Climate Change Lesson #2

Maybe we should start from the beginning with a little science lesson! There are several gases which, when released into the air, form a “blanket” around the Earth that keeps in the heat. Another analogy is that the layer of gases act like the glass in a greenhouse, which allows the heat of the sun in, but does not let it out (hence, the “Greenhouse Effect,” – and the gases are called “greenhouse gases.”) This causes the Earth and oceans to get warmer and changes the climate / weather all over the world. By changing ocean currents, some places will be colder, others warmer; some wetter, some drier.

Let’s look at just one of the “greenhouse gases,” carbon dioxide.  That is a waste product that we and most other living creatures generate from breaking down our food (or from burning fossil fuels).  Luckily, much of that waste carbon dioxide is taken up by plants, which use it in the process of photosynthesis to make food, in the remarkable “carbon cycle.” So unless everyone agrees to stop breathing (not an option we are recommending!) there are a couple of ways to address the warming of the planet: we can stop emitting so much carbon by not burning fossil fuels, or we can plant more trees to take up the carbon.

Instead we are quickly cutting down the huge tropical forests, called the “lungs” of the planet. But unlike our lungs, they take in the waste carbon dioxide, make it into sugar, and release our life-giving oxygen as their own waste product! We are also destroying wetlands with their plants, and polluting the oceans with their plants. The fewer the plants, the more carbon dioxide. We aren’t thinking, are we?