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Teaching Children about Climate Change

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1 Teaching Children about Climate Change
Five Short Similes for Teaching Children about Climate Change Steven McNulty, Ph.D. USDA Forest Service Raleigh, North Carolina

2 Background “Everything should be made as simple as possible,
but not simpler “” Albert Einstein One way to simplify a complex processes, event or condition is to use a simile Similes are basically just short stories that relate one thing (e.g., object, event, place, person) to another thing. In this lecture, we will relate something complex (i.e. climate change and climate change impacts) to something simple to make it easier to understand and remember

3 Lecture Objective To use a five short similes to help explain
a few of the key components of climate change, and climate change impacts on ecosystems

4 Five Similes for this Lecture
The (REALLY) Big Blanket Steve’s Hill Slope Stairs Project A Clint Eastwood Movie My Brothers Car Last Great Act of Defiance* * Not classroom suitable

5 The (REALLY) Big Blanket Factory
Simile 1: The (REALLY) Big Blanket Factory


7 Think of the burning fossil fuels like making billions of blankets to go up into the sky
Source: Climate Change Impacts on the US, NAST, 2000

8 Once the blankets are made, the are transported up into the sky (think atmospheric FEDEX)
Source: Climate Change Impacts on the US, NAST, 2000

9 The more blankets, the more the heat trapped underneath (just like on your bed)
Source: Climate Change Impacts on the US, NAST, 2000

10 How warm would you be if you doubled the number of blankets on your bed and crawled underneath them?


12 But that’s only half the story….

13 Steve’s Hill Slope Stairs Project
Simile 2: Steve’s Hill Slope Stairs Project






19 as Illustrated by Steve’s hill slope stairs project
Top of Hill (Future climate)‏ Variability v. Change as Illustrated by Steve’s hill slope stairs project Change Variability Bottom of Hill (current climate)‏

20 Climate change will be highly variable over space and time!
Source: Climate Change Impacts on the US, NAST, 2001

21 IPCC world CC map

22 Simile 3: A Clint Eastwood Movie

23 (at least in the short-term)
Scene 1: The Good (at least in the short-term)

24 Change in Forest Productivity from 1982 to 1999
Nemani et al., Science June 6th 2003

25 The increase in growing season length over the last 50 years averaged for eight stations in Alaska having the longest and most consistent temperature records.

26 Spring bud-burst dates for Aspen in Edmonton

27 Sweetgum Iverson et. al GTR NE265

28 Loblolly pine Iverson et. al GTR NE265

29 Scene 2: The Bad

30 Sugar maple Iverson et. al GTR NE265





35 Scene 3: The Ugly

36 Percent of the continental USA with a much above normal proportion of total annual precipitation from 1-day extreme events (more than 2 inches or 50.8mm) BW 7 Karl et al. 1996

37 Areas of Soil Erosion By 2030 On UNF



40 Large scale (> 400 ac) Wildfires and Air Temperature
From Westerling et al. 2005




44 Locations of Coral Reef Bleaching

45 Simile 4: My Brothers Car

46 A car should have its oil changed every 3000 miles. If you
wait until 5000 miles its probably still OK. If you wait until 30,000 there will probably be some damage done to the cars engine, but it can probably be fixed even though it will be expensive. If you wait until 100,000 miles, the car will probably be broken and very, very expensive to fix, or it may not be fixable at all. Global warming is the same way, the longer we wait, the More expensive it will be to fix (if at all).

47 The Last Great Act of Defiance
Simile 5: The Last Great Act of Defiance (Actions that can reduce global warming)

48 130 years of CO2 emissions Censored! Our children


50 Tell your parents what you learned!!
There is still some wrong information that is being passed around about climate change and its impacts. You can help to educate your parents with the truth about climate change. Why is wind energy gaining so much momentum? Spiraling utility bills, the need for uninterrupted service, the high cost of accessing the utility’s electric grid from a remote location, and concerns over environmental impacts are leading to the rush to residential wind systems. Reducing dependence on potentially volatile electric prices is another key motivator for many home-scale windsmiths. Depending on the local wind resource and utility rates, a small wind energy system can reduce a customer’s electricity bill by 50% to 90%. It can be installed as a stand-alone system, eliminating the high cost of extending utility power lines to a remote location, or it can be connected to the power grid, enabling the customer to sell excess power to the utility or buy additional power as needed. Over its 20- to 40-year life, a small residential wind turbine can offset approximately 1.2 tons of air pollutants and 200 tons of carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse” gases. And it can do so at one-third to one-half the installed cost of the most competitive solar electric technology.

51 94% Efficient furnaces and water heaters Compact Fluorescents 100W of light for 23W Low E Argon windows Refrigerators 1979 Model – 1440 KWh/yr 2002 Model KWh/yr

52 This is what Europeans are
encouraged to drive, the new Mercedes built “Smart-car” This is what Americans drive

53 Thank you for your indulgence!

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