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How does climate change? And what happens to environments and ecosystems when it does? In this episode of Crash Course Kids, Sabrina shows us the effects that climate change can have and how one small change in an ecosystem can throw everything off.

///Standards Used in This Video///
5-LS2-1. Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the idea that matter that is not food (air, water, decomposed materials in soil) is changed by plants into matter that is food. Examples of systems could include organisms, ecosystems, and the Earth.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include molecular explanations.]

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Producer & Editor: Nicholas Jenkins
Cinematographer & Director: Michael Aranda
Host: Sabrina Cruz
Script Supervisor: Mickie Halpern
Writer: Jen Szymanski
Executive Producers: John & Hank Green
Consultant: Shelby Alinsky
Script Editor: Blake de Pastino

Thought Cafe Team:
Stephanie Bailis
Cody Brown
Suzanna Brusikiewicz
Jonathan Corbiere
Nick Counter
Kelsey Heinrichs
Jack Kenedy
Corey MacDonald
Tyler Sammy
Nikkie Stinchcombe
James Tuer
Adam Winnik
Sabrina: Hey, what's the difference between weather and climate? You can't weather a tree but you can climb it. [ba dum tsss]

[Intro plays]

But you already know the difference between weather and climate, and if it slipped your mind: psst, the definitions are right there. You know that the weather can change quickly, but climate can also change, just more slowly. And if you're good at putting two and two together and I know you are, you probably already noticed that we use some of the same words when we talk about climate and environment. Words like temperature and rainfall. Coincidence? I think not.

But science demands evidence my friends and while we've already seen that living things can change when environments change, we need to ask: how might a change in climate affect an ecosystem?

[text: Big Question]

First let's talk climate. Through little me's travels, we found out that Yuma, Arizona had a hot and sunny climate. We decided this after finding out that although it rained once or twice during my long stay, most of the days were hot and dry. Now the plants and animals that live in Yuma's hot, dry, sunny climate have adaptations that help them live in that desert environment.

If we took a hike around Yuma, we might see a cactus and if we took the closer and careful look at the cactus, we'd see that its outside his kind of waxy and tough. This adaptation helps the cactus save water by keeping the water from evaporating into the dry air. Now something happened to Yuma's climate, say over the course of about twenty years: there were even hotter days and less rainfall than before. When weather patterns change over a long period of time, we call it climate change. Would the cactus' adaptations be enough, then? Let's find out.

[text: Investigation]

Let's look at some organisms that are part of a desert ecosystem. We have our friend the cactus, a kangaroo rat, a rattlesnake, and a desert fox. We can use the handy dandy food chain model to see how energy flows between living things in this ecosystem. It would probably look something like this. The cactus makes energy by photosynthesis and the energy goes from the cactus to the rat, then to the snake and then to the fox.

Now although the cactus has adaptations that help it store and save water, it still needs rain. If it doesn't get enough in a drier climate, it's not going to have anything to store and it's not going to be able to survive. And you know what happens when you take out the bottom of the food chain? It's like taking the wrong block in Jenga, we throw the rest of the ecosystem off balance.

But that's not the only problem, less rain and hotter temperatures mean less water to drink for all of the animals, and although they have adaptations too, like scales to help them retain water, that won't be enough to let them fit into a much hotter and drier climate. And globally the climate is changing. Scientists who study climate change think that it's caused in part by changes to the Earth's atmosphere: an increase in gases like carbon dioxide is trapping more heat close to the Earth, acting like a blanket and making the Earth warmer. But scientists are hard at work trying to find solutions to climate change. For example, they're looking at ways to keep too much carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

[text: Conclusion]

So, all living things that make up the Earth's biosphere have adaptations: characteristics that help them fit into their environment. Long-term changes in the Earth's weather patterns called climate change may have effects on the living things that make up ecosystems. Now if only I could change that joke I told at the beginning of this video.