Climate change for kids

For more information on Sen. Joe Simitian’s S.B. 908 that would include climate change instruction in the state school curriculum, go to and click on “legislation.”

Imagine for a moment that you’re 8 years old. What does climate change mean to you?

Chances are you don’t understand the science behind global warming, and you’re probably too young to have noticed that the world’s weather seems to have become wildly erratic in recent years. But by the time you’re in college, global warming will have definitely gotten your attention. Here in the Sacramento region, rising temperatures will mean more scorching hot, triple-digit summer days, and rising seas will mean saltwater encroaching on the Delta. Lake Tahoe will have warmed enough to change from cobalt blue to murky green. Around the world, rainfall patterns will have altered, decimating agriculture in many areas and jeopardizing the food supply for hundreds of millions of people. Climate change will be familiar as the root cause of a whole series of problems—floods, famine, the spread of tropical disease, refugee crises and more—and you’ll need to understand exactly what is going on in order to know what you can do about it.

That’s why we support state Sen. Joe Simitian’s efforts to make the science behind global warming a part of every California child’s public-school education. The Palo Alto Democrat’s bill (S.B. 908), which has passed the Senate and gone to the Assembly, would add climate change to a list of required topics taught as part of the state’s science curriculum. We urge the Assembly and Gov. Schwarzenegger to pass the measure and give California’s children, who will live most of their lives in a world altered by climate change, the knowledge they need to understand the crisis and work toward solutions.

By now, the science behind global warming is firmly established. It has been known for a century that carbon dioxide and other gases emitted through the burning of fossil fuels retain heat at a higher rate than most other atmospheric gases, and since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, it has been projected that the increased burning of fossil fuels could raise the levels of these gases, cause the atmosphere to warm and alter the climate.

Recent decades have documented this change, and there’s been a growing realization that the changes are happening even more quickly than expected. Recent studies by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an organization of more than 2,500 of the world’s leading climate scientists, state unequivocally that the Earth is warming faster than any time in history, and that there is an almost complete certainty that human activity is driving the change.

That’s information that today’s schoolchildren need to hear as part of their basic science education. They need to understand that climate change is not some environmentalist conspiracy or a product of media hysteria but an objective fact about the world they live in that has been observed, recorded, tested and verified by the world’s best climate scientists.

Knowledge is power, and we need to empower the youngest generation of Californians with the understanding they will need as they confront the challenges of climate change in coming years. We urge the Assembly and governor to act quickly to make S.B. 908 law.