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Climate Change Conference

December 1st, 2015

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, US President Obama, French President Francoise Hollande. Photo credit: COP Paris/Benjamin Geminel/public domain via CC/Flickr

Nearly 150 world leaders are meeting in Paris, France, at the United Nations’ Conference of Parties (COP) … working hard to help solve climate change.

That’s an impressive gathering since there are less than 200 countries in the world. It also means the topic is very serious and important, and a problem that requires global co-operation to fix.

45,000 other delegates (the leaders’ representatives) are there as well during the two week meeting.

I keep hearing about climate change but what is it again?

You can watch the video below for a basic explanation. But the bottom line is that Earth’s temperature over time has been steadily rising. Too much. It’s kind of like when you have a fever. For you that may mean a day or two of rest. In Earth’s case the rise in temperature is making ice at the north and south poles melt more than they should, which means that the level of the oceans and seas are rising. This throws the Earth’s balance off causing events like stronger storms and drought (overly dry land because of not enough water). That makes it hard to grow crops. And you can see how the problem can spiral.

Unfortunately, humans are causing this problem because of some of the choices we make and actions we take. The temperature steadily rises because gases get trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere making it hotter. Gases can get trapped from our constant use of cars, over-use of electricity, too much garbage, cutting down too many trees, and even from eating too much meat, especially beef.

When you go about your own daily routine, these things may not seem like they can cause such a big problem. But when millions and billions of people are doing it every day for years and years … it adds up.

And it has added up. 2015 is projected to be the hottest overall year on record ever. So the leaders know they need to act fast. And since climate change doesn’t stay inside the borders of the countries that do most of the polluting … it connects us all.

Making the changes we need to seems doable according to experts, but we need to agree on how to do it … and then stick to the plan.

So, what is the plan?

The ultimate goal is to make sure that the Earth’s temperature doesn’t become 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) hotter overall.  It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is and we’re already approaching it. The thinking is that once we go past that 2 degrees then the effects of climate change could get pretty bad.

China, the United States, and the European Union (EU) are the  top three  contributors to these trapped gasses, called greenhouse gases. They have the most responsibility and the most work to do, but this is also the first time developing nations have made big commitments to help as well.

Countries using less oil and gas for energy is a big piece of this puzzle. Some alternative sources of energy could be solar power and wind, but we’re not quite able to power big countries in an affordable way with them yet. We can also commit to producing less stuff.

What can we (as everyday people) do?

Some easy things kids can do:

* remember to turn the lights off at home when you’re not in that room. Unplugging items you’re not using helps too (the electricity still goes to it if it’s plugged in).

* recycle as much as you can.

* ride your bike or walk when you can instead of using the car.

Often the little decisions can make as much of a difference as a few big ones.

There is also a campaign underway right now called #StartWith1Thing in conjunction with a landmark movie called Racing Extinction that is airing on December 2 on the Discovery Channel. They have some good ideas on their website.

What’s expected to come out of this epic meeting?

Hopefully, “a world that is worthy of our children” as President Obama put it . But we all have to work hard, act fast, and care about our planet.

 

* There are still some people, though fewer and fewer, who don’t believe humans are to blame, and even some who don’t believe global warming exists, even though increasingly good science backs it up. 

A few resources:

The official website of COP21 Paris (www.copparis21.org)

NASA’s Climate Kids

Climate Interactive’s blog post “19 Climate Games That Could Change The Future”

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 

 

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