How To Teach Kids Climate Change

How To Talk To Kids About Climate Change

A Changing World

The planet is undergoing some pretty serious changes. It’s clearly a result of human activity, and it’s only a matter of time before we’re all feeling the effects. If you haven’t already. Our over-dependence on fossil fuels, and obsession with short-term financial gain, have compromised the earth’s very ecological systems. The stable climate, on which so much life depends, is in crisis.

So how did we this happen?! Well, we know that carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) are the main perpetrators of global warming. They’re primarily a result of our oil-fueled operations and activities. To make matters worse, carbon emissions are once again on the rise.

It will take centuries for our ecological systems to absorb all that carbon dioxide! That’ll be the case even if we were to somehow immediately rid ourselves of our fossil fuel dependency. It’ll already take a very long time for the planet to adjust to all the GHGs that have accumulated over the course of human industrialization.

The Little Rascals_Oh Boy_gif

Falling on Young Shoulders

The world’s leading climate scientists have painted a pretty grim picture of what is yet to come if we don’t act quickly. Unfortunately, it does not look good. Despite this very real danger, the majority of global governments have yet to demonstrate the political will to take significant action in this time of crisis.

It is future generations who will bear the considerable brunt of our present mismanagement. As a result, we must do everything in our power to help prepare them for it.

Certainly, the best course of action would be to immediately implement a worldwide sustainable transformation. However, given the enormity of the task, it makes sense that we can at least teach our kids more about the world that they will inherit.

Our kids will carry the burden of climate change.
Click to learn more about some of the impacts climate change will have on our kids.

On The Same Page

Perhaps they are already hearing about it. Either at school, or from friends and family. Maybe they’ve seen something about it on tv or YouTube. Kids are spectacular at absorbing & retaining information! If they did, then they doubtlessly have questions! It’s definitely is a complicated topic. One that will require further discussion, instruction, and assistance. Luckily, there’s help!

At the bottom of this post, I’ve listed 10 websites that offer some great support for learning and instruction. This list is by no means complete, but I’ll try to keep it updated. I would also welcome any further suggestions, as well as any additional tips or techniques for how to talk to kids about climate change.

Laura Huxley quote, "It is clear that our society can improve only if the next generation is given the chance, through loving and intelligent education, to be better developed than the present one."
Click for more on how teaching kids can also influence parents.

The Mind of a Child

Children really do have incredible minds and can understand a great deal. At the same time, we obviously don’t want to traumatize them with all the scary science. The last thing we’d want for our kids is to destroy their hope for a better future.

We therefore need to find a healthy balance. One where we can stimulate their curiosity and concern, without overwhelming them with all the tragedy at the immense scope of loss.

One Child’s Reaction to People Mistreating the Environment

Taking it personal.

Raising Hope

Thankfully, kids have formidable empathy! Their desire to do good will be a powerful force towards realizing the changes necessary to protect human civilization. The human part is key. Without a doubt, the planet will endure dramatic climate change. It has in the past. The earth will go on spinning.

Rather, it’s all the life on earth that is threatened by our destructive tendencies. Millions are already suffering from the effects of climate change, with millions more in danger by it every year. We have brought this on ourselves.

We’ve spent decades extracting and consuming fossil fuels. Our food sources have become heavily industrialized and we’ve destroyed our forests & wetlands at an incredibly massive scale. All these actions have contributed to our current climate crisis.

Climate Change_infographic for kids
Click for more from Science Sparks!

Learning the Ropes

Yes, humans have created the current climate emergency. But we can also be part of the solution! We can take action. This will require limiting the use fossil fuels, as we convert to renewables. It means that we need to do more to protect (see Conservation) & grow the forests that help soak up all the carbon. We will need to grow our food through regenerative agricultural practices that nourishes the very soil that feeds us. It can be done! We even know how to do it already. It will however require greater social and political will.

Remarkably, we are already witnessing the rise of youth activism in response to the impending threat. Kids from all parts of the globe are taking interest and expressing concern with what the scientists are telling us. We have to act, and quickly.

Kids on a couch, baby between twins_gif

Kids Are Our Most Precious Resource

Children understand this! Although it didn’t have to turn out this way, their current reality is such that they will have to face an increasingly turbulent world. That is on us, and the previous generations who should have known better. While children carry the least blame for human-generated climate change, they bear the greatest burden.

Let us then help them understand what they’re up against! Teach them what you can about the environment. Focus on the incredible beauty and wonder of the earth, and help them channel their energy and concern towards what actions they can take.

We certainly need to do everything we can to try and help them usher in a better and brighter future than the one predicted. Share what you have discovered, and support them on their journey. Take the time, the kids are listening.

Lorax quote, "Unless some like you cares a whole lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."
A message from Dr. Seuss

Resources for Teaching Kids

  1. National Center for Science Education
  2. National Geographic
  3. NASA Global Climate Change
  4. OXFAM Education 
  5. The Alliance for Climate Education
  6. Southern Oregon Climate Action Now (SOCAN)
  7. UNESCO – Climate Change Education & Awareness
  8. The Climate Reality Project
  9. The Rainforest Alliance – Curriculum 
  10. World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

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