Editorial Roundup: Climate change is taking a toll on our children

Published 8:50 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Why it matters: Climate change is taking a devastating toll on the world’s children and will continue to do so unless action is taken.

For those of us in the Midwest, a multi-year drought is the most familiar face of climate change.

As a result, we deal with low lake and river levels, encounter some restrictions on watering and worry about area crop production.

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For millions of children across the world, they no longer have homes because of the extreme weather events brought on by climate change. Their lives already have been forever changed.

A United Nations Children’s Fund report released this month cites that 43 million displacements involving children occurred between 2016 and 2021 because of climate-change disasters. More than 113 million displacements of children will occur in the next three decades, the UNICEF report estimates.

Children had to leave their homes at least 1.3 million times because of drought in the years covered by the report — more than half of them in Somalia — but this is likely an undercount, the report said.

Floods displaced children more than 19 million times in places such as India and China. Wildfires impacted children 810,000 times in the U.S. and Canada. And, of course, the most marginalized communities bear the brunt of the devastation because they can’t afford to flee before it’s too late.

So far, the world’s leaders are doing little to protect the children who lose their homes because of climate change. The report makes it clear: The world has yet to recognize climate migrants and find formal ways of protecting them.

As the report authors say, policymakers and the private sector need to ensure climate and energy planning takes into account risks to children.

It’s a moral obligation. It means rendering aid efficiently and developing short- and long-term plans of support.

Besides children needing their basic needs attended to — food, clothing, safe and hygienic shelter, medical care — the devastating effects on mental health during these times of upheaval and instability are also an issue.

Natural disasters can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, says a new report from the American Psychological Association. Heat, drought and poor air quality can increase the risks of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, aggression, cognitive impairment and more.

Populations of the world can’t attain an acceptable quality of life when their children grow up under such circumstances.

We know what scientists predicted for years and now climate change and its impacts are fully upon us. Supporting science’s efforts to roll back climate change is imperative, and immediacy is of utmost importance. It’s up to all adults to do what they can to change this tide of destruction and protect our most vulnerable — the world’s children.

— Mankato Free Press, Oct. 16

About Editorial Roundup

Editorials from newspapers around the state of Minnesota.

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