Climate Change Imperils Pediatric Health: Child Advocacy Through Fossil Fuel Divestment
Climate change poses an existential threat to children’s health. Divestment of ownership stakes in fossil fuel companies is one tool available to pediatricians to address climate change. Pediatricians are trusted messengers regarding children’s health and therefore bear a unique responsibility to advocate for climate and health policies that affect children. Among the impacts of climate change on pediatric patients are allergic rhinitis and asthma; heat-related illnesses; premature birth; injuries from severe storms and fires; vector-borne diseases; and mental illnesses. Children are disproportionately affected as well by climate-related displacement of populations, drought, water shortages, and famine. The human-generated burning of fossil fuels emits greenhouse gases (GHG) such as carbon dioxide, which trap heat in the atmosphere and cause global warming. The US healthcare industry is responsible for 8.5% of the nation’s entire greenhouse gases and toxic air pollutants. In this perspectives piece we review the principle of divestment as a strategy for improving childhood health. Healthcare professionals can help combat climate change by embracing divestment in their personal investment portfolios and by their universities, healthcare systems, and professional organizations. We encourage this collaborative organizational effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.