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Why is climate change important for children to understand?

Climate change means more than just shifting weather patterns, it is changing the way our children live—and when they are expected to die.

That is the view of Professor Sharyn Rundle-Thiele, Griffith University’s Director of Social Marketing and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Social Marketing.

“Evidence shows that for the first time in human history children’s lifespans are forecast to be shorter than their parents predicted lifespan,” she said.

This is because human behaviour contributing towards climate change is also leading people to be “fatter and unhappier than ever before”, Professor Rundle-Thiele said.

“Our health and social wellbeing are suffering,” she added.

Which is why it is so important to deliver the message of climate change to today’s youngest generation, so they can have a positive impact on the environment of tomorrow, as well as their own lives.


The impact of climate change in Australia

Australia is currently in the grip of the big dry, a drought that has raged for years.

The Australian Government’s Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) reported that 2019 was the warmest March on record in our country.

The Australian Wool Production Forecasting Committee predicts that the 2019 wool clip will be the lowest it has been in over 100 years, because of the enduring drought.

While much of the eastern states is in the grip of drought, North Queensland saw eight days of unprecedented heavy monsoonal rain that saw thousands of homes in the city of Townsville inundated.

That flood was worse than comparable events in 1998 and 1953 and prompted a climate review to be released by BOM. It warned that climate change could see even worse flood events in the future.

“Natural variability in extreme rainfall in Australia is inherently very large, making it more difficult to discern climate change influences,” the report said.

“Nevertheless, it is expected that a warmer atmosphere and ocean will generally lead to an increased likelihood and severity of heavy rainfall events globally.”

And at the same time, a 1,629km fire front ripped through Tasmania, consuming 190,000 hectares of land, including numerous homes and ancient forests. It followed the driest January on record in Tasmania.

How to get children to listen to the impacts of climate change?

There are issues in simply highlighting these scenarios of doom and gloom towards young people.

Client science denial extends all the way to the upper echelons of Federal Parliament, which leads to distrust, while you also don’t want to terrify young children as well.

Professor Rundle-Thiele said the key was positive framing.

“Positive framing is needed to show children at their local level how living practices need to change,” she said.

“Change starts with each and every one of us and there are many things we can do.  If we drink one less plastic water (e.g. a Mount Franklin water from a vending machine), we can change this to be drinking water from a reusable bottle.”

Professor Rundle-Thiele said that humans today eat an average of 68 kilograms of sugar a year, compared to two kilograms in the early 1990s.

She said that by teaching children the values of living better, climate change could be impacted positively and tomorrow’s adults could live better lives.


About the author: Dana Flannery writes as a correspondent for the International WaterCentre, charged with exploring water challenges and the ways these challenges are managed around the world. 

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