In today’s show we speak with Environmental Scientist Dr Cara Augustenborg about the things that we can do in our own lives to help stop climate change.
She explains how climate change is caused when carbon dioxide from the fuels we burn gets trapped in our atmosphere and act like a blanket, making the earth heat up. And this heating up is what creates climate change, where we get extremes of weather.
Buster and Buddy find out that there are lots of things however that we can do to stop climate change, like using less energy, using our bikes instead of the car for short trips and using Bio-Diversity as a big part of the solution!
Listen to the show to hear what Dr Cara teaches us, as well as lots of other fun stuff, like …and kids telling us their favourite jokes in Tickle Your Funny Bone!
And remember to Stay Healthy, Stay Happy and Stay Well!
Michelle and her team have a collective 50years experience working with kids as teachers, entertainers and parents!
Thanks to Zapsplat, Audio Jingle and Alexander Korotkoff for the sound effects and music.
Check out our social media to see more about the team, our guests, the topics we talk about, our competitions AND how to send us in your stories, jokes, comments or ideas for the podcast!
GUEST OF THE DAY
Dr. Cara Augustenborg
Dr. Cara Augustenborg is an Environmental Policy Fellow at University College Dublin and Presenter of the Down to Earth show on Newstalk.
She is also an honorary member of the President of Ireland’s Council of State and received the ‘Woman of Influence’ award at the 2020 Irish Women’s Awards. Recently, Silicon Republic named her as one of the top 10 changemakers creating a more sustainable world.
Hello and welcome to The Kids Are All Right. A weekly podcast specially for kids, that's all about health, happiness and wellness.
I'm Michelle and here with me are my co-pilots on this podcast, Buster and Buddy!
Hey, guys. Buster here.
Oh, yeah, fan favourite Buddy coming at you!
And we're on a mission to help you all feel great and live happy. Here we go again. All right!
So, guys, I think we all know how important nature is in our lives and how important it is in helping us feel well and happy and, you know, this probably became even more clear during Lockdown's during coronavirus when we realized how our trip to the park or our walks on the beach or hikes in the mountains or in the countryside were so very important. It's incredible how much we really need the great outdoors and not just for exercise, but to feel well and happy.
Yeah, defo, I think I only realized for the first time just how much nature was right outside my door. I couldn't believe it. How did I not notice it before? My daily cycles, all the picnics in the park were brilliant, walking up hills near me.
Yeah. And I also discovered so many cool things just here in my area that I never knew were there. Like there was this lovely walk along the river just down from my house. I couldn't believe it. I never noticed it before.
Yeah. I found loads of new walks and trails near me too that I never know about before. And I do think this realization of the power and the importance of nature has helped focus people's minds on the climate change crisis that is happening right now. And if we don't take action quickly, our environment and so much of this nature that we love will be destroyed.
Yeah, I've heard of climate change, but I've never really understood exactly what it is and how it's messing up our environment.
Yeah, I get confused, too. I find it really scary when on the news all you see are towns being flooded, cars floating through the street and people standing on their roofs hoping to be rescued by a helicopter. Or remember those crazy forest fires we saw in Australia where like large parts of the country were covered in massive fires. I feel like what on earth is happening and what can we do about it?
But what I want to know is if there is anything I can do in my home or my local area in my country to stop climate change because I feel like little old Buster, sure I can't do nothing about it. Right?!
Yeah, I think a lot of kids are feeling the same way, guys. And I think someone like Greta Thunberg has encouraged lots of kids to step up and take action in their own local communities.
Oh, yeah, Michelle, she's amazing.
Yeah, she is. So we wanted to know what you kids think or know about climate change. So we went out and asked you.
Wow, the kids seem to be really very aware of climate change.
So this is why we are so pleased to have a person join us today who is an expert in this area. Her name is Dr. Cara Augustenberg and she's an Environmental Scientist. Thanks for joining us today, Cara.
Thanks, Michelle. Great to be here.
So there are so many kids who are not just worried, but a little bit confused by all the big words and language used around climate change. So can we first start with the basics? Why is our planet getting hotter?
Well, Michelle, right now, the reason why our planet is warming up is because of our own human activity. So we have burned a lot of fossil fuels in the form of oil and gas to heat our homes and power our cars and unfortunately, when we burn fossil fuels, all of the chemicals that are in those fossil fuels go up into our atmosphere and those chemicals can trap extra heat.
