Here are some facts and prompts to get you talking with the kiddos about what climate change is, how it’s caused and why it’s happening! Then use the open-ended discussion questions at the end to continue your chat.
To kick-start the conversation, start with gentle, open-ended questions based on things they’ve heard about in the news, locally. For example:
Q: Did you hear about the California wildfires (or another local extreme weather event)? How did that make you feel? Do you think they will happen again this year? You could also start by asking about their favorite animal.
Q: Have you heard about climate change? Have you talked about your friends or teachers in school? Do you know what it is?
A: Climate change is exactly what it sounds like. A change in our climate! It is a change in the average conditions — like temperature or rainfall — over a long period of time (30+ years). It is different from weather, which are conditions over a short period of time like a rainstorm and can vary day to day!
Q: To understand how climate change is caused, we need to understand how our Earth’s atmosphere works. So, what is the greenhouse effect?
A: This is a process that occurs when gases in Earth’s atmosphere (the layers of air between us and outer space) trap the Sun’s heat. Just like a greenhouse helps plants, vegetables and flowers grow easily with glass walls and a glass roof, Earth’s atmosphere keeps us comfortable.
Greenhouse gases trap heat that usually would have been released out to space. Without greenhouse gases, Earth would be too cold to live on. But with too many greenhouse gases, the Earth gets too hot and causes the climate to change!
Currently, we are experiencing the highest carbon dioxide levels, a greenhouse gas, in millions of years — before even the ice age and the pyramids!
Q: How do scientists know that climate change is happening?
A: They study Earth’s temperature. When you are sick, a doctor will take your temperature. When the Earth is sick, scientists take it’s temperature! They do this by using Earth-orbiting satellites, collecting information through things like tree rings and ice cores, and studying what sort of gases make up our air. By mixing ancient and modern evidence, they are able to track the Earth’s temperature over time and predict it into the future.
97% of scientists agree that Earth’s climate is warming and many agree that it is happening right now.
Q: The Earth’s climate has constantly been changing since the beginning of time, long before any humans appeared. But now, it is changing at a much faster pace! Do you know why it is happening faster?
A: Unfortunately, humans play a major role in causing climate change! When we charge our tablets, drive cars, and heat homes using natural gas, oil, and coal, they release carbon dioxide (CO2). When CO2 and other greenhouse gases trap heat that would otherwise escape earth’s atmosphere, the planet’s temperature rises.
General, open-ended climate change questions:
Q: How does climate change make you feel?
Q: What do you think we can do together to help our climate?
Q: What more do you want to learn about climate?
Q: If you could make anything happen, how would you solve climate change?