Climate change is also sometimes called global warming - and in a nutshell, that's what it is - the earth is getting warmer!

How?

As sunlight enters the earth's atmosphere it is being trapped by a layer of invisible 'greenhouse' gases. And just like a greenhouse on a hot day, heat doesn't escape the earth's atmosphere and causes the temperatures to rise and rise. These greenhouse gases are like a giant duvet wrapped around the earth.

'Greenhouse gases' are made by mankind. The most common greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide (CO2) which is produced when we burn things.

Almost every car, large ship, airplane, and many trains are powered by combustion engines - which means fuel is burned to make them "go". Not only transport causes greenhouse gases to be released. Most of the electricity which powers our homes, schools and towns is produced at power stations which burn fossil fuels like coal, gas and oil. When this fuel is burned, carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere and it floats upwards into the stratosphere to create the invisible duvet over the earth.

Another gas which causes the greenhouse effects is methane - and this gas is caused by animals (especially cows) farting. Methane is also produced by humans, landfill sites, swamps and wetlands where vegetation is rotting and even plastic bags as they degrade release methane. This gas is much, much worse for trapping the earth's sunlight than CO2.

So what happens when the earth warms up?

The earth is warming gradually. In the last 100 years, the earth has got 1°C warmer, which doesn't sound very much, but this has a very large impact on the climate, and therefore the weather.

We experience hotter heatwaves which last longer, more violent storms, periods of drought, and more periods of very heavy rainfall. Simply put, the weather various regions of the earth is used to is changing.

Animals are suffering as their natural habitats are affected by the change in climate. Some areas of savannah grasslands are turning to deserts and animals are dying of thirst, for example. Many different species of plants and trees are struggling to cope with less rainfall. Also, as temperatures rise the huge areas of the earth covered in ice (the polar ice caps) are starting to melt so the sea levels are rising which means we, and all the animals and plants that live on dry land have less space than we used to.

What can we do about it?

We can understand how climate change is caused and identify the parts we play in causing it. Broadly, the biggest ways in which humans can reduce the effects of global warming and save the planet from destructive climate change is to:

  • Stop burning so many things to reduce CO2 being released
  • Reduce the number of things we rely on which release methane (like eating beef)
  • There are things we can do which include changing our habits and becoming inventive!

Changing our habits

  • Use less electricity and therefore burn less dirty fossil fuel.
  • Travel on transport which use less carbon dioxide (like walking or cycling or travelling less.
  • Don't eat as much beef, and therefore we'll need fever cows on the planet meaning less methane is released.
  • Buy fewer things and recycle more - reduce the amount of things which have to be made in large factories, shipped all over the world, thrown away and left to rot in landfills.

Becoming inventive

  • Find ways to travel which don't rely on burning fuel (like petrol, diesel or aviation fuel) - like electric cars.
  • Find ways to produce electricity which doesn't involve burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas).
  • Creating products which can be recycled easily, and are made of recycled material.
  • Inventing technology which repairs damage - like trapping CO2 and stopping it from becoming a greenhouse gas.

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