Protecting our children from climate change threat

Recently I’ve spotted young mums leaving kids in cars, the engine running and air-conditioner on, as they pop into the shops. Everything about this scenario is wrong. Small children on the loose in a running vehicle is already a disaster waiting to happen. But so, too, is the waste of fossil fuels.

Just because western society can do such things doesn’t mean we should. Those children – supposing they survive being left unsupervised in the trendy, black car on a hot day – may come to resent this casual negligence for their future wellbeing.

What are kids to think if our generation squibs the chance to prevent climate change? If we continue on our current path we risk more intense bushfires, more heat-related deaths, floods, food and water-borne diseases.

Children are more vulnerable to such impacts because of their small size and relatively immature body systems.

Secondary climate effects will be more subtle, but arguably more devastating. More droughts will affect our agricultural output, while altered seasons and insect numbers or habits may affect pollination and reduce food production, even in wet years. Higher CO2 also reduces the protein content of some crops.

With constant reminders (via social media and television news) of major disasters, our children’s mental health is also at risk. Parents generally underestimate their children’s anxiety about climate change.

Their own inaction sends a dangerous message that there’s no hope. The antidote? Parental activism!

Start by turning off the car engine when parked and explain climate change and health to the youngest of children. Tell your friends, get active and give your kids the gift of hope!

Dr Jo McCubbin is a paediatrician based in Sale, Victoria and board member of the Climate and Health Alliance.