Understanding why children are more adversely affected than adults is key to protecting children affected by climate change. But even more imperative is defining “childhood” and what it means in different countries. In many places in the world, childhood is no different than adulthood meaning children are expected to work from an early age and provide income for their families. In situations where children lose one or more parents, they can become the sole provider for the family. The adverse effects of climate change can exasperate the problems these children face.
One such issue is the rural to urban movement that is occurring at a more rapid pace than before from desertification, water loss, and flooding among others. In places like Africa and India, environmental changes are forcing many rural residents into already overcrowded urban centers. “In India, many of Bombay’s young prostitutes, for instance, are girls from very poor rural villages in Nepal, where increasingly inadequate crop yields, among other factors, lead families to sacrifice one child in order that others may survive” (IIED). In this way, climate change has disrupted traditional ways of life (in this case farming) leading to dire consequences of which children suffer the greatest.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child was created to ensure children have “the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life”. Making sure the Convention is upheld especially in regards to climate change is one cornerstone to protecting the most vulnerable. Of course this shouldn’t minimize the resilience that children have as well as their potential as agents of change, but provide a legal framework to ensuring children’s basic rights are met.