Curious Climate schools
Curious Climate schools

Princes Street Primary 5-6 Yellow

Hello hello Princes Street Grade 5/6s!

Thank you for your questions about climate change. You asked some really interesting questions about emotional impacts of climate change, electric cars, disasters, future of our Earth, and actions.

You'll find answers to your questions from our climate experts below - have a read and watch their answers.

You can also have a look at what other classes across Tasmania asked this year, as well as our climate change toolkit.

Our Questions

What are some changes to peoples daily routines that we can implement that would help stop climate change?
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This is an excellent question, and one of the questions most students want an answer to. You can be someone who takes climate action!

Each of us can act individually (on our own) and collectively (together with others) to act on climate. We know, from scientific evidence, that climate change cannot be stopped and is happening already – but it can be reduced and slowed down. People today and into the future (including you) can make changes and decisions that will greatly reduce climate change and its impacts.

Some of these decisions are happening on a systemic scale - they the really big changes we need to reduce emissions from industries and electricity generation.

For example, world leaders are meeting together at COP26 (which is the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties) to discuss pathways to do this – in particular, to ensure that global temperature rises do not exceed 1.5 degrees, and how we can adapt to climate change impacts into the future. If we can manage to greatly reduce global greenhouse gas emissions (such as carbon dioxide) we can limit climate change. 

You might wonder how young people can influence big changes like this? By using your voices! Young people are involved in many groups and movements such as the School Strikes for Climate that have already made a difference to the way world leaders think about climate action.

Greta Thunberg at the European Parliament
Greta Thunberg addressing the European Parliament

At a smaller scale, all of us can do something to make positive changes and have an impact on tackling climate change. Some people can do more and less than others, and that is OK - it’s great actually because lots of small changes can lead to big impact. In everyday life, there’s lot that you might be able to do, for example: 

  • You can aim to take the bus or walk, or ride your bike to school more. 
  • You could eat more vegetables, and eat meat less often (maybe even encourage your family and friends to have ‘meat free Mondays’?!). Plant-based foods generally produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions and they also require less energy, land, and water usage. 
  • You can speak up! Tell your friends and family about climate change and the small changes each of us can do to make a difference - remembering that we all have different abilities to make these changes, big and small. 

There are a lot more ideas you can check out on our 'What can I do?' page.

Many people are worried and frustrated about climate change and want to know what they can do to help. Studying the impacts of climate change and rising ocean temperatures on the Great Barrier Reef over the last decade has certainly convinced me that this is the most serious issue of our time. 

We hear quite a lot about what we can do in our own lives to reduce the carbon emissions into the atmosphere that drive climate change. Anything that lowers energy consumption helps reduce the need to burn fossil fuels and gives us time to transition to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. For example, driving less by walking, riding or taking public transport where we can. Even what you eat makes a big difference (so maybe limit ‘BBQ Meatlovers’ to special occasions). We can go a step further and help remove carbon from the atmosphere by growing trees. The reason that Tasmania is currently removing more carbon from the atmosphere than it puts in (i.e. better than net zero emissions) is the natural regrowth of Tasmanian forests

Compost helps grow delicious and healthy veggies. Photo: Climate Visuals creative commons/Michael Bish

One thing that I also like to do is avoid unnecessary generation of methane, which is much more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas and responsible for more than 30% of the global temperature increase. If you dispose of food and garden waste with your garbage, it will be buried and breakdown without oxygen (anaerobic process) to produce methane that eventually escapes into the atmosphere. However, if you put organic waste into your home compost or council compost bin, microbes can access oxygen when breaking it down (aerobic process) thereby producing very little methane as well as compost that will help grow new carbon absorbing plants. 

Finally, we should all try to stay informed and express our views on what actions need to be taken. Students currently in college will be the ones asked to deal with the largest consequences of climate change. You’re entitled to have a say. 

