RCPCH &Us Climate Changers

We are a group of young people with an interest in climate change who meet regularly to turn ideas into action. Find out how this project gives children and young people across the UK the chance to tell us what they think about climate change and how we share that insight with doctors.

RCPCH declared a climate emergency in 2020 following a request from paediatricians through the AGM and a programme called the Climate Change Working Group (CCWG) was set up. There are 5 working groups being led by paediatricians – advocacy, international, evidence, building, and one focused on paediatricians plus ours which is led by young people from RCPCH &Us. 

How do we address the issues created by climate change?

The Climate Changers have:

  • We have been supported by people in the College and worked together as a group.
  • Last year we created an ambition for our project and some things that we want to work on.
  • We sent youth workers to do roadshows across the UK to find out what children and young people said about climate change and to ask for their ideas. We spoke to over 200 children and young people in all four nations.
  • We have inspired children and young people and raised awareness about climate change and child health.
  • We spoke to health care professionals/paediatricians to see what they are doing and how aware they are on what they are doing about climate change. We let them know it is a problem for young people and it has an impact on their health. We’ve got ideas from over 200 doctors and we interviewed five of them about climate change and the NHS
  • We have spoken at four conferences and events in Wales and England about our project and what matters to children and young people.
  • Group members have written an article for the member magazine, Milestones (page 11), which gets sent to to 20,000 doctors.
  • We used the RCPCH &Us social media channels, such as Twitter @RCPCH_and_Us, to talk about mental health, climate change and eco anxiety.
  • One RCPCH &Us group came up with an RCPCHopoly all about climate change and being plastic free.
  • On top of the awareness, we released a podcast episode about climate change.

Coming up:

  • We’ve got the views, we’ve got the experts - now time for the action!
  • Will be creating “recipes for climate change” to give people small steps they can do to make a difference so we will use the ideas we have and ask for others. There are never too many solutions and we can get people to add their small steps.
  • We have a few groups we are meeting up with next year: THIMUN in Qatar, OurEarthYourChoice in Wakefield and Ghana Youth Environmental Movement and others so we can work together.

What changes have we noticed due to climate change?

The changes our group has seen includes:

  • Heatwaves have led to an increased seizure risk for in RCPCH &Us young people with epilepsy. Normally they have a care plan for when they visit hot countries - but in summer 2022 they had no such care plan for staying in the UK during its heatwave!
  • As climate change gets worse, pollen season becomes longer. And so allergic asthma is worse with more pollen issues/attacks/and longer periods of asthma/.
  • Young people experience mental health anxiety about what to do to challenge climate change and knowing what is happening. There are worries that some people not doing enough or that we're surrounded by people who aren’t doing anything - this can be disheartening as you feel that nothing changes.
  • There are difficult decisions for some people with health conditions - for example, having a feeding tube which uses disposable plastics so feeling like you have to use it but also wished it didn’t have to be thrown away straight away. It’s so hard looking after yourself and trying to keep yourself well but know that you are killing the planet 

We asked other young people too, who said the changes were:

  • Mental health: Last year's heatwave meant all the grass in the parks went brown and there were no green spaces which increased poor mental health for many, but also linked it to increasing eco anxiety for those concerned about the climate and linking it together. Eco anxiety came up time and time again for children and young people we spoke with.
  • Physical health: There were worries about what happens for people with long term conditions, if people won’t be able to be outside as much or doing sports, if there will be new issues with health to deal with, that the heatwave can lead to exhaustion or a lack of sleep.
  • There were worries about more weather incidents like heatwaves, floods and  storms.
  • There was the feeling that people aren't listening to children and young people, that it will be down to them to sort it out but they have no power or influence over the solutions needed now.
  • There needs to be lots more done around education and creating places for people to be able to get involved positively.
  • We need to unite different parts of who we are between staying well and being a climate activist.

Join us

If you are 11-24 and in the UK and want to join as a Climate Changer, email and_us@rcpch.ac.uk to find out more.

Big thanks to the Climate Changers for planning and writing this web page.