THE FACTS: CHILDREN AND CLIMATE CHANGE
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report (IPCC 2018) is the latest of many scientific publications warning that we need to rapidly reduce our emissions if we are to keep below the "safe" threshold of 1.5° Celsius. With our current trajectory leading us to over 3° of warming before the end of the century, deep and urgent cuts to our emissions are required.
Since pre-industrial times, the Earth has warmed by 1° and the impacts of climate change are already apparent with more weather extremes such as fires, floods, storms, heat waves and droughts both in Australia and overseas.
Kids are not little adults. Their health is impacted more by climate change.
Climate change threatens the very foundations of children’s health – clean air and water, adequate food, a safe environment, control of infectious diseases and social and economic stability.
Currently over 80% of global disease due to climate change falls on children, predominantly the poor in developing countries. That is, those least responsible and least able to care for themselves are carrying and will continue to carry the consequences of our climate inaction.
Children are not small adults, they are biologically and psychologically more vulnerable than adults to the physical trauma, psycho-social stress, nutritional deprivation, infectious agents, and heat waves associated with climate change impacts.
There is also concern for the mental impacts on children from climate change including the increased risk of PTSD but also depression, anxiety, phobias, sleep disorders, attachment disorders, and substance abuse.
And there are delayed, long term impacts that could persists throughout their lives. Trauma and adversity in early life has long term effects on the development and function of all organ systems, and can increase the risk of many chronic diseases in later life and shorten life expectancy.
The very good news: We already know what to do to fix climate change and how to create a more liveable climate for our children and the future.
We know that by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas – which are the major contributors to climate change – we can improve children’s health right now. For instance, by burning less fossil fuels, we can reduce air pollution, which is associated with various health problems including asthma.
Children deserve every opportunity to reach their full potential. Embracing climate solutions and transitioning to clean renewable energy prevents disease and helps children live long, healthy and happy lives.
For more detailed information, see Doctors of the Environment Australia report No Time for Games: Children’s Health and Climate Change
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