How the Climate Crisis Impacts Children’s Lives
In our research, 42% of children surveyed stated they had been impacted by the climate crisis (figure 1). This includes increased flooding across the country and extreme weather events such as Storm Ophelia. Participants stated that weather conditions are negatively affecting their everyday lives. One participant stated that their crops are dying more frequently in the heat waves Ireland is experiencing. Another drew attention to flooding in Cork City, and how this has had a negative effect on their sense of safety as well as the local economy and livelihoods. Participants described excess waste of water in heatwaves, and heating in ‘freezing winters’, as well as increased anxiety as a result of experiencing these abnormal weather conditions.
As a result of this, children outlined a negative impact on their mental health and sense of security. Children outlined feelings of anxiety and a burden of responsibility as a result of a lack of action by current generations in power. They also stated they did not feel they were receiving adequate support, or that the government was taking adequate climate action which is compounding the negative impact on their mental health. Below are some of the ways children described this:
How, if at all, has the climate crisis impacted your mental health and feeling of security?
- “Climate change has made me question if I have a future. It’s horrible to know that climate change will probably cause my death and yet no one seems to be doing anything about it”
- “The poor air quality due to climate change and other industrial work in my town has severely harmed both my physical and mental health”
- “The government has done nothing about [the climate crisis] and it makes me fear for the security of my fellow townspeople and I”
- “I am in constant fear of losing my family as a result of climate change (e.g. due to air quality), as someone who is very anxious it causes me a lot of mental stress and depression”
- “General climate anxiety gets to me when I consider my future and if there will be a livable future at all”
Alongside this impact on children’s mental health, we heard fears around their future and development. Children outlined feeling ‘helpless and hopeless’ stating ‘the future is honestly terrifying’. Members of the Focus Group outlined how climate change has impacted how they plan for the future. They stated that they are ‘unsure’ about what the planet will look like and that ‘climate change threatens the existence of my future’. Children asked ‘do I want to bring children into a world with climate change?’ when discussing their future, further illustrating the profound impact the climate crisis is having on their sense of security.
From this, it becomes clear that the climate crisis is causing a negative impact on children’s mental health and sense of security, which is being increased by a feeling of a lack of action.
Children’s Views on Government Action
Participants, overall, felt the government has not taken adequate action to stop the climate crisis, and mitigate its harm. Children outlined a need for action on the crisis as a whole, support to protect communities, and increased mental health support.
Participants outlined a lack of action from the Irish government in drastically lowering emissions, achieving climate justice, and tackling the roots of the crisis. A “burden of responsibility” was referenced by one child, who felt that our generation will have to be the ones to ‘clean up’ after this government does not take the action needed. Another stated this lack of action has caused them to “fear for the security” of themselves and their community. Participants’ feelings about the action taken by the Irish government to tackle the climate crisis are illustrated below:
Children also outlined a lack of adequate support from the government in dealing with the impacts of the climate crisis. 15% of participants gave a score of 1 (1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest) when asked ‘How well is your community-supported in dealing with the impacts of the climate crisis?’ (Figure 2). Over ¾ (78.6) gave a score of 3 or below. This shows a lack of support for communities in facing the climate crisis, and further adds to the negative impact on children’s sense of security and safety in relation to this crisis.
Finally, building upon the impact of the climate crisis on children’s mental health, participants described a lack of adequate mental health support. This, coupled with a failure to take effective climate action, further damages children’s sense of security and safety.
- Systemic action to tackle the climate crisis.
- Clear communication of action being taken, without greenwashing.
- Investment in and expansion of mental health services for young people.
- Community support for resilience and adaptation to protect young people from the impacts of the climate crisis.