Climate Change is a problem that is going to affect every living thing on Earth. It has already had a lot of negative impacts on our planet and it’s only going to get much, much worse.
Except it doesn’t have to.
There is a lot we can still do to slow down climate change and make sure we continue to have a stable and secure planet for ourselves and for the other living things that share our planet with us. Many people are already trying to do something to slow climate change, like the amazing teenager Greta Thunberg, but we need everyone to help. Unfortunately, so far, adults aren’t doing enough. But, hopefully, kids can come to the rescue.
You may be thinking to yourself, “How can the small things I do fix the entire planet?” It’s true that if you were the only one doing these things, it will not stop climate change. But if you are one of billions doing this, that can have a major impact. The more people who are doing something about climate change, the better off we all will be. Each person taking action brings us that much closer to the total number of people we need.
The main way we are adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere is by burning fossil fuels. Though very few of us will ever see a fossil fuel fire in person, pretty much everyone in the modern world is burning fossil fuels via all the energy we are using in our homes and vehicles. The less energy we use, the less fossil fuels we burn, the less carbon dioxide each of us adds to the atmosphere, the better it will be for our climate.
Here’s some ways to burn less fossil fuels (many of these actions can also save your family money $$).
Don’t waste food. It takes energy to grow, harvest, transport, and refrigerate the food we eat. Unfortunately, on average each family of four in the United States throws away $640 worth of the food they buy each year. If we stop throwing away the food we buy, we won’t need to grow as much, which will save a lot of energy and prevent a lot of greenhouse pollution.
Walk, ride your bike, or take the bus to school (or anywhere else, for that matter). I have visited a lot of elementary schools in multiple states over the past few years, and have noticed that apparently every school in America has a line of 40 or 50 cars every morning and afternoon as parents drop-off and pick-up their kids. These cars are burning a lot of energy and releasing a lot of carbon dioxide, when they likely don’t really have to be making that twice-daily trip. Unless your parents are already heading in the direction of the school, if you walk, ride your bike, or take the bus to school, you will save gas, save the atmosphere from receiving more carbon dioxide, and save your parents some time and gas money too.
Turn off the light when you leave a room. Lights use electricity that likely was made by burning fossil fuels, so turn off the lights when you leave a room, and don’t turn them on during the day when the sun can provide pollution-free and cost-free light.
Unplug chargers. As long as a charger is plugged into a socket, it is still using energy, even if it is not currently charging anything. (This is called “phantom power.”)
Take quicker showers. A lot of energy is used to heat water in our homes, so the quicker you shower, the less hot water you use.
Don’t buy new things if the old stuff is still good. It takes energy to manufacture stuff and to ship it so you can buy it. You can burn fewer fossil fuels by using the stuff you already have that still works instead of constantly buying new stuff.
Go outside to play. There’s a lot of fun to be had that doesn’t involve energy-using electronics.
Talk some adults into burning less fossil fuel. If you are a kid, then chances are you are not the one making decisions about your family’s or your school’s energy bill. But if you can convince the adults who make these decisions to make your home and/or school more energy efficient, that can have a huge impact on reducing the amount of greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere. Here’s some things that you can tell the adults in your life to do that can help slow climate change:
Switch to renewable energy. Many power companies allow people to decide where their energy comes from. Your parents or school can ask their power company to switch their electricity from coal or natural gas sources to wind or solar sources. They just need to call the local power company or look on the power company’s website to see what is available. (They could also look into getting solar panels. For many buildings, the sunlight on the roof can produce all the energy the building needs without making pollution.)
Turn down the heat and air conditioning. If you drop the temperature in the house a degree or two in the winter and raise it a degree or two in the summer, that can make a difference. You should also have everything on a thermostat timer that automatically makes the temperature comfortable when people are awake and hanging out in your home or school, but then lowers the temperature in the winter and raises it in the summer when people are away or sleeping.
Turn down the hot water heater. As I mentioned earlier, it takes a lot of energy to heat water in your home. If your faucet water can get hot enough to be painful, that is too hot. Have your parents turn it down so it is hot, but comfortable, and that will save energy.
Switch to energy efficient appliances. So this contradicts what I said above, but if your home or school has a refrigerator, washing machine, or other large appliance over twenty years old, then chances are it was not built that great and it is wasting a lot of energy and making a lot of unnecessary greenhouse gas pollution. If your family or school can afford new appliances with high energy efficiency ratings, buy those, and get rid of the old crummy ones. This will help to prevent more greenhouse gases being released in the atmosphere and save money on the energy bill.
Switch to LED light bulbs. LED Light bulbs are the most energy efficient out there, then fluorescent bulbs. Incandescent light bulbs are the worst. You can tell if something is not energy efficient by seeing if it gets hot when its purpose is not to be a heater. That heat is wasted energy. Incandescent light bulbs, whose purpose is to make light, get so hot they can burn your fingers. Replacing them with LED bulbs will save a lot of energy.
Get rid of the other refrigerator. If you have a second refrigerator in your garage or basement that currently has just five cans of Mr. Pibb in it, then ask your family if you can rid of it. That second refrigerator is using a lot of energy that is helping to cause climate change. If all that second refrigerator is doing is keeping a few cans of soda cold that no one wants and once in awhile storing some leftovers, then you don’t really need it. (Your local power company may even pay you to get rid of the second refrigerator! Look into it.)
