rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Climate-altering negligence is endangering our children

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Two children hold up signs at the global climate strike in London, England, 2019. Image: Garry Knight/Flickr

Most people try to keep their children and grandchildren safe and wouldn't knowingly put them at risk. Maybe that's why some ignore or deny the climate crisis. It's easier than admitting that, by our actions, we're condemning those we love to an increasingly uncertain future.

A new UNICEF report and the "Children's Climate Risk Index" shows that almost half the world's children -- one billion -- live in countries where they face "extremely high risk" from "climate and environmental hazards, shocks and stresses."

This, the report says, "is creating a water crisis, a health crisis, an education crisis, a protection crisis and a participation crisis. It is threatening children's very survival. In all these ways, it is infringing on children's rights -- as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child."

It's another reason why young people are again taking to the streets and social media to demand climate action instead of enjoying more carefree activities. We've failed them and continue to fail them.

Much of the blame falls on the fossil fuel and automobile companies and their supporters in government and media -- who have long had the knowledge and power to make changes but instead intentionally worked against even the smallest efforts to address human-caused climate disruption.

UNICEF launched the report, The Climate Crisis Is a Child Rights Crisis: Introducing the Children's Climate Risk Index, in collaboration with Fridays for Future on the third anniversary of the youth-led international climate strike movement. (The next global strike is September 24.)

The index categorizes risk factors under two pillars: "Exposure to climate and environmental shocks and stresses" and "Child vulnerability." The former includes water scarcity; riverine and coastal flooding; tropical cyclones; vector-borne diseases; heat waves; and air, water and soil pollution. The latter includes child health and nutrition; education; water, sanitation and hygiene; and poverty, communication assets and social protection.

The study found that almost every child on Earth is exposed to at least one major climate or environmental hazard, shock or stress, and that most are exposed to two or three overlapping risks. The one billion children who "face a deadly combination of exposure to multiple climate and environmental shocks with a high vulnerability due to inadequate essential services" live in 33 countries, mostly in Africa.

Those countries account for less than nine per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, while the 10 highest-emitting nations are responsible for 70 per cent.

"Climate change is deeply inequitable," UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said.

"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. But there is still time to act. Improving children's access to essential services, such as water and sanitation, health, and education, can significantly increase their ability to survive these climate hazards."

The long-term solution is to radically reduce emissions starting immediately and get to net zero before 2050 to keep Earth from heating more than 1.5 C over pre-industrial levels. But we've stalled so long, much of the heating is already locked in and won't reverse for decades, which, as the report states, will be too late for many children.

"Unless we invest heavily in adaptation and resilience of social services for the 4.2 billion children born over the next 30 years, they will face increasingly high risks to their survival and well-being," it states. "Any adaptations must be based on a careful assessment of both the type and nature of the climate and environmental hazard, shock or stress, as well as the degree to which children are vulnerable."

The report outlines many solutions, including improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene services, and investing in education, health, nutrition, protection and poverty reduction.

It also makes clear that we must listen to our children, "not by paying lip service, or through tokenistic engagements, but with the scale and force that is commensurate with the magnitude of the issue at hand."

We can't stand by and let children suffer for our behaviours. From supporting climate strikes to voting as if their future depends on it -- because it does -- we must do all we can today to ensure they have a safe and livable tomorrow.

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Writer and Editor Ian Hanington.          

Learn more at davidsuzuki.org.

Image: Garry Knight/Flickr

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.