Sixty percent of young people between 16 and 25 are “extremely worried about climate change” and seventy-five percent feel “the future is frightening”.
These are some of the findings of a poll conducted with about 10,000 young people in Australia, Brazil, Finland, France, India, Nigeria, the Philippines, Portugal, the UK, and the US.
If you think their fears are unfounded, here is another study from UNICEF, nearly half the world’s 2.2 billion children are already at “extremely high risk” from the impacts of the climate crisis and pollution.
About 1 billion kids living in many countries across the globe are under the constant threat of extreme weather events, including heatwaves, floods, cyclones, disease, drought, and air pollution.
Those fears are not unfounded, in a study from the Inter-sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISIMIP), researchers have found that children born today will suffer many times more from extreme climate events than today’s adults.
As per Henrietta Fore, Unicef executive director, “Climate change is deeply inequitable. While no child is responsible for rising global temperatures, they will pay the highest costs. The children from countries least responsible will suffer most of all,”
As you could imagine, in case of an adverse event, the calamity not only endangers a child’s physical health but also threatens their education, security, and their mental well-being.
The Unicef report also points out the number of children that are already exposed to threats like heatwaves (820 million), water scarcity (920 million), or air pollution (1 billion).
Considering this narrative, it is not surprising that many children and teenagers have started raising their voices against government apathy towards climate action. Children from across the globe have formed communities and are raising slogans, holding placards on the streets, and joining protest marches for environmental protection.
Greta Thunberg, a teenage Swedish activist, has become a household name for her efforts in urging world leaders to become serious about tackling climate change.
What can parents do for their children about climate change?
Whether your children are already part of Climate Change activism or not, a child may still be anxiously sitting and wondering what is going on. While scrolling through their Instagram feed, children might come across events and pictures which might be ambiguous and feed their insecurities.
Hence, as a parent of a kid, it is your responsibility to play a part in preparing your child for his/her future. It is incredibly important for you to assuage their strong opinions and rebellious streaks.
Preparing children for climate change will leave them better equipped to find innovative solutions and lead more sustainable lives in the future.
Here are a few things you can do, to make your children understand climate change and the actions children can take.
First and foremost, personally equip yourself with the right facts about climate change. I am sure you would have heard people saying climate change is a hoax, etc, but an increasing number of scientists have rebutted their claims. Moreover, irrespective of the people who deny climate change, extreme weather events definitely suggest that things are not right with our climate and weather patterns across the globe. Hence increasing your knowledge will greatly help in improving your approach to climate change.
Ask your child’s school to teach about climate change and global warming. While there is a larger debate about whether schools should teach children about climate change or not. The skeptics suggest that sharing information with children about climate change will do them more harm than good, on other hand, there is an opinion to make children adept in their understanding of this subject. Having said that, it is better to leave it to schools and teachers to answer children’s queries about climate change. Schools can also rope in external experts to impart age-appropriate learning that is backed by research in this field.
Motivate children to sit with their grandparents, a senior neighbor, or a family member to enquire about climate changes that senior people have observed in their lifetime.
Encourage healthy practices among your children like waste recycling, composting, upcycling, gardening, buying locally sourced products, and energy-saving behavior.
Lead by example, by demonstrating environment-friendly habits, like carrying your own bag while shopping, discouraging the purchase of items sold in single-use plastic, minimizing food wastage, etc will motivate them to emulate your actions.
Action against climate change is urgent but we are not helpless, inform the kids of various solutions that are available to tackle climate change. Instead of giving a doomsday scenario, educate children about renewable energy, green hydrogen, food science, carbon sequestration, biofuels, etc.
Share positive stories of the people and communities that are making the impact at the ground level. We have created a few stories of the people and groups that are making an impact.
Whenever going on a holiday, including a visit to a forest, mountain, beach, or agricultural farm, will help children become more conscious of our biodiversity and food production.
Increase your children’s understanding of our physical and social world by giving them the opportunity to get involved in community programs, like waste collection, beach cleanup, tree plantation, gardening, food distribution, etc. Climate change is not a region or a specific country problem, hence working in a community will also give them hope to collectively work together for a shared cause and greater good. Post the activity, reward their efforts and applaud their contribution to society and the planet.
Make your kids appreciate indigenous knowledge as a way to live more sustainably. Traditional ecological knowledge and practices can play a significant part in our efforts to preserve biodiversity and mitigate the impact of climate change.
Show your willingness to learn from your children about climate change and the environment as well. Either from their school, community, or the internet, they might have picked reasonable information on the subject and are likely that children will know more than you. Instead of negating their knowledge, you can learn from your children and probably do a cross-check of that information.
Appreciate their judgments even if it is contrary to your beliefs. If your children feel a need to give away their meat-eating habits and adopt a plant-based or vegan diet, instead of confronting them, having constructive communication will help you and your child.
Remind your children about the misinformation that exists in media, hence they do not have to believe everything that is shown or available. In case they have a climate-related query, which you are not able to answer, either direct them to an expert or their teacher.
Finally, make sure that you are not pushing your own concerns while talking to kids, the idea is not to scare them, but to empower them.
Teaching children about climate change is not only about giving them harsh realities but also about preparing them for the future. Children need to be enabled with the right skills so that they can contribute with new ideas and solutions.
Though young people are the least responsible group for environmental damage but will face the disastrous consequences of the climate crisis. Providing children with climate education and green skills will be significant for their preparedness for the effects of climate change.