Children and Climate Change

Mar 21, 2023
Govinda Katuwal

Climate change, a word which stuck in every individual's mouth despite their background and knowledge. A 2018 article from revealed that 3.6 billion questions were searched on Google relating to climate change each day. Without a doubt, we are heading to 2°C with current policies and actions. We can see the commitment made by the governments is failing. Evidence of such includes increased intensity of extreme weather events; floods, wildfires, droughts. In spite of all, many researchers and scientists give us hope for halting down climate change with possible solutions. It is merely ironic that the problem arises before we start to give solutions.

A sensitive topic as climate change knows no boundary and affects all people. The whole basic requirements of life are completely shattered – food, shelter, health, leading to illness and premature death at all ages. There is this inequality and disproportion impacted by climate change. And always the most vulnerable age groups; children, women, elders are the first to be affected. Children are the ones who pay higher prices among all of us; from birth to adulthood they grow in harsh situations all resulting from climate change. It is already an established fact that the threats from climate are intergenerational. If we go through the data, it haunts us imagining how bad we are going to be for our upcoming generation. The Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI) reveals that Coastal flooding affects 240 million children; riverine flooding affects 330 million children; cyclones affect 400 million children; vector-borne diseases affect 600 million children; lead pollution affects 815 million children; heatwaves affect 820 million children; water scarcity affects 920 million children; and extreme weather affects 1 billion children.

We have heard thousands of times that “Climate change impacts the countries with lower emissions”. Because they are developing nations with a limited budget to fund adaptation and mitigation. It is purely a coincidence that children from those nations are at high risk due to their geographical position. UNICEF’s recent report on children found that nearly one billion children, who are almost half the world's 2.2 billion children, live in one of the 33 countries classified as “extremely high-risk”.

Climate change impacts children from every aspect of their living conditions in both ways: directly and indirectly. Their homes and schools are destroyed from storms, floods abandoning shelter and making young girls vulnerable to sexual harassment, deprived of education which in turn leads to a lower level of knowledge for combating climate change. Here, a vicious cycle goes on running, the nation gets a reduced number of skilled people, resulting in a degraded economy, which has an effect on tackling climate change due to finite funding. Another growing problem among children is their physical and mental health. Almost 88 percent of children born have to grow with the burden of diseases. Most children of the world are in the southern region which is vulnerable to climate change. As water-borne diseases like dengue, yellow fever, diarrhea, cholera, and malaria are on an increasing trend. The trauma after any natural disaster includes depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness resulting in low physiological development even after reaching adulthood, affecting their future life. Food insecurity, malnutrition, are more of the effects to add to the impact of climate change on children. Immediate action and its implementation are necessary.

The most promised and practical solution for the very existential threat viz. Climate Change are the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Although out of 17 SGDs, seven of them cover the voice of children indirectly, there isn’t a direct approach to protect children from the impacts of climate change. This issue had risen into a new voice “Climate Crisis as Children's Right Crisis”. And this should be explicitly included in solutions to climate change. Out of curiosity, a question could arise:“why should we be concerned about children on climate change?” Everyone agrees that today’s children are going to experience the worst from climate change, and they are the ones holding decision making in the coming future. With current scenarios of most of the children around the developing states, the developed one will be in that position again, widening the gap of inequalities furthermore. The world needs to make robust decisions in favor of all the innocent little ones. There is a huge need for partnership among organizations working in the children, environment, and policymaking sectors. As parents and elders, we should also act and support for making a better future for our children.