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CEP Tackles Effects of Climate Change on Children’s Health

Panelists at the CEP Event

Scientists, policy leaders and public health experts broadcast many messages warning of the effects of climate change. On the Monday following Mother’s Day 2015, a new, important message crystallized: Let’s support parents.

The Woodrow Wilson Center in downtown Washington, DC hosted an important panel co-sponsored by the School of Public Affairs’ Center for Environmental Policy (CEP) and the Children's Environmental Health Network. Entitled “The Social and Economic Costs of Climate Change on Children’s Health”, the conference became a rallying cry toward policymakers to help enact laws that will help parents across the country tackle the effects of climate change on their children’s well being including their health, wellness, and ability to learn.

Children, panelists argued, are especially susceptible to the negative effects of a changing climate. “We talk a lot about celebrating mothers and fathers…but we don’t do a lot for them,” said Sylvia Brandt, associate professor at UMASS-Amherst. “We see that you are struggling and that it is impacting you,” she exclaimed, further posing the question what can academics and policymakers do to support families struggling to cope with the environmental effects on their children.

Research presented at the conference highlighted the interconnectedness of climate change and health effects. The social and economic burdens of asthma, for example, illustrate the difficulties faced by all members of the family. As extreme heat events become more frequent, asthma prevalence is likely to rise, and the illness is further exacerbated by changes in ragweed and ozone levels. Lisa Palmer, a panelist from the Wilson Center tweeted:

Mothers of kids with asthma: 18% of these moms forced out of labor market due to kids' chronic illness. #cep2015 #climate

— Lisa_Palmer (@Lisa_Palmer) May 11, 2015

The conference both addressed the impacts of climate change on children’s health, and provided examples of how communities are working to mitigate those impacts. Dan Fiorino, the director of CEP, and William K. Reilly, founder of TPG Global and recent commencement speaker for SPA, welcomed panelists and viewers, setting the stage for the four-hour long conference.

“Children are ready to know about the environment, they want to know about it—not just in self-interest, but as part of their broader curiosity,” Reilly told audience members.

Ultimately, the panelists introduced a positive set of goals moving forward including the integration of academic fields due to the interconnectedness of climate change issues, and empowering curious youth to tackle the effects of climate change. “The top concern now is getting people to move from short-term to long-term thinking and policies in these issues,” Fiorino concluded.