This is an extreme hot button topic that I really didn't know much about - that is until my 6 year old asked me about it. Being at a total loss as to how to explain it in terms her young mind could understand, I did what I always do when stumped - research. I learned a few things. I also learned that there are those who argue on the other side. I took the time to look at both views and tried to dig deep enough to get to the facts, the solid truth behind the media and the fear-mongers.
So, what follows is the explanation I came up with for my 6 year old. I write this to preserve it for my younger children who will be asking about it in a few years, and also for those of you out there who have or know young children. (This is told from our religious world view, so those of you who don't believe similarly, please forgive me and I hope you still find this useful.)
Why is everyone saying the world is getting hotter?
God made the world in a very special way. It's made just right so people and animals can live here. One thing He did was set it up so that most of the planet can never get too cold. Do you know what a greenhouse is? It's a house made of glass for growing plants. When the door of a greenhouse is shut, it gets very warm inside. The glass lets the sunlight in, but it does not let the warmness out. The earth is made like that. The air kind of acts like glass that lets the sunlight in and keeps some of the heat from getting out. If it didn't work like that, it would get really cold at night, so cold that people, animals, and even plants couldn't live.
Do you know what air is made of? There are many different parts. The most important part for people and animals is called oxygen. But God included other parts that help keep the warmness in. People call these parts "greenhouse gasses". Greenhouse, because they act just like the glass in a real greenhouse, and gasses because they are part of the air.
Some people think the world is getting warmer because there are more of these greenhouse gases in the air. It's like putting more glass on a real greenhouse and having it get hotter inside. These gasses come from cars and factories and other places that people have built. Because these cars and factories keep putting more of these gasses into the air, the air holds more warmness from sunlight and makes the world hotter and hotter.
What will happen if it gets too hot?
Only God knows what will happen in the future, but some say that if the world gets too hot then no one will be able to live here anymore. Even the North Pole will get so hot that all the ice will melt.
What can we do?
Well, if the people who say cars and factories are putting the bad gasses in the air are right, then what we need to do is put less of those gasses in the air. You know how Mommy and Daddy are always asking if we need milk or anything from the store when we have to go into town? That's so we can drive less. If we drive the cars less, then our cars will put less of the bad gasses in the air. Have you seen the commercials on TV that show those big white fans on the tops of hills? (Being an election year, there are many ads by politicians bragging about how they are responsible for New Mexico 'taking the lead' in the use of wind-generated energy. There are in fact many "wind farms" around the state now, though I'm not exactly sure who truthfully deserves the praise for that, though I'm pretty sure it's not the politicians.) Those fans are windmills that make electricity. If our state builds enough of them then the factories that make electricity can shut down. Those factories have to burn things to make electricity (at this point I showed her the "Schoolhouse Rock" song that talks about electricity, pointing out that something has to be burned to make steam to turn the turbine - and so on). When those factories burn things, it puts bad gasses in the air. Until there are enough of those windmills, we can help by using less electricity at home.
You know how I'm always telling you to shut your bedroom light off when you're not in there? It's because it wastes electricity. You know those curly-q light bulbs we bought and put in all the fixtures? Those use less electricity than the old kind. You know how I tell you to keep the TV off, that it doesn't need to be on all the time? The TV uses a lot of electricity. If all the people everywhere did little things like that it would help the whole world.
That was pretty much the end of my discussion with my 6 year old, but my teenagers had questions too. In another post I'll share about my conversations with them. Including the "deny-er's" point of view.