energy worker. There are lots of career options for the energy-conscious individual. Check out this awesome article by National Geographic, which highlights 11 fast-growing green jobs.
Create an action plan and go make change!
Now that you know the facts, we encourage you to create an action plan and start making change in your home, school, and community. Spread the word and surround yourself with others who are passionate about saving our environment. Changing our planet starts with you!