So they act like a blanket and the planet warms up as a result. So that's what's causing global warming right now.
OK, so, Cara, let me make sure I have this right, the gases that we produce from the fuels we burn creates carbon dioxide, which stays in our atmosphere, and then this traps in the heat of the sun so it can’t escape. Is that right?
Yeah, that's pretty close. There's lots of gases that that contribute to this. One of them as carbon dioxide comes from burning fossil fuels. But also our animals, like cows and sheep, produce a lot of methane gas. And that's even more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat. And also when we apply fertilisers to our land to grow food that also can produce nitrous oxide, which is three hundred times more powerful at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.
Wow. Wow. And this heating up, that's what is called global warming, is that right?
That's right. Yeah. And sometimes we use the term global warming and climate change interchangeably. But really what's happening is our atmosphere and our planet is warming as a result of these extra gases in the atmosphere. And that is contributing and causing things like climate change and sea level rise and extreme weather, which is often what we refer to as climate change.
And I read that in the last six years that they've been the warmest since records began and that 2020 was one of the warmest years so far. So I suppose as a kid listening, that means if you're six years of age, then you've lived on Earth for the warmest six years on record. I mean, that's quite stark.
Yeah. I mean, if you think about the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we've nearly doubled now the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And so that's why we're having such extreme changes in our temperature.
But but, Dr.Cara, why is the world heating up such a big problem? Like we all love when it's sunny and warm, right?
Yeah, we do think that, particularly here in Ireland, that warmer temperatures would be nicer for us and better weather, but unfortunately it's not that simple.
So this is the average that the world is warming around the world. But, of course, It's getting hotter in places like the Arctic or the Equator, so Ireland is not experiencing quite as much of the extremes as other parts of the world,
But also too all of this warmer temperature is extra energy in the atmosphere and in our planet. And extra energy drives more extreme weather. So we see bigger storms, larger storms that lasts for longer, like Hurricane Ophelia that hit Ireland a couple of years ago, and then bigger droughts and warmer temperatures extreme.
So in Ireland, what we're expecting because of climate change is actually wetter winters with bigger storms and more incidents of flooding and then much drier summers that could lead to drought and also of water shortage problems.
So, Cara, is there anything we can do to stop climate change, like us kids, I mean,
Yeah, there's a lot we can do because so much of what we do as humans has an impact on the climate, on our nature.
So most of the time in our day to day lives, we are emitting greenhouse gases in the way we heat and power our home.So when we leave the lights on, when we when we burn oil or gas or even turf or wood or coal to heat a fireplace, so those are all releasing greenhouse gases.
And then how we get around, so how we get to school, how we get to work, are we taking a car or are we riding a bike and walking, which doesn't produce any greenhouse gases.
So we have to look at our day to day, our activities, what they call our carbon footprint, how much carbon we emit to our activities and try and get that down in every way possible.
So I suppose if the kids were going to try and do something in their homes themselves, maybe it's kind of something like maybe being the king or queen of turning off appliances.
Definitely like conserving energy as much as possible is really important in our houses. And so, you know, going around and turning off lights and appliances and putting a jumper on instead of turning the heat up and not having the heat running as much is a really good place to start.
And then, of course, looking at how often we use a car or even a bus, which is also powered by fossil fuel. So if we can walk and cycle more than that can really help, too.
Very good. And I heard this. I suppose it could be a really good thing to keep an eye on in the house. Is that just because you've turned off the switch beside a plug that you've got plugged in for your tablet or your device? It's still using energy, so you need to plug it out and not just switch it off, is that right?
Yeah, if that little light is still on and there's still energy going to it. So that's called stand by. Plugging things out completely. So that little standby light isn't on definitely helps.
Oh, I'm definitely going to go around my house and make sure that everything is not just switched off but plugged out too,
But also to make sure that everyone else in the house does as well, like your parents and your siblings.
And it's so much easier now, Cara, to change your mode of transport, it's never been easier really, with all the cycle tracks and so many cool cycling attachments for your bike. I've seen toddlers and even little babies sitting and lying down in these comfortably. And there's so many extra cycle path's being built at the moment as well. So there's really no reason not to try it.
