February 26, 2010

My new book, GLOBAL WARMING, is in the stores this week. Whenever I write about a new topic, I like to share project ideas and discussion starters that parents can use at home, or educators can use in the classroom.

Almost all scientists think that Earth’s climate is getting hotter. We call that Global Warming. Scientists agree that the burning of fossil fuels like oil and coal cause greenhouse gases to escape into the air and that these gases are causing most of the warming. We call that the greenhouse effect. Another cause of global warming is deforestation  (cutting down trees). Trees take in carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases, from the air. The more deforestation, the greater the greenhouse effect, and the more global warming speeds up.

Here’s how you can demonstrate the greenhouse effect with children. Take two quart-sized plastic containers or glass jars. Put two cups of cold water in each jar and add two ice cubes to each container.  Put one of the containers inside a large plastic bag and seal the bag (the plastic bag acts like the atmosphere around Earth). Leave both jars in a sunny spot for one hour. Measure the temperature in each jar.

In sunshine, the air inside a greenhouse becomes warm because the greenhouse glass allows the sun’s light energy to get inside and then change to heat. The heat builds up in the greenhouse, in the same way that heat builds up inside Earth’s atmosphere. You just showed a small greenhouse effect. You can also see the greenhouse effect in an automobile parked in the sun. The sun’s light gets inside the car and the heat is trapped inside, like the plastic bag around the jar.

Most scientists say that the burning of fossil fuels is increasing the greenhouse effect and speeding up global warming. Since these fuels are burned for energy, and everyone uses energy, everyone can help stop global warming simply by using less energy. Think about the things you do each day that use energy. The lights in your house use electricity.  The TV and computer use electricity. The washing machine, dishwasher and dryer all use gas or electricity. Every time you ride in your car, it uses gasoline. We can’t stop doing all those things, but here are some things that we can do.

1. Wait until you have a lot of clothes or a lot of dishes before using the washing machine or dishwasher. Don’t use the washing machine for just a few pieces of clothing or a dishwasher for just a few dishes.

2. Turn off the lights when you leave a room and don’t leave the lights on all night long. Use energy efficient fluorescent bulbs instead of high-energy incandescent light bulbs.

3. Turn off appliances like the TV, computer and video games when you’re not using them.

4. In the summer, close the shades or blinds to prevent the sun from shining in. Dress lightly. Use a fan instead of an air conditioner. If you have to use an air conditioner set it for two or three degrees higher than usual.

5. In the winter, put on an extra sweater and dress warmly. Set the thermostat two or three degrees lower than usual.

6. Plant a tree. A single mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 lbs. every year and release enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support 2 human beings. If every family in the United States planted just one tree, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would be reduced by one billion lbs annually. That’s almost 5% of the amount that human activity pumps into the atmosphere each year.

7. Bike or walk short distances instead of going for a ride in a car.

Whenever we talk with children about topics that can be disturbing, it’s important for them to feel that there are things that they can do to make the situation better. In the case of global warming, they really can!

Posted by: Seymour Simon

Labels: Climate Change, Global Warming, Summer Vacation Science, Science Projects, Earth, Earth Day 2010   •  Permalink (link to this article)   •  Share: