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Planet Warrior

Climate change

 
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QUESTION

What are 3 things that come to mind when you think of Climate Change


Let’s not ignore the giant, rapidly melting icecap in the room.

Understanding the largest dilemma of our generation is no easy task. In this lesson we will define climate change, explore it’s causes and impacts, as well as identify local action on what is a global problem to solve.


DISCUSSION

Are there arguments against learning about Climate Change?


what is Climate change?

Climate is the mapping and modelling of weather over a long period of time.

 
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Climate change, sometimes referred to as global warming, is exactly what it sounds like: it is the changing of the Earth’s climate.

To really understand climate change, we must first define what climate actually is.  

© elasmo holdings pty ltd

© elasmo holdings pty ltd

Climate is the mapping and modelling of weather over a long period of time.

This data helps scientists identify patterns. It’s the big picture and includes temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind and rain.

By identifying these weather patterns, we get an idea of what our climate has been doing and what it should be doing.

DID YOU KNOW?

IT WASN’T UNTIL THE MID 19TH CENTURY THAT WE WERE COLLECTING ENOUGH DATA IN ENOUGH PLACES TO CALCULATE OUT AN AVERAGE TEMPERATURE FOR THE WHOLE PLANET.

Warming the atmosphere

 
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© elasmo holdings pty ltd

© elasmo holdings pty ltd

The Sun provides nearly all of Earth’s heat (thanks for that Sun!).

Our atmosphere naturally contains greenhouse gases, without them the Earth would be way too cold - averaging a rather chilly -18 degrees instead of the nice and cosy average of 15 degrees that it is today.

The greenhouse effect is a natural atmospheric process that helps regulate Earth’s climate and protect us from the Sun’s harmful rays.

The problem is that humans are adding extra greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Since 1900 the average global temperature has increased by 1 degree - most of which has happened since the 1970’s.

The more greenhouse gases that are released into our atmosphere, the thicker this protective blanket gets, trapping the sun’s thermal radiation on Earth.


QUESTION

Which gas do you suspect is heating up our Earth the most?



© elasmo holdings pty ltd

© elasmo holdings pty ltd

Water vapour traps the most heat. In fact 1 in 200 air molecules is H2O, enough to trap about 1/2 the heat given off by Earth.

The gas that is capable of raising temperature the most is…

Sulfur Hexafluoride (SF6) is one of the heaviest gases - you could actually float a tinfoil boat on it. SF6 only exists because we synthesised it for us as an electrical insulator and and in the medical industry. Luckily there isn’t a lot of it in the atmosphere - only around 1 in 100,000,000,000 (one hundred billion) air molecules.

Methane (CH4) is the key ingredient in natural gas and it is being added into the atmosphere at an alarming rate. The biggest source of CH4 emissions are... cow burps (and cow farts). CH4 makes up approximately 1 in 600,000 air molecules.

WITH SUCH HIGH DEMAND FOR BEEF, MILK AND CHEESE, OUR AGRICULTURAL PRACTICES HAVE HAD TO KEEP UP WITH THE SUPPLY. MORE CATTLE = MORE METHANE = A THICKER ATMOSPHERIC BLANKET.


© elasmo holdings pty ltd

© elasmo holdings pty ltd

The winner of the “Global Warming Award for Heating Earth the Mostest” goes to…

Carbon Dioxide (CO2), the gas produced when we burn fossil fuels and chop down trees is famous for a reason - there is so much of it! By burning fossil fuels humans have increased CO2 levels from 1 in 3600 molecules to 1 in 2400.

Through out history when CO2 levels have gone up so too have temperatures and vice versa. All this extra C02 has caused 70% of Earth’s warming over the past 250 years.

CO2 is also that person that just wont leave the party when it’s over. It doesn’t like to disappear very quickly, in fact after a cloud of CO2 is emitted into our atmosphere it takes roughly 100 years for the first 40% to disappear. For that cloud of CO2 to be completely taken out of the atmosphere it can take up to 10,000 years.

SO, THE CO2 EMITTED IN ONE CAR RIDE TO THE SHOPS WILL STILL BE AROUND IN YOUR CHILDREN’S LIFETIME AND THE NEXT 100 GENERATIONS AFTER THAT.



who is responsible?

 
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 whodunnit?

© elasmo holdings pty ltd

© elasmo holdings pty ltd

There are a lot of factors that influence the climate of our planet. Here are just a few…

Suspect No. 1: The Sun

Earth’s orbit around the Sun is pretty wobbly and the Sun itself changes as it dims and brightens. History shows us that these changes in the sun have corresponded with temperature changes on Earth.

