Vulnerable Children, Climate Change, and the Need to Act

During rainy days, it’s easy to think about the weather but often harder to think about the changing climate. Yet our rapidly changing climate that poses the immediate threat to the health and well-being of many children around the world.

What are the impacts of climate change and, importantly, how does climate change affect vulnerable children? What is our role as adults and as Global Grandmothers? There’s a lot we can do – if we act now on behalf of today’s children and future generations.

“My parents talk about the beautiful country that we live in. Now I only see small pieces of it, which is enough to make me happy, but because the climate is changing I won’t have anything to show my children.” – Mohammed, age 15, Maldives. 1

Climate change is happening quickly. According to NASA and other climate sources, the hottest years on record are 2017, 2016, and 2012, with all 10 of the world’s hottest years occurring during the past 20 years. Why is this happening? More than 97% of climate change scientists agree that humans are responsible for climate change, due largely to our increased use of fossil fuels.

What are the main impacts of climate change? Climate changes act as an amplifier,
increasing both the frequency and severity of extreme weather events (EWEs) that make headlines, like hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and heat waves. Sometimes less “newsworthy” but equally disastrous are the gradual, insidious changes currently affecting huge geographical areas, nations, and continents. These include prolonged droughts, rising sea levels, changing growing seasons, and the loss of habitable land.

We’re witnessing disastrous effects on ecosystems, including historic increases in species’ extinction. We’re seeing how climate change disrupts basic requirements for human health – water, air, and food, leading to higher mortality and disease prevalence, economic hardships and forced migration. The World Health Organization estimates that 80% of those seriously affected are children.

Combating climate change is an issue that’s in line with the mission of Global Grandmothers. Sudden disasters and gradual changes impact millions of families and their abilities to protect their children. Children, especially poor children, are at disproportionally greater risk from climate change’s deleterious impact.

About 85% of all children live in countries with average or lower than average incomes and fewer resources to deal with catastrophes. It’s also become clear that even wealthy countries, like the U.S., have struggled to protect children and families from impacts of recent “mega” hurricanes and wildfires. Children are also suffering from other impacts of climate change, like the rising prevalence of asthma from increased pollution due to climate change.

Flooding following Hurricane Harvey’s wrath in Houston

Surveys from around the world show that the overwhelming majority of adults and young people agree that climate change poses a real and immediate threat. Despite efforts of climate change deniers, research shows that adults, adolescents, and children are worried:

“I believe that if we as humans do not change our behavior and actions that are affecting the marine life, consequences of these decisions can result in havoc for the entire world.” – Andrea, high school student, Cook Islands 2

This powerful quote comes from an official statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics:

“The social foundations of children’s mental and physical health are threatened by the specter of far-reaching effects of unchecked climate change, including community and global instability, mass migrations, and increased conflict. Given this knowledge, failure to take prompt, substantive action would be an act of injustice to all children. A paradigm shift in production and consumption of energy is both a necessity and an opportunity for major innovation, job creation, and significant, immediate associated health benefits.” 3

Anthony Lake, Executive Director UNICEF (2015), stated the challenge simply and eloquently:

“No human responsibility runs deeper than the charge of every generation to care for the generation that follows it. For current and future generations of children, and for us all, the stakes could not be higher.”

Worldwide, major health organizations and humanitarian NGO’s underscore that children are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change. As caring adults and Global Grandmothers, it’s our responsibility to act, to support children and future generations worldwide.

The nonprofits we support provide needed structure to the most vulnerable children in the world, many of whom are at risk of being negatively affected by climate change. To help on this pressing issue, please support Global Grandmothers, as well as our recommended nonprofits.

In addition, here are some helpful resources for adults and children for how to help further:

For adults:

For children:

A Perspective from a “Non Grandmother” Global Grandmother

In the early 1970’s, I was living in San Francisco, going to graduate school and involved quite heavily in the anti-war movement. At the time, there was an organization called “Another Mother for Peace” which came to my attention. Founded in 1967, it’s logo showed a sunflower with the words, “War is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things”. This non-partisan non-profit’s message asked all mothers to communicate with their local legislators demanding that they stand up for the principle that war must be eliminated. Because it’s mission aligned with my beliefs, I joined. I was in my early 20s and the thought of motherhood was nowhere on my radar screen. The fact that “mother” was in the title of this organization, did not dissuade me from joining their cause. It was the mission that spoke to me. Fast forward a few years and I became aware of another organization that aligned with my beliefs. It was called “Mothers Against Drunk Driving”, otherwise known as MADD. Started in 1980, this non-profit focused on eliminating drunk driving, supporting those affected by drunk driving and establish stricter impaired driving policy. I was not a mother at that time either but I didn’t hesitate to join this organization because it was their mission that spoke to me.

Fast forward to 2011 (that’s right!) and my friend, Diana McDonough came into my office asking if she could talk to me about an idea she had. She proceeded to lay out her vision of what would become Global Grandmothers. When I proceeded to tell her I was not a grandmother, her response was that I need not be concerned because it was about the mission of supporting children worldwide that was important. Among many things, Global Grandmothers would vet non-profits and recommend a handful ensuring that anyone visiting the site, could be assured their donation would go directly to those in need.  Once again, I found myself not only becoming a part of an organization that, technically, has a name that “disqualified” me from the group but also helping Diana establish the organization. One of the sayings we have in GG is “You don’t have to be a grandmother to be a global grandmother”. How true this is! It is the mission and the implementation of the mission that is important.

Kate sporting a Global Grandmothers Tee

Looking back, I am happy that I joined these worthy endeavors and did not shy away simply because of the title. Whether you are a sister, daughter, aunt, niece etc., look to the mission and jump in! It doesn’t end with just women either….Global Grandmothers has grandfathers, husbands, brothers, and uncles who are all part of our mission as well! I know that in the future, I may very well be a grandmother. But, whether I am or not, I know I will always be a Global Grandmother!