Climate Change and Children’s Health and Well-Being in the United States

Our climate is changing, and the health and well-being of children will continue to be affected in many ways. Children are uniquely vulnerable to climate change in part because of the natural physiology of developing and growing bodies. Exposures to climate-related stressors can occur in a variety of ways, some of which are distinctive to children, including through outdoor play and at school. Children, and young children especially, have less control over their physical environments, less knowledge about health effects from climate change, and less ability to remove themselves from harm. Climate impacts experienced during childhood can have lifelong consequences stemming from effects on learning, physical development, chronic disease, or other complications. This report investigates five climate-related environmental hazards associated with children’s health and well-being in the contiguous United States (U.S.): extreme heat, poor air quality, changes in seasonality, flooding, and different types of infectious diseases. It provides national-scale quantification of risks to children for a subset of key impacts, in addition to reviewing a broad set of pathways in which climate stressors affect children’s health.