Climate change: children’s challenge

Climate change is real and happening now. And it is set to pose an even greater challenge in the future if
appropriate action is not taken.
In developing countries today, children face the
challenge of climate change, despite being least
responsible for its causes. More severe and more
frequent natural disasters, food crises and changing
rainfall patterns are all threatening children’s lives
and their basic rights to education, health, clean
water and the right food. The impact of climate
change is projected to be more intense in the
immediate and long-term future, suggesting that
children of today and subsequent generations
will bear the brunt of climate change. The cost
of inaction will place a great economic burden on
future generations. Children will bear the higher
costs of not taking action today.
Developed and developing countries are affected by
climate change, both directly and indirectly. While
the impact of climate change-related events may
be less severe in developed countries – largely
because of greater economic resiliency –Hurricane
Sandy (2012) showed that intense storms have
the capacity to wreak havoc in even the most
economically developed nations. Sandy claimed
the lives of 73 people and caused US $68 billion of
damage in the United States.
Children and young people in developed countries
are acutely aware of climate change, and are
passionate and vocal about the need for action by
governments to tackle the problem. UNICEF UK/
Ipsos MORI polling carried out in 2013 highlighted
that 74 per cent of young people (age 11–16) in
Britain agreed that they are worried about how
climate change will affect their future and believe
the world will have changed as a result of climate
change by the time they are adults. More than
seven out of 10 wanted the UK Government to do
more to tackle climate change. Moreover, nearly
two-thirds (63 per cent) were worried about how
climate change will affect children and families in
developing countries, demonstrating a high level
of concern for children in other countries. Similar
polling in the US showed that nearly three out of
four young voters said they are less likely to vote
for someone who opposes President Obama’s
landmark plan on climate change.1 The evidence
is clear: children bear the brunt of the impact
of climate change and want to see change on
the issue.
Ahead of the UN Secretary General’s High Level
Meeting on Climate Change in 2014 and the
signing of a new global deal in 2015, this report
collates perspectives of young people from all over
the world. Gathered from five years of UNICEF
research at international, national and regional level,
accompanied by key statistics and analysis of the
current and expected impacts of climate change on
children. It shows how children are experiencing the
impacts of climate change right now and their fears
for the future. The evidence in this report highlights
that climate change is perhaps the greatest
challenge facing children today.
Climate change has too often been discussed and
debated in abstract terms, negating the human costs
and placing little attention on its intergenerational
impact. Figures on projected impacts of climate
change give us a sense of the world in 2030, 2050
and beyond. While these projections are hugely
important, they must be combined with a focus on
those who will have to live with the reality of the
state of the planet. A child born in 2012 will be 18 in
2030 and 38 in 2050. Climate change is not about
a future we won’t live to see. It is about now and
about the future for our children.
Urgent action on climate change is needed to ensure
that the state of our planet allows children to survive
and flourish today and in the future. We need to
listen to what children are saying, and take action to
ensure we build the future they want to see.

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