How Climate Change Affects Children

Canada produces three to four times as much greenhouse gas emissions per capita compared with the global average. While you probably already know some information about climate change, you may not know how climate change is related to children’s rights.

Climate change is an issue that poses a threat to everyone, but children are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Whether you’re a parent, caregiver, teacher, or other adult who regularly interacts with children, you need to be aware of this major problem affecting children.

Here’s what you need to know about how climate change affects children.

Climate change directly and indirectly affects children’s health.

One of the troubling effects of climate change is that it lowers the quality of life available for children. The negative health effects associated with climate change affect all children, but children in populations that are already vulnerable experience even more risk.

First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities face food insecurity as climate change threatens their traditional food systems. As wildlife habits are altered due to climate change, indigenious people have seen their harvests decline. 

Children in racialized communities living in the lowest income neighbourhoods are also more vulnerable to climate change-related health issues. Heat waves, poor air quality, and extreme weather have a greater effect on these communities because residents rarely have the resources needed to escape these conditions.

However, even though climate change has a greater impact on children in more vulnerable communities, the negative health effects can cause problems for children across the social spectrum. All children are at risk of suffering mental health impacts due to stress and anxiety about climate change.

Children are aware of climate change and are leading movements for change.

While children’s concern over climate change is causing feelings of stress and anxiety, some children are taking action for change. At both a local level and a national level, members of Children First Canada’s Youth Advisory Council and Young Canadians Parliament are advocating for and leading climate action movements.

Amelia Penney-Crocker from Halifax, Nova Scotia is one of these activists. She considers climate change to be the most urgent issue related to children’s rights that Canada is currently dealing with. Amelia brought awareness to climate change by writing a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau each day in 2020 and is currently organizing local protests highlighting the lack of action about the climate crisis with Fridays For Future.

Rae Steeves is another young activist leading actions for change. She has been working with grassroots groups since she was 13. Steeves has brought attention to many of the issues threatening children’s rights, including the dangers posed by climate change.

These are just two of the young activists calling for climate action in Canada. Children across the country are aware of the problems related to climate change and are using both their voices and their actions to advocate for their concerns.

The Canadian government needs to change its response to climate change in order to protect children’s health.

Climate action activists and groups aren’t just bringing awareness to the issue associated with climate change. They are calling for change at the government level. The recommendations include investing in necessary funding and resources as well as monitoring the impact of climate change on indigenous and marginalized populations. In the Children First Canada’s Raising Canada 2021 Report, the recommendation at the clinical level is to train physicians to recognize and manage the risks for children associated with climate change. This includes both physical and mental risks.

Climate change is not a problem that can be solved solely on an individual basis. Canada needs to have a strong coordinated approach at the government level to minimize the effects of climate change and help protect children’s health.

Children First Canada is dedicated to being a voice for all Canadian children. Learn more about our work in regards to this issue as well as many other issues that affect children.