Protecting the planet for future generations has become a near-universal reason — at least among those who accept climate science — to act on climate change. Noted climate scientist James Hansen has said that the U.S. government’s inaction on climate change violates “the fundamental rights of…future generations,” and President Obama said in January that “no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.”
It’s in that spirit that 14 organizations from around the world announced the launch of Our Kids’ Climate, a group that’s calling on world leaders to act on climate for the sake of kids’ futures. The group, launched Tuesday, is focusing its efforts on the Paris climate talks in December. Members plan to deliver a petition — which so far has garnered nearly 4,000 signatures — to world leaders during the conference “demand[ing] actions strong enough to protect the children we love from catastrophic climate change.” The petition, which organizers say is also addressed towards local and state leaders, calls for international commitments to “keep global temperature rise at safe levels” and, ideally, “a world powered by 100 percent clean energy with net zero greenhouse gas emissions.”
The goal of the organization is to connect parents and grandparents who want to join the fight against climate change, Frida Berry Eklund of Sweden’s pro-climate action group Parents Roar said on a press call Tuesday.
“When I became a parent, the threat of catastrophic climate change became much more real to me,” Eklund said. During the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen, the voices of parents and grandparents weren’t as loud as they should have been, she said. This year, Our Kids’ Climate wants to make sure parents and grandparents are heard: the group is planning a march for climate action in Paris during the talks.
Parents wanting the best future possible for their children isn’t surprising, but pushing for climate action in order to safeguard kids’ futures makes sense in more ways than one. A 2013 study from Unicef found that children around the world — especially those in poor countries — will be hit with some of the worst impacts of climate change. According to Unicef, 25 million more children won’t get enough to eat due to climate change by 2030, and they’ll be among the most vulnerable when faced with increased incidence of heatwaves.
“Children’s little bodies are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change,” said Molly Rauch, public health policy director, Moms Clean Air Force. Children’s lungs aren’t yet done growing, she said, which makes them even more vulnerable to smog and other pollutants, and they also take more breaths per minute than adults do. Diarrheal diseases, which are among the leading causes of death in children worldwide, could also increase in incidence as the planet warms. And climate change’s threat to children isn’t a distant one — overall, Rauch said, 88 percent of the deaths caused by climate change in the year 2000 were among children.
“Addressing climate change is an incredible opportunity to give our children not just safe world for the future, but also a world that keeps them healthy today,” she said. “We consider it our moral obligation to take action.”
As parents and grandparents fight for climate action on behalf of their kids, children and young adults themselves have also joined the fray. Twenty young people sued the federal government in August, arguing that inaction on climate change violates their fundamental rights. And youth climate movements have emerged as a strong voice in international climate talks, and the movement to divest from fossil fuel funds has been largely driven by students on college campuses.