Climate Change

Talking to elementary school-aged children about the environment.

How should we approach the subject of climate change, which can be quite scary even to adults, when speaking to kids? Children hear adults talking about the erratic weather. They see the weather referenced on TV and get information from other kids, who in turn get information from other sources. How are kids being affected? Do we adults communicate in a negative way when we talk about these issues?

Is everyone getting concerned about nothing or is there actually something to acknowledge regarding climate change? There have been strange changes in weather patterns over the last decade or so. The previous few winters have seen days where temperatures in Florida were lower than in Maine. The United States has experienced more devastating tornadoes, hurricanes and floods in recent years than ever before. Vast areas of the nationís south and southwest regions have been hit by serious droughts not experienced since the dust bowl of the 1930s. And how about those dust storms in the desert southwest? Donít forget how forest fires in California, Texas and Florida recently destroyed millions of acres of timberland. Whatís going on here?

We hear that the average temperature of the Earth is increasing. We know carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are on the rise. We can see from satellite views that the arctic polar ice is melting. Are these events directly caused by humans or are they just normal cycles that our planet goes through every so many thousand years? Ice drillings have shown that these cyclic climate changes have been happening for thousands of years.

However, there is certainly a lot of disagreement surrounding the causes of climate change. We can agree the Earth goes through many transitions that are mostly out of our control. We obviously canít do much about volcanoes or earthquakes except try to predict them and run away when they occur. However, we need to reassure our kids that they should not be frightened, as todayís technology gives us ample warning for many of these natural disasters.

Taking it another step further, maybe we can empower kids to look at the issue of climate change differently≠≠, to believe that with greater knowledge comes power. After all, the next generation will have to accept the challenge of further studying related issues and eventually developing solutions to counter some of these events that stem from the perils of weather. Imagine the opportunities here!

The younger generation has the brains, technology and creativity to learn more about these natural processes. Some day, they will discover ways to harness the power of hurricanes, tornadoes and volcanoes and maybe even prevent them. We did put men on the moon only six years after President Kennedy issued the challenge to do so. It was that same generation that heard the challenge, invented the Internet and developed smart phones to allow immediate communication via multiple means worldwide.

Why are the challenges of today any different? There are innovative young minds in the world who will discover ways to transfer water from areas with too much to places of drought as well as improve forest management to prevent devastating fires. Others will invent better methods of recycling to save raw minerals and cut down the carbon and greenhouse gases that heat the planet.

The world is now much more aware of many methods to help things turn around. More solar and wind energy is being developed and used in many countries to replace fossil fuels. Electric and hybrid vehicles will eventually replace todayís petroleum guzzlers. New technologies will change the way we heat and cool our living environments, too. Kids of the young generation today will do it. The future does not have to look bleak.

It was President Franklin Roosevelt who said, ďWe cannot always build the future of our youth but we can build our youth for the future.Ē And just as President Kennedy issued the challenge of putting man on the moon to my generation, let understanding climate change be the challenge to our kids. I have every confidence that these young minds will do marvelous things. Isnít necessity the mother of invention?