Yeah, we're really lucky right now that we have a minister for transport and government who is a huge cycling advocate and has been putting a lot of money into building new cycle path's that are safe enough for all of us to ride on without worrying about getting hit by a car or something like that. So it's a really good, exciting time to be getting into cycling and everything.
And I should mention, too, that, you know, even having conversations with adults or maybe the politicians in your area about climate change and telling them why you care and why you're concerned about this issue, that can help change others behaviour, too.
So if you're interested in this, then then start talking about it with adults, because, you know, adults my age, we didn't learn about climate change in school. So we're really behind in our knowledge compared to young people today.
Definitely. I think that's a really key message. I think the likes of Greta Thunberg has really kind of inspired this younger generation to know they do have a voice. They can do something about this.
Yeah, I mean, more than ever, young people are going to be burdened with this problem, so if we don't solve this now and today and really make dramatic changes in the next 10 years, then it makes it makes life a lot harder for kids that are going to be adults in the future because they'll have to deal with this problem.
So their voice is really, really important. And they need to be saying to grown ups, now, look, if you don't solve this problem, then you're leaving me to deal with the mess, to clean up. So it's really important that young people get that message across,
But will adults actually take the time to listen to the kids? I mean, is there anything else we can do ourselves?
Well, I think a Greta Thunberg is a great example of how adults really are listening to kids because kids are getting much more vocal through the Friday for Future movement. And also young people are much more connected globally now. So they're able to kind of mobilize and work together to influence change in a way that that young people 20 years ago weren't able to do.
What I love is the fact that we're empowering the kids to feel that they can do something. And I think I heard you say before about writing letters, maybe to your local counsellors or the local paper, maybe getting some mates together in a few of you to write your letters and getting them to put the climate change issue on the front page or cover it and just keep it on the agenda.
Yeah, and that's really what's been changing things recently in the last couple elections in Ireland, we got people to just say even young people look at the politician that calls to your door. The first thing we would love you to say is What are you doing about climate change? to that politician. So you don't have to be an expert in climate change yourself, you just have to ask the question to them.
So the more we can all ask this question, the more it gets our politicians to realize that this is important to us and that they start to respond in big scale, because a lot of the changes we need to do to address climate change require big government interventions like wind turbines and solar panels. And we as individuals can't do those things on our own. So that's why we really need to engage in the political system to make those big changes happen, too.
Oh, that's brilliant. I'm definitely going to write one of those, too. Oh remember, we learned it in school, the b-o, the bio….
It’s biodiversity. Buster! Biodiversity, Cara isn't that's something that's really important in the fight against climate change?
Yeah, I'm really glad you mention that. So biodiversity really means the diversity of nature. So it's all the different species that we have on Earth and all the species are interconnected with each other. So we all need each other to survive. And unfortunately, our biodiversity is in decline.
So when we develop land and cut down trees and build big buildings on it or use it for agriculture, it negatively impacts the biodiversity in nature that was already there. So we need to do a lot more to try and re wild, to create wild spaces and to bring back biodiversity. And if you have a garden or a balcony or anything, you can really do something to help it.
So you can create habitat for insects and bugs and you can plant flowers that attract pollinators and are the food source of insects.
So in our own backyards, we can do a lot to enhance nature.
So how can we do it in our own back garden?
Well, there's a great set of documents called the Pollinator Plan here in Ireland, you can get all these different guidance documents or teach you the things you can do in your garden to improve habitat for diversity. So even simply creating a bit of bare soil in your back garden is really useful for native pollinating bees, because they use that to create winter habitat for them when they're sort of dormant and hibernating.
And I’ve heard that planting more flowers is something that can really help increase the number of bees again, as with all the cutting back and mowing that we do, there just are not enough flowers left anymore for the bees and insects to eat, so they’re literally running out of food ?!
Yeah, And planting flowers that are native, flowers that attract bees and butterflies and other insects that pollinate is really important, as they're actually running out of food because there's simply not enough flowers out there for them to eat.
So creating that kind of food supply for them all as much of the year as possible through planting trees, that flower or even just normal flowers can be can be really useful, too.
So if kids and adults check out the Pollinator Plan on Pollinators.ie, and we’ll put that link on our website, so that’s where they’ll find lots of ideas for whatever size garden or balcony space they have outdoors?
Isn't it, kind of, I suppose, the way that we have always liked to have everything quite nice. So we do lots of mowing and cutting back and making everything look very nice.
