By Sheshu Babu*
“We are causing the problem, but our children and grandchildren are going to suffer the consequences” — James Hansen on climate change
Voicing concerns on deteriorating climate and rising pollution levels, children have started to register their protests. Tens of thousands of school children skipped school to march on streets demanding more action on climate change as world leaders gather at a major UN summit in Poland. (Children demand climate change action through protests and lawsuits, by Lin Taylor, December 3, 2018, www.csmonitor.com). In US and Canada too, young people are suing their governments.
A short course on the theme of children and climate change introduces a children’s perspective to discussions on how to deal with this global crisis. (“Children and Climate Change”, provider UNICEF UN CC Learn, agora.unicef.org). This module deals with the impact of climate change on children, empowerment of children as actors of change and how children’s resilience can be strengthened.
In a book ‘School Climate Change: How do I build a positive environment for learning? (ASCD Arias)’ by Peter DeWitt and Sean Slade,(www.ascd.org) the authors explain the most important aspects of school climate and how positive changes can improve academic achievement at all levels of learning. Free resources for the children of 11 – aged pupils has been made available to study and understand the concepts (“Climate Change/ Schools/ Practical Action”, https://practicalaction.org). The resources include lessons, posters and activities, etc.
Learning depends on classroom environment as a study from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government states, “Without airconditioning each 1°F increase in school year temperature reduces the amount learned that year by one percent” (“Too hot for learning: How Climate Change Impacts Students”, by Katy Farber, June 12, 2018, momscleanairforce.org). The research provides more evidence on how climate change impacts children and would continue if action is not taken at the earliest by updating school buildings with better ventilation and air conditioning.
In 2004, the World Health Organization ( WHO) has already estimated 160 000 death and 5.5 million disability- adjusted life years lost to climate change annually, with children carrying almost 90% of this burden and 99% occurring in low and middle income countries. (McMichael et al 2004, Zhang 2007). More recent figures show that global warming is already or will be responsible for an additional 250 000 to 400 000 deaths per year between 2030 and 2050 (DARA 2012 , Hales et al 2014).
Children are smaller than adults and their different and more sensitive physiological, behavioural and developmental requirements increase their exposure and long term impacts. (Children and climate change: No time for games, by Karen Kiang and David Isaacs, 3 December 2018, doctorportal.com.au). Children face the biggest climate – change related injustice – a transgression of intergenerational equity. They are more vulnerable to their surrounding environment and are less able to cope with its physical and psychological stresses and harms.
Therefore, they should be protected from the dangers of carbon emissions. Awareness of climate change from childhood helps in preparing for a safer pollution- free world as they can learn the impact from early age. A well prepared syllabus on climate change from kindergarten to high school can make children grow up with precautions to be taken to avert harmful effects of climate change by avoiding fossil fuels and using eco- friendly energy.
*Writer from anywhere and everywhere supports drastic measures for clean and green environment