However in the past few decades the Sun has been cooling slightly. And as for the temperatures of Earth? Well they just keep getting hotter. Therefore solar activity is not causing our current global warming.

Suspect No. 2: Volcanoes

Those volcanoes do look pretty shifty! And they do burp out a whole load of Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere. In fact Geologists have measured how much and it turns out that human activity releases about 100 times more CO2. The concentration of C02 has increased 40% since the Industrial Revolution in 1790.

STUDYING ICE CORES SHOWS US THAT CARBON DIOXIDE LEVELS IN THE ATMOSPHERE ARE CURRENTLY THE HIGHEST THEY HAVE BEEN IN ONE MILLION YEARS!

Suspect No. 3: Humans

The burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas) releases Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere. That combined with deforestation (chopping down trees) means we are having a dramatic effect on our planets climate.

How do we know it’s the Carbon Dioxide is caused by burning fossil fuels?

We can measure the different kinds of Carbon that are in the atmosphere. Fossil fuels come mainly from old plants which prefer to use the lighter isotope Carbon-12 rather than the heavier Carbon-13.

When humans burn fossil fuels we can see that the percentage of C12 in the atmosphere increases.


DISCUSSION

How will Climate Change impact on humans?


impact on the environment

 
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Life below Water


QUESTIONS

  • What percentage of a human body is water?

  • What percentage of the Earth’s surface is water?

  • Is your mind blown? 


Many of the effects of Climate Change are not happening on land, but in our ocean.

Since 1955 the ocean has absorb 90% of the Earth’s excess heat and it’s estimated it has absorbed half of the CO2 emissions since the Industrial Revolution.

How does the ocean absorb carbon Dioxide?

Remember we’ve learnt about phytoplankton? Phytoplankton get their energy through a process called photosynthesis. We’ve already taken a look into this process in our plants workshop. The phytoplankton absorb Carbon Dioxide from the air as it is one of the ingredients need for photosynthesis. As a result of this process the Phytoplankton release Oxygen back into the atmosphere!

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Coral Reefs - The Great Barrier Reef

Coral are only one example of thousands of species that are at risk due to climate change. Coral reefs cover 0.1% of the ocean floor but are home to 1/4 of all ocean species. They are one of the most diverse ecosystems on our planet and therefore it is vital we do what we can to protect it.

Climate change has the potential to affect the Reef in a number of ways, including:

  • Increased frequency of severe weather events

  • Rising sea temperature

  • Ocean acidification

  • Rising sea levels

Increased frequency of severe weather events 

  • More intense cyclones can destroy and weaken the reef structure.

  • More extreme rainfall events will send more freshwater and sediment further out from the coast and on to the Reef.

Rising sea temperature

  • Greater risk of heat stress and mass coral bleaching.

Rising sea levels

  • Water expands as it warms. Due to this the ocean is rising 2.5mm per year and since 1901 has risen 20cm overall.

  • Higher seas can impact many areas including coastal erosion, the size of storm surges and the area available for shallow water marine organisms.

  • Small changes in sea levels will mean land inundation which will cause significant changes in tidal habitats such as mangroves and saltwater intruding into low-lying freshwater habitats.

Ocean acidification

  • Changes in the ocean's chemistry can decrease the capacity of corals to build skeletons, decreasing their capacity to create habitat for the Reef's marine life.

  • C02 dissolves in the ocean and is converted into Carbonic Acid (H2C03) which raises the pH of the ocean, making the water more acidic. This is known as ocean acidification. Corals are made up out of calcium carbonate, but for calcium carbonate to be formed it needs to be just the right pH. If we continue to pour more CO2 into our atmosphere it only makes it harder for these corals to grow.  


These changes are putting strains on the symbiotic relationships that exist within healthy ecosystems.

Learn more about the Great Barrier Reef


Life on Land

Health

Over 3 billion people worldwide breathe air that is polluted. Air pollution from fossil fuels is thought to cause this. If we stopped burning fossil fuels it would have an immediate effect on air quality.

Changes in temperature

An increase in the average temperatures on Earth is causing several problems;

  • It is causing the ice caps to melt. The water held in the ice causes the sea level to rise.

  • It also means a loss in habitat for species like the Polar Bear who are watching their homes disappear.

  • Increase in draughts

  • Increase in storms

  • Animal migration patterns


Renewable Energy

Renewable or Sustainable energy refers to creating energy in a way that does not deplete a natural resource - the resource is therefore renewable.

