Most people have heard of Greta Thunberg, a Swedish climate activist who is only 16 years old. She inspired an entire global movement to fight climate change and was even named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2019, the youngest person ever chosen. While many prominent figures congratulated this young woman, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to mock her after Time announced their pick, telling Greta to “work on her anger management problem.” This is only the tip of the iceberg (pun intended) on Trump’s denouncement of anything climate-related. His administration has waged an unrelenting war on climate science and has rolled back 100 environmental protection regulations. If Trump continues on this road, Greta Thunberg is not the only child he’ll be hurting with his words and actions. Children will bear the brunt of the climate crisis for years to come, and more needs to be done to protect our planet and our children.

As of July 15, the Trump Administration has rolled back 100 environmental protection rules and regulations. Of these, 68 rollbacks have already been completed, with 32 still in progress. Claiming that these rules burden the fossil fuel industry and other businesses, the administration has weakened carbon dioxide emissions standards from power plants and vehicles, and dismantled rules that maintain clean air and water, and protect our environment from toxic chemicals. Many of these rules and regulations are enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency, the arm of the government whose mission is to “protect human health and the environment.” Yet President Trump has nominated two acting directors during his time in office whose backgrounds conflict with environmental leadership. Scott Pruitt, the president’s first pick, was a climate change denier who spent most of his career as an Oklahoma attorney general who filed several lawsuits against the EPA.  Scott Wheeler, President Trump’s second pick, is a former coal industry lobbyist, who fought Obama-era rules meant to reduce planet-warming emissions from coal plants.

It only gets worse from there. President Trump removed a top EPA children’s health official, removed the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, an agreement between 195 nations to limit their greenhouse gas emissions to avoid warming the planet even more, and dismantled the Clean Power Plan, a policy created to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions. These decisions harm the health and safety of every American, but especially children. Each year, more than 1.7 million children under the age of five die as a result of environmental degradation, and even more suffer disease, disability, and other harms that can result in lifelong impacts.

Children are not just little adults. Their bodies react differently to toxic environmental exposures because of differences in physiology and behavior. Children drink more water, eat more food, and breathe more air in relation to their body weight. They also exhibit hand-to-mouth behavior frequently and live and play closer to the ground. These differences put them at a much higher risk of being exposed to environmental threats, such as air pollution, water pollution, and toxic substances. 

The Trump Administration has not only failed to protect the health of our children, it has actively harmed their health through its consistent attack on our planet. Every year is worse than the last in terms of climate change, yet the United States is moving backward in protecting our planet. We must demand more to protect the health and futures of our children – they deserve the right to live a life free of environmental hazards that are easily preventable.