Answer provided by: Dr Scott Condie
Does climate change affect natural disasters and if so which ones?
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Answer provided by: Dr Phillipa McCormack
Is using an electric car actually better than using a petrol car?
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Answer provided by: Associate Professor Evan Franklin
If interests rates go up, is it good for climate change by causing people not to buy unnecessary items?
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This is a fascinating question! There are many aspects that need to be considered in thinking about, and responding to this question. Firstly, there is the issue of consumption, or over-consumption. With consumption, firstly, we need to recognise the distinction between ‘needs’ and ‘wants’. Needs such as shelter, clothing, food are essential for human survival and wellbeing, i.e., they are ‘necessary’ for survival. Many of these essential needs are even recognised under global agreements such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. Then there are the wants. These relate to our desires, and can change over time and external influences such as advertising. Wants are also necessary when they help improve our quality of life, over and beyond survival. But wants can also be endless, just as human creativity and imagination to imagine wants is endless. This is the territory we are in when we talk about ‘unnecessary items’.

Now to the second aspect of this question – with both needs and wants, and especially with wants, the issue with them is when they have a material footprint that then negatively impacts our climate. Let us pause here to note that there are also other negative impacts such as to biodiversity and social justice. So in other words, we can still enjoy an unlimited amount of seemingly ‘unnecessary items’ if they do not have a material footprint, e.g. playing Uno all day! However, it is quite another matter if the things that we do in order to enhance our perceived quality of life have a material footprint, e.g. buying a new sofa because it looks a little nicer than the older one. In this case, the harvesting, processing, manufacturing, packaging and transport of the new sofa all have contributed to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that add to our historic global GHG concentrations in the atmosphere to the extent that it now threatens our quality of life, and survival for some. The irony of it all!  

Finally, on to interest rates, there is a broader question whether raising the interest rates is an effective way to address inflation, especially when the inflation might be caused more by supply-side issues rather than demand-side factors. Leaving that aside, what rising interest rates are expected to do is to reduce our purchasing power as we now are paying more on our loans and mortgages, and have lesser money to spend on other things, especially on satisfying wants (e.g. not buying a new sofa, as opposed to paying for needs, such as housing, food etc.). Therefore, as we tend to buy fewer sofas (and other such wants/desires), we are requiring fewer sofas to be made, and in effect, reducing the carbon pollution from the sofa industry. However, there are several considerations here that would mean that: a) the net effect on climate change is not going to be significant enough (as happened with COVID19, where despite fewer people flying overseas for holidays, emissions still did not reduce to sustainable levels); b) the regressive nature of interest rate rises and associated ‘austerity’ in the tightening of budgets for households might have poor social outcomes, and in turn, poor outcomes for social, democratic and climate welfare in the long run (see what happens to countries around the world where people are unable to pay for essentials).

In conclusion, the answer to the question is: No, as it is neither sufficient in terms of reducing GHG emissions nor is it a socially progressive approach.

Answer provided by: Dr Vishnu Prahalad
How much will the atmosphere change in 100 years?
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We had a few questions about the future of our atmosphere! See Dr Stuart Corney's answer about what the atmosphere will be like in 100 years below.

Answer provided by: Dr Stuart Corney
Does dirty air have a physical or emotional impact on our bodies?
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Thanks for your question. Yes, air pollution (also called poor air quality) can make you sick, both physically and emotionally.

Air pollution is made up of very small particles. You can’t see each particle, but together they make a haze. You can sometimes smell air pollution, especially if it comes from bushfire smoke.

When you breathe these particles in, they can affect many systems in your body, especially your lungs and your heart. For example, if you have asthma, you might find poor air quality will make you feel wheezy or trigger an asthma attack. So it’s important to have your asthma medication with you on a smoky day.

When there is a lot of smoke in the air, some people can feel very nervous and anxious. If they have experienced a bushfire before, smelling or seeing smoke can trigger emotions or memories related to the previous fire.

Air pollution can come from burning wood (such as in a wood heater or a bushfire), burning coal or from petrol or diesel cars. Reducing these sources will help us all breathe easier.

