Talking About Climate Change

With more than 100 websites with information on climate change describing scientific research, classroom education activities, conferences around the world, cartoons and much, much more.  The topic can be overwhelming and definitely confusing.

Where do you start? 

Begin a discussion with children that is brief, clear, understandable and personally relevant.

This week’s post offers questions and answers as a start for conversation with resources to review to find more detailed information. This is indeed only a beginning…

1. Where are the wildflowers and trees?

Wildflowers are seasonal and dependent on temperature. They bloom earlier when temperatures are warmer. Plants will move uphill or northward to stay in their traditional cooler climate zones. The challenge for all plants and trees is if they can adapt quickly enough to keep up with changing weather patterns or thin out and die in large numbers during their move. Animals also live by seasons. They move where it is warmer and to find food. Sometimes they move into areas where people live and animals don’t belong. Wild animals are usually not good neighbors.

2. Who shrunk the beach?

As glaciers melt worldwide, beaches on the coast will appear to shrink because of erosion and rise in seal level. Low lying coastal areas could eventually be under water and everyone who lives there needs to move inland to higher ground.

3. Why is it such a big deal that some places are warmer than usual and others are colder and wetter than they are supposed to be?

Changing weather patterns bring more severe storms and flooding in areas that are worse than usual. People, buildings and dams are not always fully prepared when storms come, so that causes more property damage. Climate change can reduce our nation’s food supply because farmers depend on predictable weather patterns. Too much rain or too soon can damage or destroy whole crops. Warmer water temperatures are too warm for some fish (and the ecosystems that support them) to thrive and lay their eggs. A third problem is higher danger of forest fires in areas where there is less rainfall.

4. Haven’t these warming and cooling cycles happened on our planet before?

The earth has experienced a lot of different weather patterns over millions of years. The ten hottest years on record have all occurred within the last 12 years, so what we are experiencing now is not the same as anything that we know has happened before.

5. Are there places that have changed because of because of climate change?

Yes. Lassen National Park, Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe were originally formed when glaciers melted millions of years ago.  Scientists have found fossils in places that are now dry that prove the land used to be covered in water. Angel Island in San Francisco Bay was created when the water rose around it from melting ice and filled the Bay. Animals are migrating north to stay in cooler weather when their home temperature is now warmer.

6. Will there still be snow to play in or go snowboarding?

If the planet continues to get warmer, there will probably be less snow in the mountains and it will melt a lot sooner. Instead of a lot of snowpack available for winter sports, we will have more flooding when the snow melts so fast.

7. What can I do to slow down changes in temperature?

You can do a lot! We can use less energy at home because using a lot of energy contributes to the problem. Walk more and drive less. Buy products that use less packaging and take less energy to operate. And we can recycle and reuse things as much as we can. We are not just saving money, we are saving our plants, animals and where we live too.