And isn't that probably part of the problem? We need things to be a little less neat and maybe this Now Mow, I've heard about a No Mow policy that people talk about where you don't mow certain parts of your grass.
Yeah. So the great thing is when your parents nag you to like, mow the grass. Actually it's good to do leave it a little long…
Yeah, I’m gonna say that to my dad; No, no Dad. No mow today I am doing a biodiversity garden!!
Yeah, exactly! So patches of area, the wild in our garden and let nature take them back over is really nice, particularly if we have like dandelions or daisies in our grass. You want to leave those there for the bees to actually use them as food and dandelions are one of the early flowers to come out, a really important source of food supply when there's maybe not a lot of other flowers out there at the time. So, you know, things like nettles are actually really good for biodiversity.
So we should be trying to go completely chemical free in our gardens. because that can impact all the soil and the earthworms that are in the soil and all of that that healthy stuff in the soil, too. So chemical free and wild is the best way really to address biodiversity. And it's so easy to do.
It could be a really good idea to get the kids listening who might play sports like football or rugby or GAA or whatever it is to get on to their local club and encourage them to maybe leave parts of the grounds as a No Mow and let them grow wild, keep the pitches mowed and flat for the playtime, and then outside perhaps encourage the club to make that a wild area?
Absolutely. I mean, they have a lot of land that they could be sort of playing with to create biodiversity havens and just not mow it and let nature take it back. And this was where the pollinator plans are great because they have special plans, whether it's a back garden or a golf course or a church or a GAA pitch. They have different plans for each type of facility to say, here are things you can do. So you could just print it off or refer the GAA manager to one of the pollinator plans.
I have to say, it’s great to know that there are things that we can do in our own lives that can really make a difference to help stop climate change.
And I think we're really lucky right now that we're living in a time when all the technology actually exists to solve climate change. And the only thing that's missing right now is the political will and the momentum to make it happen fast enough. So it's not like we don't have the solutions to this.
We do. So there's nothing to worry from that point of view because we can solve this problem.
Cara, thank you so much. I think we've all learned so much and we understand climate change so much better now. And it's great now that we have a plan and things that we can do in our own home and in our own lives to make a change.
I'm glad to hear it. Thanks so much!
It’s Tool – Time
I feel like I really understand the difference between global warming and climate change now.
Yeah, I think when you understand the how and why behind the things that make it easier to see what you can do.
Well, I'm definitely going to grab a few of my friends and we'll send letters to our counsellors or local papers and ask them to change some of the green spaces to wild nature areas.
Yeah, and I'm going to be the boss of all will get in my hands. I'll write down all the things that need to be unplugged at night, and I'm going to check them to make sure everyone has a done. Even my dad, he's always leaving his laptop on overnight.
Yeah. And I'm going to talk to my mom and dad about using the car less for shorter journeys and maybe use our bikes more instead. I think it'll be much more fun as well as helping to fight against climate change.
I really think we can play our part and make a difference.
Yeah, me too. So how about we set a challenge for the kids? Listen. And Buddy. Yeah, that's a great idea. So how about we challenge all you kids out there to take on a biodiversity challenge that you have to convince your parents, maybe even your school or your sports club to have a No Mow policy in part of the green spaces.
So basically, that means they have to leave some sections to grow naturally and not cut the grass.
Yeah, and let's get the adults to let us plant more wildflowers in these areas. Oh, and maybe we could even build some hotels for bugs!
No, we don't want to have bugs in a hotel!!!
No, a hotel for bugs!!
Oh yeah. With like wood and stones, and bits they can crawl in…yeah!
Brilliant it’s that time of the show again.
Tthat was a brilliant joke. Yeah, that was a brilliant one. Yeah, that really was a good one.
You know, it's been great today, thanks to all the kids who sent in their audio clips.
And, you know, if you have something you want to tell us, we want to hear a story, a question or your favourite joke, we'd love to hear from you.
All you have to do is recorded in the voice recorder app on a parent's smartphone and then email it into us.
The email is in our show notes. Yeah.
Make sure to check out our website www.TheKidsAreAllRight.ie for more details about sending in your clips and you'll find loads of more info about the show and everything and everyone we talk to.
We really hope you enjoyed this week's show and learned loads. If so, then tell all your friends.
Yes indeed. And remember guys, try to be healthy.
And be happy !