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5 Answers for Kids Concerned About Climate Crisis
A lot of people are talking about climate change, and a lot of people are very worried about it. Children and grown-ups are protesting and you might hear some scary things about the future. People don't know yet how things will turn out in 10 years, 20 years or a 100 years from now.
But there are things we can do. One of the most important things, is to understand what the problem is, how we all play a role in causing it — and how we can all play a role in solving it.
1. Why are so many children skipping school?
Kids are worried. They're not happy that the adults in charge — those who should be making our lives better — seem to be ignoring the problem of climate change, or just not doing enough to stop the world from getting too hot.
Students hope that by walking out of school with banners and megaphones, and getting together with other people who want things to change, that their voices will be heard. They want the politicians, those people who make the big decisions, to get together and come up with solutions to climate change and find a way to fix the damage we've done.
World leaders met and agreed that they would do that. But so far, they haven't done enough to stop our planet from getting dangerously hot.
2. And what exactly is climate change?
That's a tricky one. Plenty of adults don't understand a lot of the details about climate change. It's a problem caused by "greenhouse gases."
A greenhouse is made of glass that traps the sun's heat but doesn't let it back out again, so that inside, it gets hotter. The same thing happens with the Earth's atmosphere, which holds in the heat from the sun to keep us all nice warm (out in space, we'd quickly freeze!).
But gases that come from factories, power plants and cars and get into the atmosphere are making the planet too hot.
Most of the energy we use to make things, keep the lights on and our homes warm, turn on the air-con and power transport, comes from burning fuels like oil, gas and coal. These are called fossil fuels and when they are burned, they release carbon. Once it gets into the atmosphere, it traps a lot of heat.
Cutting down trees can also make the world hotter, because trees take carbon out of the atmosphere and store it safely away.
When the planet gets hotter, how the weather changes is different from place to place — and hard to predict. You may have heard older people talk about how winters used to be snowy, or seen pictures of melting glaciers. In some places, deserts are getting bigger and in summer it can be too hot to go outside.
But in other parts of the world it can actually get colder, rainier or more stormy: For example, when the glaciers melt, all that icy water goes into the sea, making it colder, changing the flows of water and air — and the weather. And when it gets hot, more water evaporates, making more rain.
3. Is the world going to end?
No — planet Earth is about 4.5 billion years old and it has been through lots of changes, getting hotter and colder at different times. But the animals and plants that live here now like the climate just the way it is. If it changes too much, many will die.
Unusual weather — too much rain or not enough, huge storms, hotter summers, forest fires and floods — is also making it harder to grow the food we eat every day. In some places, there isn't enough food and water.
Climate change could mean more people will become sick. And some people have to leave their homes and look for a safer place to live, sometimes far away in another country.
To stop the world getting too hot, we have to change the way we live. People are comfortable living their lives a certain way, getting around in gas-powered cars and airplanes and finding everything they want in stores, and they may fear giving up that way of life.
4. But what does that have to with me?
Pollution can come from many things; nearly everything we do in our daily life has an effect on the climate. That's why we're trying to fly less, reuse our shopping bags and buy fewer things, or get our food from the farms closer to home.
Think about plastic water bottles. Before they show up in the store, somebody has to make the bottle, fill it with water and move it to the store by truck. And then, once we're done with it, we usually just get rid of it right away — by recycling, when we can, or just tossing it in the trash. All that has an effect on the planet, by creating more pollution in the air, using up fresh water and making more garbage.
5. So what can I do to help?
We can make small contributions, like remembering to turn off the lights when we leave a room, eating less meat and composting our garbage. We can also walk places or go by bike, or go on vacations closer to home so we can take the train, which uses less energy and makes less pollution than a plane.
Everyone can make changes in their daily life that mean there will be less pollution. And while our choices alone aren't enough to fix the problem, they can help to convince companies and politicians to make bigger changes.
Just by asking these questions — and learning from books or from interesting TV and movies — and talking about climate change and the environment with other people in your life, you're helping to spread the message. And the more that people know about the problem, the better chance we have of doing something about it.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
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