Burning fossil fuels like coal and natural gas adds carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This extra carbon dioxide contributes to what is called the greenhouse effect. This occurs when the earth experiences a rise in temperature because gases in the atmosphere trap heat energy from the sun.

The effect of these gases on the earth is known as climate change or global warming.

Many scientists believe that, by the time you are the age that your grandparents are now, the earth will be warmer than it has been at any time in the past 100,000 years.

Earth is already showing signs of climate change:

  • Average temperatures have climbed 0.8 degrees Celsius around the world since 1880, much of this in recent decades, according to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
  • The Arctic is feeling the effects the most. Arctic ice is rapidly disappearing, and the region may have its first completely ice-free summer by 2040 or earlier. Polar bears and indigenous cultures are already suffering from the loss of sea ice.
  • Glaciers and mountain snows around the world are rapidly melting.
  • Coral reefs, which are highly sensitive to small changes in water temperature, suffered the worst bleaching – or die-off in response to stress – ever recorded in 1998, with some areas seeing bleach rates of 70%. Experts expect these sorts of events to increase in frequency and intensity in the next 50 years as sea temperatures rise.
  • An upsurge in the number of extreme weather events, such as wildfires, heat waves and strong tropical storms, is also attributed, in part, to climate change by some experts.

Trees help balance the effects of energy use. Trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and also give back oxygen that we need to breathe.

Try this experiment - make your own mini greenhouse.