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The Earth is heating up

The Earth is heating up … The sun’s rays hit the ground and turn into heat that radiates out from the Earth’s surface. Greenhouse gases stop this heat radiation from disappearing out into space. When the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere increases, more heat gets left behind and the Earth’s temperature rises.

Some important greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane gas (CH4). Additional carbon dioxide is released mainly by cars, coal and oil fires, factories and aircraft. Developed countries in the northern hemisphere produce the most emissions. China also generates a huge amount of carbon dioxide. As the Earth heats up, it affects all countries and people, especially children.

Changing climate

As the Earth heats up, our climate will change. Climate is the weather over a long period of time. For example, it’s about how hot it usually is, how much and how often we get rain and perhaps how long and how hot the dry season is normally. A hotter Earth can mean dry seasons get longer, rain might not come every year, or the opposite might happen and it rains more in some places, with more torrential rain and flooding where you live. Perhaps there will also be more storms, and they might be stronger.

Climate illustration

Rising sea levels

As the Earth heats up, sea levels rise. Mostly because warmer water expands and takes up more room, but also because glaciers (ice on land) melt and drain into the sea. Greenland and Antarctica have the most land ice. There will be big changes for coastal areas and islands when sea levels rise. People will no longer be able to live in these areas if the sea­water covers fields and houses.
   It is difficult to say exactly how the climate will change in different places on Earth, but we know for certain that there will be climate change as the Earth heats up. If the Earth heats up a lot, it may be impossible to live in some countries, and in the worst-case scenario, the changes could be so great that almost the entire planet becomes uninhabitable! If nothing is done, the Earth will keep on heating up!

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Disappearing forests

When there are major forest fires, it releases a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This carbon dioxide can be absorbed again later if the forest grows back. It’s a natural cycle that has been happening throughout the history of the Earth. But if forests are cut down, or worse, burned without planting any new forest, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases because the released carbon dioxide is not absorbed and stored in new trees!


Cars driven on fossile fuels such as petrol, release a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Photo: Biofriendly CC BY 2.0

Fossil fuels

Fossil fuels are the remains of old plant material that have been stored in the ground for hundreds of millions of years. When people burn coal, oil or natural gas now, we release in just a few years the carbon dioxide that has been absorbed by plants over many millions of years! That’s why burning fossil fuels is causing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to increase very quickly.

Global Goal 13

Action needed now!

In order to reach Global Goal 13, we must take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
> Learn more about the Global Goals


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