Climate change is a global phenomenon that affects all of us. It is impacting us on a daily basis. Some of the impacts faced are extreme temperatures, flooding, droughts, stronger typhoons, poor air quality, sea-level rise, increased spread of diseases, and so on. These physical events lead to other secondary impacts such as the displacement of families and reduced quality of life.
Children’s Physical Health
Firstly, looking at children’s health, their bodies are different from those of adults in numerous ways which make them more prone to the impacts of climate change. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that children are more prone to sickness and injuries. Their lungs breathe in more air (per pound of body weight) than adults, so children living in polluted areas are more likely to develop asthma due to the increased PM 2.5 exposure. Pollution is also known to worsen pregnancy outcomes. Children have relatively less fluid in their bodies and are more likely to lose body heat. Therefore they are more likely to experience heat stroke or hypothermia as our weather becomes more extreme.
Extreme weather events impact the poorest and most vulnerable in our community greatly. The most vulnerable within these communities are children. Drought and flooding have direct impacts on food and financial security for these communities. Without a stable income or enough food on the table, families tend to remove children from schools for child labor as a way to meet the basic needs of the families.
Spread of Diseases
The overall warming of our planet negatively affects a lot of life forms. There are several species that thrive under warmer conditions, this includes disease vectors. The spread of malaria is optimized at 25 degrees Celsius while Zika’s spread is maximized at 29 degrees Celsius. Mosquitoes are predominantly found around the equator, and as the global temperatures rise, latitudes further from the equator will also have favorable conditions for these insects. This will lead to increased cases of insect-borne diseases further north and south.
Youth in their teen years and above have a better understanding of the world around them. More and more youth are aware of the impacts of climate change, and this is creating “climate anxiety”. Young people are worried that insufficient action is being taken towards climate action and this is leading to feelings of anxiety, helplessness, and uncertainty.
By covering the above-mentioned areas, I’d like to get the point across that climate change has been impacting our youth regularly and the impacts faced are only going to worsen unless some drastic measures are taken by our society as a whole. In the meantime, our hospitals and governments need to better understand, prepare and protect youth to ensure that they have a good quality of life.