258 Children’s Legal Rights Journal [Vol. 37:2 2017]
areas. Children have more exposure to these pesticides and pollution because they drink more
water and breathe more air per unit of body weight. Therefore, children generally have a greater
chance of catching these diseases. Children are also more likely to catch these because children’s
immune systems are not yet fully developed and they typically have a harder time fighting these
diseases off. Furthermore, because climate change is leads to diseases emerging in places where
they have never appeared before, physicians are not always able to respond correctly to
outbreaks, as they have not had the training or experience in these emerging diseases.
With drought comes food scarcity, which can also occur because of floods and other
extreme weather conditions brought on by climate change. Heightened food scarcity leads to
malnutrition. This malnutrition also greatly increases the risk of disease in children, and can
make them incapable of fighting off infections. As climate change continues to worsen,
malnutrition and its effects will increase rates of childhood mortality.
Droughts and famine caused by climate change can also result in extreme poverty,
especially in developing countries. This poverty is harmful to children for many reasons
including, as discussed above, lack of education and decreased health. But children can be
harmed by poverty in many other ways, as families are sometimes forced to take drastic
measures in order to survive.
A study done in Bangladesh showed that extreme poverty – which has been partially due
to natural disasters and climate change – has led to a high rate of child marriages. Parents
interviewed in Bangladesh said that marrying off a child was a way to save the family from
starvation, as the family would have one less mouth to feed, and the child would be provided for
elsewhere. Fear of natural disasters also motivated families to marry off children. In one
instance, a family feared losing their home to river erosion. For many families, marrying off their
daughters seems like the best option for both the daughters and the families. However, many of
these child marriages lead to abuse, early pregnancy, and lack of education.
These are just some of the many disproportionate effects climate change has had on
children that have led advocates from Our Children’s Trust, Earth Guardians, and Global
Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to submit a proposal to the United Nations.
The proposal echoes the Paris Agreement’s recognition of the effect of climate change on human
rights as an important first step, the CRC to take further steps. The proposal states that the
emission standards set out in the Paris Agreement would actually increase emissions and lead to
a catastrophic temperature increase. Instead, the proposal urges governments to use scientific
standards that would stabilize the climate and protect children from the effects of an increased
temperature. Under the proposal, the failure of States to abide by these standards should be
considered “a violation of the rights protected by the CRC, of the current and future children of
Climate change affects and will continue to affect everyone. However, it is our children
that will suffer the greatest as the earth warms, causing widespread poverty, disease, and water
scarcity. It’s time that the world hold countries that cannot abide by international climate
agreements responsible for the damage done to the lives of the world’s children.
Benoit Mayer, Human Rights in the Paris Agreement, 6 CLIMATE LAW 109, 109 (2016).