We’ve all heard of it, but what is climate change and what is it doing to our planet?

what is climate change?

So, what is climate change?

Climate change (or global warming), is the process of our planet heating up. 

The Earth has warmed by an average of 1°C in the last century, and although that might not sound like much, it means big things for people and wildlife around the globe.

Unfortunately, rising temperatures don’t just mean that we’ll get nicer weather – if only! The changing climate will actually make our weather more extreme and unpredictable

As temperatures rise, some areas will get wetter and lots of animals (and humans!) could find they’re not able to adapt to their changing climate. 

What causes climate change?

1. Burning fossil fuels

what is climate change?

Over the past 150 years, industrialised countries have been burning large amounts of fossil fuels such as oil and gas. The gases released into the atmosphere during this process act like an invisible ‘blanket’, trapping heat from the sun and warming the Earth. This is known as the “Greenhouse Effect”.

2. Farming

what is climate change?

Believe it or not, cows’ eating habitscontribute towards greenhouse gases. Just like us, when cows eat, methane gas builds up in their digestive system and is released in the form of… a fart! This might sound funny, but when you imagine that there are almost 1.5 billion cows releasing all that gas into the atmosphere, it sure adds up! 

3. Deforestation

what is climate change?

Forests absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas – from the air, and release oxygen back into it. The Amazon rainforest is so large and efficient at doing this that it is often called ‘the lungs of the Earth’. Sadly, many rainforests are being cut down to make wood, palm oil and to clear the way for farmland, roads, oil mines, and dams.

How will climate change affect the planet?

The Earth has had many tropical climates and ice ages over the billions of years that it’s been in existence, so why is now so different? Well, this is because for the last 150 years human activity has meant we’re releasing a huge amount of harmful gases into the Earth’s atmosphere, and records show that the global temperatures are rising more rapidly since this time. 

A warmer climate could affect our planet in a number of ways:

– More rainfall

– Changing seasons

– Shrinking sea ice

– Rising sea levels

How will climate change affect wildlife?

what is climate change?

Climate change is already affecting wildlife all over the world, but certain species are suffering more than others. Polar animals – whose icy natural habitat is melting in the warmer temperatures – are particularly at risk. In fact, experts believe that the Arctic sea ice is melting at a shocking rate – 9% per decade! Polar bears need sea ice to be able to hunt, raise their young and as places to rest after long periods of swimming. Certain seal species, like ringed seals make caves in the snow and ice to raise their pups, feed and mate.

It’s not just polar animals who are in trouble. Apes like orangutans, which live in the rainforests of Indonesia, are under threat as their habitat is cut down, and more droughts cause more bushfires.  

Sea turtles rely on nesting beaches to lay their eggs, many of which are threatened by rising sea levels. Did you know that the temperature of nests determines whether the eggs are male or female? Unfortunately, with temperatures on the rise, this could mean that many more females are born than males, threatening future turtle populations.

How will people be affected by climate change?

what is climate change?

Climate change won’t just affect animals, it’s already having an impact on people, too. Most affected are some of the people who grow the food we eat every day. Farming communities, especially in developing countries, are facing higher temperatures, increased rain, floods and droughts.

We Brits love a good cuppa, (around165 million cups of the stuff every day!), but we probably take for granted just how much work goes into growing our tea. Environmental conditions can affect the flavour and quality plus it needs a very specific rainfall to grow. In Kenya, climate change is making rainfall patterns less and less predictable. Often there will be droughts followed by huge amounts rain, which makes it very difficult to grow tea.

Farmers might then resort to using cheap chemicals to improve their crop to earn more money, even when long-term use of these chemicals can destroy their soil.

How are people coping with climate change?

what is climate change?

Buying Fairtrade products can help make sure a farmer is paid a fair wage. This means they can cover their costs, earn enough money to have a decent standard of living, and invest in their farms to keep their crop healthy, without needing to resort to cheap methods of farming which can further damage the environment.

This support also helps farmers to replace eucalyptus trees – which take up a lot of water – with indigenous trees that are better for the farmers’ soil. They can learn to make fuel-efficient stoves which will not only make them a little extra money, but also reduce the carbon footprint of the community – cool!

How can I help prevent climate change?

what is climate change?

Small changes in your own home can make a difference, too. Try switching to energy-saving lightbulbs, walking instead of using the car, turning off electrical items when you’re not using them, recycling and reducing your food waste. All these little things can make a difference. You can check out more eco-friendly ideas, in our top five conservation tips

You can download information about Fairtrade and climate change for your school, here! www.fairtrade.org.uk/schools 




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  • Io


  • Jenna

    Let’s stop climate change!!!!

  • Tootle the Turtle

    I hope everyone who read this made all the changes suggested - or as many as they could. I think we should all try our hardest.

  • Tootle the Turtle

    We really should do something about climate change!

  • sophie

    lets make earth great again stop global warming!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • star

    Lets fight against climate change and save all the animals. This page has helped me a lot with decisions and my homework project. I will think differently to try and help this world. I cant just sit around and wait for the world to end because then it will be to late we the children of the future need to start fighting and uniting to make the world better for our future generations. If we all get involved and contribute the littlest it will all mount up and become amazing. Lets do this and lets do it right . Lets save this world from the monsters we have created

  • anonymous

    stop global warming

  • sarah

    l learned some thing new

  • Suheyl Magnum

    Why don't we shoot all our rubbish to a different sun it helps us


  • Ahsian

    It was good but hard Let's save our planet

  • Hayley

    Hi stop global warming

  • abigail

    LETS HELP STOP GLOBAL WARMING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Livvy

    I love national geographic kids. My teacher showed it to me and I loved it! Love you NGK!

  • Olivia

    I love national geographic!

  • Ashlee_McShizzle


  • Skye

    Let's save our planet

  • Ananya

    This passage really helped me ask questions and taught me a lot of things

  • Skye

    This is a very informative piece. It helped so much

  • Lucky

    I think that we could write more than LOL or COOL. It is very important that people have to think about the world.

  • abigail

    i was put to a task by my teacher about climate change and this site helped me so much

  • Becca

    it helped me with my homework and helped me realize the result of our actions

  • Animal lover

    Stop global warming!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Don

    This national geographic for kids is really good and I think it has lots of facts about the topic.

  • yuvi

    we can make posters to stop global worming/climate chande

  • Mary

    I like climate change

  • Simba

    Please help the cute animals across the world

  • Caila Eager

    Great explanation! Really is great for kids to understand how climate change works and how it affects us. Great job!

  • diggs


  • Lara

    Lets help save our environment!

  • This really helped me understand about Climate Change and global warning.

  • Puglover

    Hi, this really helped me with understanding about Climate Change!

  • Mwasne12

    save the turtles... stop global warming!!

  • icequeen

    lets make a change

  • sarp

    lets take action

  • Rainbowfly

    oh i never realised it was that bad

  • miffy

    stop global warming

  • Abigailbear14

    Me and my mum are going to donate to help the polar bears! this is a great idea, informing the public on ways to save the polar bears

  • Aoifeprice

    I think that is very interesting even my mum who was a scuba diver didnt know that. Im doing a science poster competition which mostly all schools are doing so I am doing THIS FOR MINE!!! Thanks for the info will use this web site loads more xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx AOIFE`

  • otters_4_ever

    this helped with my homework Thanks!

  • Mark_Bick

    What about campaigning for governments to take action to radically reduce dependance on fossil fuels?

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