Climate Change and Children’s Health
Originally posted on Healthy Child Healthy World blog.
Disclaimer: I’m not a mom, but I have one. And I don’t have any children, but I apparently act like one from time to time. With that said, I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this blog with the Healthy Child Healthy World community.
For the better part of six years I’ve worked within the Washington, DC climate policy scene. I’ve seen why they say “Making laws is like making sausage” — you might like the final product but you don’t want to see what goes into it. I’ve also seen the best American democracy has to offer– when informed, concerned citizens make their voices heard. But during this time we have not seen the sort of meaningful action on climate change that the science clearly calls for.
Unlike so many other important issues folks care about, climate change is both a problem into and of itself, and is a macro-stressor: it makes other problems a lot worse. So, say you are concerned about asthma. Why should you also care about climate change? Because doctors and other experts believe climate change will increase the number and severity of asthma cases. Maybe your kids love getting outside to ski or fish. What’s the climate connection? Climate change is affecting snowfall and causing earlier, more dramatic spring ice melts—meaning significant shifts in snowfall during the winter as well as changing river conditions in the spring and summer (because many rivers are fed by melting snow and ice throughout the spring and summer). My friends at Protect Our Winters are seeing this sort of climate impact firsthand. And I’m sure your kids like to eat (that’s one area where I’m still quite youthful)! As climate change worsens, droughts and extreme weather like we’ve seen recently will put even greater strain on our agriculture system— impacting the price, quality, and quantity of food.
There’s a ton of junk out there about the state of the climate “debate”… but the facts are clear: climate change is happening and it’s caused by heat-trapping pollution (largely from burning fossil fuels and destroying forests). But don’t take my word for it: one of the world’s largest banks, Deutsche Bank, even produced a very helpful guide to climate denialist claims, to help investors and the public make sense out of all the false claims bouncing around. In fact, plenty of businesses are working on climate solutions, and preparing to deal with the climate impacts we can’t avoid due to pollution already in our sky.
So by now I bet you are saying: “Thanks for freaking me out about climate change, JP. But what can I do about this?”
For starters, getting educated about the facts behind climate change and real-world impacts is key. Just as my mom told me, and I bet you tell your kids, you can’t solve a problem unless you understand it. To help break this complicated issue down for younger children in an entertaining way, check out online resources like Ranger Rick, and Climate Kids. Teaching good habits like turning off lights and shutting the faucet can help connect children to larger world issues in ways that make sense to them—and save money for you!
And if you really want to get active on climate, you can contact your elected officials—from your Mayor to your Senators, and even the President. An informed note from a mother and constituent speaks volumes to those eager to keep their jobs. And if you think your email doesn’t matter, think again. As they say: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Written by JP Leous, Outreach Director US Climate Action Network.
Healthy Child Healthy World is creating a world where every child has the opportunity to grow-up in a healthy and safe environment, free of toxic chemicals. Please visit www.healthychild.org for more information.