Parents have it harder, kids have it hotter
Today’s parents have it harder than ever. On top of teaching kids to walk and be kind and read, we must answer new questions. When do we give him a cellphone? Will she ruin her hearing with those loud headphones? When do we let the twins start tweeting?
Kids are too young to make choices like these for themselves, so their parents must decide. That’s what parents do.
Mothers and fathers aren’t tackling these modern questions alone. We can lean on age-old values. Health. Safety. Responsibility. To live by these values and give our children a vibrant future, we may need to consider another modern issue: global warming.
How much hotter could America get for today’s toddlers? How do we protect and prepare them? These are challenges, and America’s parents can rise to them. Moms and Dads always do.
Growing up in a hotter world
A child born today will live in a world getting hotter as they grow older, top scientists have found. As people keep burning fossil fuels like coal and gasoline, more and more heat will be trapped on earth.(1) But exactly how much hotter will it get? That depends on what we do next.
Two Possible Worlds for a Child Born in 2015
The best forecasts from MIT say the thermostat of our children’s planet is in adult hands. The world will warm, but actions America takes now, as a country and as a world leader, will shape just how hot the future gets. Parents must help America do this right, because their kids can’t. Actions taken today will have long lasting impacts, particularly on health.
Health in the heat
Parents will notice the consequences of this heat as they care for their growing kids.
Hotter air helps pollutants like smog to form, causing “bad air days.” More smog leads to worse asthma.(2) Researchers project that in the 2050s, kids in Cleveland will face 11 additional “bad air days” each summer.(3)
Too hot for the playground
Parents will teach kids to be more careful on summer vacation, because heat waves will become more frequent, more extreme, and more deadly.(4) On our current path, most of South Carolina will sweat through 4 heat waves each year. That’s 3 weeks of unbearable heat.(5)
As America warms, winters will get shorter, while spring and fall, allergy season, will get longer.( 6 ) This has already begun: Over the last 20 years, the USDA found that the pollen season has already gotten weeks longer.(7)
Bug spray needed
Ticks carry Lyme Disease and like global warming. They thrive in warmer weather, The Center for Disease Control warns, so expect more of these pests in more places.(8) Central states like Kansas will become new tick habitat.(9)
Your hometown, but hotter
Towns are changing. If you live in Miami, the Miami summers you remember won’t be the summers your kids grow up in. Parents deciding where to settle down might want to pay attention to changes in the climate. What will it be like to live in Florida? Without serious action for clean energy, this is our future:
Source: Climate Central
Thirty-five years of drought
California kids about to start Kindergarten have lived in drought since the day they were born. Drought has become part of their childhood, this current drought having lasted a long four years. Unfortunately, a hotter America faces higher risks of even longer droughts. Try to imagine a drought that lasts not four years, not ten years, but thirty-five.
If we do nothing and let warming continue, NASA scientists project that the Southwest will have an 8 in 10 chance of a thirty-five year drought.(10) Those are bad odds on a massive gamble. Imagine an unlucky Arizona kid, who lives in a drought from the day he’s born through the day he turns thirty.
Parenting tips for a warming world
Parents want their children to be better off than themselves. That’s part of the American Dream. To achieve it, parents now face an added challenge: global warming.
Clean energy is the solution that can cool the future heat. The faster we embrace clean energy, the fewer asthma attacks, unbearable summers, and unending droughts our kids are likely to endure.
The transition to clean energy won’t happen overnight. Power plants built today will operate into the 2060s, and their carbon emissions will remain in the air for centuries.(11),(12) We must start now and move fast.
Kids are too young to have a say, so parents must decide on their behalf. That is, after all, what parents do.
As a father or mother, you have many ways to act.
- Think about global warming like a parent.
- Set an example in your home by cutting energy waste and buying cleaner energy.
- Be an engaged citizen. Communities across the country must convince our leaders to accelerate the clean energy future.
We won’t pretend that these are easy tasks. Parenting isn’t easy. This is a choice we must make not just for our kids and grandkids, but for their children as well. Let’s do what our parents did for us, and choose wisely.
- ClearPath: World’s temperature steadily rising
- The Center for Disease Control
- Climactic Changes
- Environmental Health Perspectives
- Environmental Health Perspectives. Under RCP 8.5 scenario
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
- Climate Central
- The Center for Disease Control
- PubMed Central
- Drought risk is for the years 2050-2099.
- Energy Information Administration
- Two possible world for a child born in 2015 – MIT The temperature change is the difference between the target year and average temperatures from 1980-2000. The solid lines track the median projections in each case.
- How will summers change- Climate Central