“Climate change is happening in the Arctic.” These are the words of my 7-year-old during his interview with a Cornell University researcher. The researcher’s goal was to learn more about what kids knew and how they felt about climate change. We talk a lot about the environment and climate change in our home. So, I was really surprised to hear our son say it was happening somewhere else, not here. And that makes sense. We’re always talking about the ice melting in the Arctic or Antarctica. But maybe we aren’t hearing enough about how it’s affecting each of us where we live right now. This got me to thinking, “What if other kids think the same thing? What if they don’t realize climate change is affecting all of us right now? Would they be more likely to take action if they knew?” I wish it wasn’t this way, but climate change is everywhere. It’s affecting us all in some way or another. Unfortunately, it’s affecting a lot of people in poorer regions of the world far more than it is the richer part of the world; but it is still affecting everyone. But how? The weather doesn’t seem warmer. Climate change affects us all in different ways. From worsening wildfires in the west, to floods on our coasts, excessive heat, and polluted air, we are all affected because everything on Earth is connected. Major Floods and Droughts What happens when there’s a major flood in areas where crops are grown? It affects whether you can get a specific food or how much you’ll pay for it. The same goes for major droughts. When crops can’t get enough water, they die which greatly affects our food chain. Let’s think about it this way: who here likes French fries? I think a lot of hands just went up! The average American eats roughly 34 pounds of French fries each year. Wow, maybe we should be talking about healthy diets instead! But anyway…how does climate change affect your French fries? With the change in temperatures comes a change in not only the growth of the potato but also in the diseases that attack the crop. And don’t forget about bugs! When temperatures change, they force bugs to move which can cause big problems for crops that are not able to defend themselves against these new insects. According to climate.gov, by the 2050s, if we don’t stop using fossil fuels soon and cleaning up our act, the daytime highs in Wisconsin, Idaho, and Washington (where many potatoes are grown) will hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit, which is more than double the temperature in those areas from 1961-1990. This will affect the growth and output of potatoes, and in turn, your French fries! SAVE THE FRENCH FRIES! Heating Up When we burn fossil fuels, the greenhouse gases they let off get trapped in our atmosphere and speeds up the heating of the Earth. Since 1880 the world has warmed up a little more than 1 degree Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit). Though that doesn’t sound like much, it really is a big jump. Just one-degree global change can significantly affect our oceans, atmosphere, and land. To put it in perspective, it only took a 1 to 2 degree drop in temperature to put Earth into the Little Ice Age! So, these small degrees do matter. So even though you may not feel the temperature changing, it is. There is a fantastic video/map on Earth Observatory’s website that shows the heat increase from 1880-2019. You’ll notice the biggest changes happened in the last few decades. See the map here: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/world-of-change/global-temperatures
Extreme Weather Extreme weather will become more common; and we’re not just talking about hurricanes. Hurricanes get a lot of news coverage because they often affect a lot of people. And they are getting worse. But all of our weather is changing. In 2020 alone, extreme storms cost us $34.8 billion! When money is put toward disaster relief (which is very much necessary) it can cause other things in the country to not be funded. The money has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere may be coming from your community. Seasons As our climate changes our seasons will too. It means winter and fall will come later and spring will come early. With rising temperatures, there will be a lot more hot, hot summers. If you’re a fan of playing in the snow, sledding, making snow angels, or having snowball fights, you’ll find less and less opportunity to do those things because of climate change. Ocean Acidification As our world warms and carbon dioxide gets trapped in our atmosphere it will cause our oceans to not only rise because of the melting ice caps but the oceans will become more acidic. This happens because our oceans pull carbon dioxide out of the air. But too much carbon dioxide can change the chemistry of the ocean itself. And it’s already happening. So, what does that mean? It means that animals like coral, oysters, and other shellfish won’t be able to construct strong shells for defense. They could easily become easier to catch by predators which can throw our entire food system out of whack. If you like to eat seafood or you want to be able to swim in the ocean and see the beautiful life in there, it’s going to be harder to find. Our ocean’s health is our health. Fighting Back As you can see, climate change does affect you. You just may not have realized it. And it may not affect you as much directly, as it does indirectly. Now please, don’t take all of this information and sit and overly worry about it. Yes, these are real problems and they need real solutions. But we CAN do something about it. We can do a lot. But we need to act NOW!
What can you do?
· Try our 30 days of Going Green For Kids challenge
· Encourage your family to drive less. Or if your family is financially able to do so, switch to an electric car.
· See if your local energy supplier has a renewable energy option. Or see if solar panels are something your family can have installed.
· Use less electricity – turn off those games and shows (I know, it sounds terrible) and do something that doesn’t involve electricity more often – play a board game, play outside, go for a walk, read a book, do arts and crafts.
· Write to your elected officials and tell them you want big climate actions NOW! Find your representatives: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials
· Encourage your family and friends to make changes in their life by educating them on the effects of climate change.
· Share ways others can help on social media (share our 30 Days of Going Green for Kids challenge!)
· Create protest signs. You don’t have to go to a protest to protest. Create a sign that encourages those in power to make changes and share them on social media. Here are some sign ideas: -Act Big on Climate -Blah Blah Blah Action Now! -There is No Planet B -System Change, Not Climate Change! -Our House Is on Fire -The Climate is Changing, Why Aren’t We?
If you feel like you are worrying a lot about climate change, please make sure to talk to a trusted adult about it. Don’t keep it all inside. You may also find our article on climate anxiety helpful, “Real-Life Confessions: I Have Climate Anxiety.” This article provides ideas on ways you can deal with climate anxiety. But please know, you are not alone in this; it is not all on your shoulders and you can talk to a trusted adult about it! I want to see how you and your family are making a change to slow climate change. Share your pictures and ideas with us in the comments below and on social media (make sure to tag us)! Sources: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/world-of-change/global-temperatures https://www.climate.gov/news-features/climate-and/climate-french-fries https://www.globalchange.gov/climate-change/impacts-society https://climate.nasa.gov/effects/ https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/reports/2021/09/01/503251/extreme-weather-cost-u-s-taxpayers-99-billion-last-year-getting-worse/