Answer provided by: Dr Sharon Campbell
If no one did anything to help climate change, how long would it take for the whole world to be flooded?
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What a thought-provoking question!

As per my understanding, the whole world will not be flooded. Because the estimated global sea level rise is about 70 meters when all the mountain glaciers and ice caps of Antarctica and Greenland melt; however, our coastal cities would be flooded and some small islands would sink. This would result in significantly smaller land and completely different coastlines. However, scientists are still trying to calculate the exact volume of glaciers and ice caps on Earth.

Furthermore, the scientists who study sea level changes in the past, found that the Antarctic ice cap has survived much warmer times than current warming. Therefore, it is likely that all the ice may not melt completely. The main concern is that some parts of the West Antarctic ice caps and Greenland may melt completely. Scientists are still researching how, when and under what conditions this might happen.

So, the short answer to your question would be, we're still working it out!

Since climate change is getting bigger and more worrying, will there be a phobia of climate change? And if so what would it be called?
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At the moment there is no specific “phobia” of climate change that I know of. However many people do suffer from common mental health issues such as anxiety or mental distress and climate change may be the focus of what causes their symptoms. You can find out more about anxiety here. In terms of specific names for feelings related to climate change, an Australian philosopher called Glen Albrecht wrote a book called “Earth Emotions” which provided names for a range of feelings about our relationship to the planet and what’s happening to it. One of his most famous terms is:

Solastagia: A feeling of distress or homesickness for a place affected or destroyed by environmental change

You may have also heard of terms such as eco-anxiety, eco-distress and ecological grief. These are not currently considered mental disorders, but do describe well what a lot of people feel when they think about environmental issues. Similarly, “anticipatory trauma” or “anticipatory grief” refers to feelings of distress about events that may happen in the future, and could be related to climate events.

Whilst some people find these new terms to be helpful, other people in climate-affected communities may not relate to them, or find clinical or uncommon/fancy language to be alienating. Therefore just learning to talk about stress and anxiety in general, and express how we are feeling in whatever language is comfortable is a great place to start.

Answer provided by: Dr Linda Murray
If all the glaciers melt how much will the sea level rise?
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There are a lot of glaciers in the world and they can be found on every continent, except Australia. The largest glaciers are called ice sheets and they cover vast areas of Greenland and Antarctica.

The Antarctic Ice Sheet is the largest of all and if that were to fully melt the sea level would rise by nearly 60 m! By comparison, melting the Greenland Ice Sheet would only raise the sea level by 7 m. The rest of the glaciers are all much smaller and if they all melted the sea level would only rise by 0.3 m.

If every single glacier were to melt, the ocean would rise by nearly 70 m. But, it would take a very long time to melt all that ice. At the moment melting glaciers and ice are causing the sea level to rise by about 2 mm every year.

Answer provided by: Dr Edward Doddridge
If only one country achieves zero carbon emissions will it make a difference and will it be worth it?
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Climate change is a global problem requiring action by many people, organisations, and countries around the world. Every action count and we are all responsible. So, although ideally all countries will work towards achieving net zero emissions, even one country achieving that goal will help to mitigate the issue.  

Those countries like Australia that have more capacity to take climate action, should show leadership in this area. This in turn will provide incentives for others to follow. Unfortunately, some national governments have argued that their contribution to the problem is too small to make a difference. But if all countries choose to let others take the burden, this will leave the global problem unaddressed. 

The good news is that we are now in a situation where the cost of taking climate change action has fallen, and the longer we wait to do so (meaning the longer we depend on fossil fuels), the more expensive it will be. At the same time, the benefits of addressing this global issue have become clearer and are indisputable (for example, lower level of air pollution, health benefits, clean water, green jobs, energy independence). As the Joel Pett cartoon says in a humorous way, “What if it's a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?”  

Answer provided by: Dr Carmen Primo Perez
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