Energy, Climate, & Children’s Health

In the U.S. the majority of energy used goes toward generating electricity and heat, and to fueling our planes, trains, ships, and automobiles.

Most of the energy consumed for these purposes comes from fossil fuels (oil or petroleum, natural gas, and coal).

The use of these energy sources creates air and water pollution at every step of the process, which harms the health of children living near to these energy production facilities--the majority of whom are children of color or children from low wealth families.

It is also the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide and methane) from human activities in the U.S. These gases trap heat, warm the earth, and cause climate change. Climate change presents serious threats to children’s health and safety.

To learn more about energy, energy sources, and how our over-reliance on fossil fuels harm children’s health, check out our new infographics (click each image to download):

What you can do:

We can all take actions to reduce our energy consumption and to promote clean and renewable energy. Often it starts with learning and sharing! Some simple steps you can take include:

  1. Take what you learn from these resources and talk with your neighbors about clean energy.
  2. Ask your electricity provider about clean energy sources.
  3. Seek an energy audit and have your home weatherized to reduce energy consumption and save money.
  4. Turn off lights and unplug appliances when not in use.
  5. Walk, bike, or take public transportation as often as possible, rather than driving.
  6. Become a community advocate for clean and renewable energy solutions.
  7. Ask your congressional leaders to prioritize clean and renewable energy solutions.
  8. Share your clean energy advocacy story with us.

Children and teens! Download our infographic: Take action in the clean energy movement

Congratulations to the Grand Prize Winner and Honorable Mentions in the Pittsburgh #EnergyAndKidsHealth Art Contest!
Thanks for sharing your vision of a healthier, safer future for children using clean energy sources!

Grand Prize: Sophie Shao, Age 15

Honorable mentions: Bri'kiae Morton, 10 years old
and Darryl Scott, 8 years old.

References and resources:

  • American Lung Association. Policy Principle on Energy.
  • American Public Health Association. The Public Health Impact of Energy Policy in the United States. (2018). Policy Statement Number 20183.
  • American Public Health Association. Protecting Children's Environmental Health: A Comprehensive Framework. (2017). Policy Statement Number 201710.
  • EarthJustice. Coal Mines Clouding America’s Air.
  • Energy Justice Network. Factsheets.
  • FracTracker. The growing web of oil and gas pipelines. 28 February 2019.
  • Gorski I. and B. S. Schwartz. (2019). Environmental Health Concerns From Unconventional Natural Gas Development. Oxford Research Encyclopedias. DOI: 10.1093/acrefore/9780190632366.013.44
  • Jackson R. B. et al. (2020). Increasing anthropogenic methane emissions arise equally from agricultural and fossil fuel sources. Environ. Res. Lett. 15(07), 1002.
  • Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health. Health Effects by Region.
  • New Scientist. Fracking wells in the US are leaking loads of planet-warming methane. 22 April 2020.
  • Nicholas School of the Environment. Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. Duke University. Coming from an ash pile near you.
  • Perera F. P. (2017). Multiple Threats to Child Health from Fossil Fuel Combustion: Impacts of Air Pollution and Climate Change. Environmental health perspectives, 125(2), 141–148.
  • Physicians for Social Responsibility. Clean renewable energy solutions to protect health.
  • Shea E., F.Perera, D.Mills. (2019). Towards a fuller assessment of the economic benefits of reducing air pollution from fossil fuel combustion: Per-case monetary estimates for children's health outcomes. Environmental Research, 182.
  • Sheffield, P.E. and P.J. Landrigan. (2011). Global climate change and children's health: threats and strategies for prevention. Environ Health Perspect, 119(3):291-8. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1002233
  • Smith K.R., et al. (2013). Energy and Human Health. Annual Review of Public Health, 34(1), 159-188.
  • SouthWings. Coal Slurry and Coal Ash.
  • T. H. Chan School of Public Health. Harvard University. Climate, Kids, and Health.
  • T. H. Chan School of Public Health. Harvard University. Energy and Health.
  • Union of Concerned Scientists. Energy.
  • Watts, N. et al. (2019). The 2019 report of The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: ensuring that the health of a child born today is not defined by a changing climate. The Lancet, 394(10211), 1836 – 1878. DOI: