The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just released a report, “Climate Change and Children’s Health and Well-Being in the United States.” It’s a critically important national-scale, multi-sector 108 pages quantifying projected health effects to children from climate change.
The report focuses on five climate stressors that are already happening and will continue to impact children, defined here as younger than 18, in unique ways:
- extreme heat
- air quality
- changing seasons
- infectious diseases (especially tick-borne illness)
On every page, EPA’s report aligns deeply with our own work. “We’ve been saying for ten years that children are at the heart of our concern about global warming. EPA’s new report shows exactly how devastating the impacts of a warming world are on those we hold most dear,” said Moms Director and Co-Founder Dominique Browning.
Children’s growing and developing bodies are uniquely vulnerable to these five climate stressors. Where possible, the new report details the extent to which these risks disproportionately fall on children from overburdened populations, including children of color and those in low-income communities.
EPA’s report describes and quantifies the future impacts of climate change on children in the US at two different projected levels of climate warming—at 2 and at 4 degrees—based on the best-available literature and data. No one can say exactly when these levels of warming will occur, but some estimates suggest we will reach 2 degrees by 2040.
“EPA’s new report offers a clear, compelling overview of how climate change impacts our children’s health. Its findings underscore the necessity of considering children’s well-being in every climate policy—and the moral urgency of taking effective action to stop climate pollution on behalf of younger and future generations,” said Moms Clean Air Force Senior Policy Analyst Elizabeth Bechard. She added that she found the report, a snapshot of what life in the US may be like for our grandchildren and their children, “painful to read.”
It’s also necessary to read as it offers a critical roadmap for policymakers, parents, teachers, health care providers, and childcare workers by highlighting both the challenges we face as well as potential solutions.
Bechard shared a few heartbreaking details from the dense, comprehensive report that stood out to her personally on Twitter. “At 2 degrees of warming, the cost of learning losses due to extreme heat may reach up to $6.9 billion,” she wrote. The baseline period used as reference throughout the report is 1986 to 2005. Bechard also shared:
- Vermont, where she currently lives, may see high levels of learning losses due to extreme heat because most schools and homes there currently lack air conditioning.
- Without additional adaptation, approximately 185,000 children are estimated to experience complete home loss from coastal flooding at 50 cm of global sea rise. 13,000 of these children would be in Bechard’s native state, North Carolina.
- At 4 degrees of warming, there may be up to 89,600 new cases of pediatric asthma per year due to poor air quality including increases in particle pollution and ozone.
If you’re interested in learning more about the report without reading 108 pages, there’s an executive summary with key findings and a useful glossary. EPA is also holding a community briefing 5/22. You can register here.
Ultimately “Climate Change and Children’s Health and Well-Being” in the United States is a loud call to action to anyone who cares about kids. The final chapter of the report details what we can all do to minimize health impacts of climate in children beyond the “urgency to act to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that cause climate change.”
It could not be clearer that we all have to act now on climate—and keep acting. One way to do this is to join Moms Clean Air Force in advocating for public health and clean air protections.
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