hclark7_MARKKU ULANDERAFP via Getty Images_climatechangeprotestkids Markku Ulander/AFP via Getty Images

Sustainable Development Starts with Children

The emergence of teen climate activists like Greta Thunberg is no gimmick. In fact, to galvanize climate action and achieve sustainable development, children must be put at the center of national strategies, and giving them a healthy future must be placed above all other concerns.

NEW YORK – “Our house is on fire,” warned the teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg at last year’s World Economic Forum meeting in Davos. Her pointed words – accusing adults of sitting idly by as the planet burns – quieted a roomful of global leaders, inspired young activists worldwide, and underscored the critical importance of putting children at the center of global action to build a better future.

Climate change is happening now. That was apparent in Australia’s recent unprecedented bushfires, in which 18 million hectares burned and an estimated one billion animals died. It was also reflected in India’s 2019 heat wave, among its longest and most intense in decades. And a warming planet is contributing to the global spread of dengue, a mosquito-borne viral infection.

Yet, even as the clock runs out on our ability to avert a catastrophe, global climate action is not gaining the needed momentum. As Thunberg and other youth activists have underscored, it is our children who will bear the brunt of this failure, as they inherit an increasingly inhospitable planet.

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