Some alternatives to using fossil fuels to generate electricity are:

WIND ENERGY

A wind turbine, or alternatively referred to as a wind energy converter, is a device that converts the wind's kinetic energy (the energy that it possesses due to its motion)  into electrical energy. Wind Turbines are capable of producing electricity at any time of the day or night.

Wind turbines convert the force of the wind into a rotational force, which is then used to propel an electric generator to create electricity. Wind energy power stations (known as wind farms) commonly draw on the output of multiple wind turbines through a central connection point to the electricity grid. Across the world there are both on-shore (on land) and offshore (out to sea) wind energy projects.

How is wind energy used in Australia?

Australia has some of the world’s best wind resources in its south-western, southern and south-eastern regions. There is good access to available on-shore wind resources and there are currently no known plans to develop offshore wind projects in Australia.

Wind energy is the fastest growing renewable energy source for electricity generation in Australia, and its current share of total Australian primary energy consumption is currently 4.9%.

DENMARK

Denmark gets over half of its electricity from wind and solar power and in 2017, 43% of its electricity consumption was from wind – a new world record! That’s the highest percentage of wind power ever achieved worldwide. The country aims to be 100% fossil-fuel-free by 2050.

SOLAR ENERGY

Incase you haven’t noticed we have a rather large energy source lighting up our world everyday - thanks sun.

Solar power is the conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity, 

Soon, your home may be able to generate solar power from places other than your roof. As the solar market evolves and expands, companies are looking into new solar technologies aimed at spreading solar energy generation beyond traditional rooftop and ground-mount solar panels. One such idea, solar panel windows, has gained momentum recently, and could represent part of the solar market’s future.


The Ocean

The ocean is full of energy! Most of which is generated by the wind. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed and when the wind’s energy is transferred into a liquid medium - such as the ocean - it becomes far more predictable and visual.

There are many different ways water moves around the ocean and humans can harness the energy of each process.

Tidal

The tide comes in and out. It is just as reliable as the Sun coming up*! Tides are the result of the Moon’s gravitational pull.

*Note: the Sun does not really “come up”.

Wave

Waves pass through regularly and are three times more predictable than moving air. By harnessing their directional movement in generators we can also produce electricity.

Currents

Just like tidal and wave movement, currents can be used to harness the physical movement of water. 

seaweed

Marine permaculture is the ocean farming of kelp and seaweeds. It is a win/win/win/win solution when it comes to taking positive steps to help the planet. It turns out that kelp and seaweed are nature’s climate warriors and cultivating them at scale could counteract ocean acidification, climate change and loss of biodiversity.

Seaweed and kelp can also be a source of biofuel, feed for cattle and could provide food security for millions.

Growing seaweek requires no fresh water, no deforestation, and no fertiliser. It simply sets up the conditions that are needed for these natural process to take over that will help restore balance to our oceans.

Researchers estimate that if 9% of the world’s ocean surfaces were used for seaweed farming, we would be removing 53 billion tonnes of CO2 per year from the atmosphere.

Learn more

automotive industry

Revolutions in autonomous (self driving) vehicles, electric vehicles, car sharing, ride sharing and connected vehicle technology will radically alter the way we move around cities. A traditional vehicle manufacturer can no longer solely rely on manufacturing the vehicles we know today. While we have seen a significant shift in thinking, manufacturers will have to continue to focus on a broadening concept of mobility.

Electric vehicles

An electric car is an automobile that is propelled by one or more electric motors, using energy stored in rechargeable batteries. Charging an electric car can be done at a variety of charging stations, these charging stations can be installed in both houses and public areas.

The Tesla Model S was the top selling plug-in electric car worldwide in 2015 and 2016, and by the end of 2018 continued to rank as the second most-sold electric car in history after the Nissan Leaf.


You are enough

We know all this can seem a little daunting, and perhaps it makes you feel small, but remember size doesn’t equal importance and being small doesn’t mean your actions aren’t meaningful.

  1. Be aware of your actions - how much water are you using? Do you need to turn the light on?

  2. Save energy - turn off appliances at the wall if you aren’t using them

  3. Public Transport or lift share

  4. Gardening! Grow your own plants, herbs and/or veggies

  5. Look after native wildlife

  6. Recycle what you can

  7. Compost food waste

  8. Collect rain water to water your garden

  9. Buy second hand

  10. Fix what’s broken rather than replacing it

  11. Work together


Activity

Let’s make a promise to Earth. Using the activity sheets provided colour in Earth, you could even fill it with lots of plants and animals. Write you name in the centre and in the love heart write a promise to Earth.

This could be;

I promise to reduce my plastic by using my own metal straw

I promise to look after Bees by planting flowers in my Garden

I promise to look after the planet by riding my bike to school