What is Climate Change?
Rising global temperatures are causing major physical, chemical, and ecological changes to the planet. There is wide consensus among scientific organizations and climatologists that these broad effects, known as "climate change," are the result of contemporary human activity.
Why is Climate Change a Child Health Issue?
Climate change poses threats to human health, safety, and security, and children are at particularly high risk. The effects of climate change on child health include:
- Physical and psychological sequelae of weather disasters (e.g. hurricanes, flooding, wildfires)
- Increased heat stress
- Decreased air quality
- Altered vector-borne disease patterns
- Food, water, and nutrient insecurity
Pediatricians are already seeing the effects of climate change in their patients. Because of climate change, winters are shorter, making outdoor allergy seasons longer and warmer. This worsens allergies and increases the chances of asthma symptoms. Ozone Action Days are becoming more frequent as emergency departments receive more asthma-related admissions each year.
The social foundations of children's mental and physical health are threatened by the specter of far-reaching effects of unchecked climate change, including community and global instability, mass migrations, and increased conflict. Given this knowledge, failure to take prompt, substantive action would be an act of injustice to all children. A paradigm shift in production and consumption of energy is both a necessity and an opportunity for major innovation, job creation, and significant, immediate associated health benefits.
The AAP is part of a public health movement to educate, advocate, and collaborate with local and national leaders regarding the risks climate change pose to human health. In addition to mitigation strategies, ongoing research into the links between climate and health outcomes and the development of medical and public health interventions to protect individuals and communities from inevitable changes is needed.
Pediatricians, as advocates for children, who are the most vulnerable to the health effects of climate change, have a valuable role to play in this movement. The AAP recognizes this opportunity and is working with its members and partners to ensure the health and welfare of children are prioritized.
Information for Pediatricians
Information for Parents/Caregivers
EPA Climate Change Fact Sheets