Put the entertainment center on a power strip. Not just chargers use phantom power. TVs, stereo receivers, and other entertainment devices waste a lot of energy when they are turned off. To prevent this, plug them all into a power strip and turn the power strip off whenever they aren’t being used.
Get an energy assessment and insulate the house where needed. Another way to waste energy is to have a poorly insulated house or school building that allows the warm air in winter and the cool air in summer to easily escape outside. Your family or school can see if this is happening by getting an energy assessment (also called an “energy audit”). Many companies will do these for free. If you find a problem spot, and it is affordable, insulate the places that are letting heat in or out and you will save on energy.
Don’t sit in a car that is not moving and let the engine idle. If you are sitting in a parking lot or your driveway with the car running and you know you are not going anywhere in the next two minutes, turn the car off. As the engine idles, it is still producing carbon dioxide gas.
Get a car with better gas mileage. If you can afford to get an electric car or a car that gets over 50 miles per gallon, that can be a huge help.
After humans, the species that is contributing most to climate change are cows.
One reason cows cause climate change is because they need a lot of space to move around in and also a lot of space to grow crops to feed them. Their pastures and cropland takes away natural habitats like forests that store carbon and prevent it from going into the atmosphere.
The main reason cows cause climate change, though, and I’m not making this up, is because cows burp, a lot. Burps and farts are ways animal bodies release methane gas. Methane is a greenhouse gas much more potent than carbon dioxide. There are currently about one billion cows around the world being raised to feed people. Each of those cows is burping methane on a daily basis. They are releasing enough methane through burping that cows are a major cause of current climate change.
If we all eat less beef and dairy, that will result in less demand for cows, which will result in fewer people wanting to own cows, which will result in fewer cow burps adding methane to the atmosphere. I can’t really say eat more chicken or pork instead, because, unfortunately chickens and pork are also contributing to climate change, though not as much as cows. I know the average kid doesn’t want to hear this, but the more vegetables you eat, the less greenhouse gases you will be adding to the atmosphere.
We need entire towns, entire states, entire countries, and pretty much the entire planet doing everything they can to slow the climate change global crisis. To do this is going to require the government to make laws to make sure we all are doing what we can. You can help convince your elected officials to work on fighting climate change by calling them, writing them letters or emails, or visiting their local offices or town hall meetings. Even though you may be too young to vote, it is their job listen to you and to do what they can to protect your future. You can find out who your elected officials are and how to contact them here or here.
There are large, successful nonprofit groups that are working hard to do what they can to curb climate change. They are able to do a lot of good because a lot of people support them. They use the donations they receive to take big actions, often at the or national level. Here are a few I can recommend to check out and see if you might want to help them.
If you can find people around you who also want to fight climate change, together you can accomplish a lot more than you can alone. If you find enough kids at your school, and hopefully a teacher or two who want to help, you could even start a “green team” club that works to do what you can to reduce energy waste in your school and community, and to educate other people about what they can do to fight climate change.
Unfortunately, since the Internet came into existence, it has become really easy to find really wrong information about pretty much everything. In the face of a disaster like climate change, this is particularly serious, as it is really difficult to make good decisions when a lot of the information you hear may be coming from the Land of Make-Believe. The more people who demand facts, even painful ones, the more likely we are to get the facts we need to make good decisions that will allow us to safeguard our future.
A way to check the accuracy of climate change information is through the website Climate Feedback. Scientists use this website to review the things that public figures say about climate change. The scientists then provide feedback about what the speakers and writers got right about the science and what they got wrong. Using this website to fact check climate change reporting allows us to be sure that the information we are hearing and reading is accurate.
We also get a lot of wrong information about climate change from some of our friends and family, like your Uncle Steve. How do you fact check Uncle Steve? I would ask him two questions. First ask: “Can you show me your hard evidence that supports what you say and shows why it conclusively proves that thousands of scientists around the world are wrong?” (If he shows you an article online, look it up on the Climate Feedback website to see if what it says is true). You can also ask: “Are you so sure that you are right about climate change that you are willing to bet my entire future on it?”
It has happened in the past. In the 1980s we realized there was a hole in the ozone layer that, because of pollution, kept getting and bigger and bigger. The ozone layer blocks radiation from space, so the bigger the hole became, the more dangerous it would be to us. The countries of the world realized this was a global problem that required a global solution. In 1987, a number of countries signed the Montreal Protocol, which stopped the use of many of the pollutants that were destroying the ozone layer. By taking this action thirty years ago, they took responsibility for what was happening and saved those of us alive today from dealing with a dangerous global crisis.
We can do that today with climate change. The human race is already taking steps in the right direction. Every country on Earth, except one, has signed onto the Paris Climate Agreement, meaning they have agreed to take steps to reduce greenhouse gases and slow climate change (I keep using the word “slow” because, at this point we can’t stop climate change. There is already too much carbon dioxide and methane in the air. We can stop it from getting a lot worse, though).
The momentum to fight climate change is on our side, though. Each year as the natural disasters caused by climate change get worse, more and more people are going to demand we take stronger action to fight it.
But, so far, we are not doing nearly enough. So please do everything you can to fight climate change. The future of you, me, and every living thing on the planet depends on it.
I have two books I have written about climate change titled Climate Change and Rising Temperatures and Climate Change and Rising Seas. You can learn more about the books here.
I also wrote a series of posts on my blog about climate change. You can read them here on my website. Here are the questions they answer.
And, if you want a scientific ranking of which actions are the most effective to fight climate change, check out this book:
Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming
Edited by Paul Hawken