Talking to kids about climate change

How to tackle a complicated—and sometimes scary—subject with your children

Climate change is a hot topic (sorry—no pun intended) that children want to understand. Problem is, it’s a topic that can be hard for adults to comprehend. So how do you translate science-speak into kid-speak without overwhelming them—or even scaring them? Here are some ideas to break down climate change basics so you can empower your children to be part of the solution.

Understanding climate change starts with understanding the atmosphere. Explain to your child that the atmosphere surrounds the Earth like a bubble and protects us from the harshest rays of the sun and the cold of space. It also contains greenhouse gases, which include the air we breathe (oxygen) and others that help keep the Earth at the perfect temperature. Finally, the atmosphere naturally releases extra gases into space.

The problem, of course, is that over the last 150 years, the levels of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere has increased. Ask your child to list all the things that need power to work: cars, lights, refrigerators, etc. Then explain that the power comes from burning coal, natural gas, and oil, which releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Your kid can then think about what people used to do before these things were invented to understand why the level of greenhouse gases has increased so much.

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