Policy Statement on Climate Change


Climate change is a global public health crisis. Climate change harms physical and mental health directly through the negative neuropsychiatric impacts of increased heat, aeroallergens, and air pollution, and causes additional mental health harm indirectly through the consequences of acute trauma (e.g. floods, wildfires) and chronic catastrophic disruptions (e.g., drought, famine, forced migration, geopolitical conflict).

Children are particularly vulnerable to the health effects of climate change, including negative mental health outcomes such as anxiety, depression, learning difficulties, stress-related disorders, substance use disorders, and suicidal ideation. Youth are also more likely than adults to have distressing, non-pathologic emotions about climate change, including anxiety, fear, anger, guilt, and grief. These emotions are often collectively referred to as “climate distress.”

Climate change disproportionately affects populations already at increased risk due to racism and other social, economic, and political inequities, and these interconnected systems of oppression cannot be addressed in isolation. Efforts must focus on “climate justice” – the equitable distribution of the risks of climate change, the burdens of mitigation, and the implementation of interventions.

Child psychiatrists, already at the intersection of physical and mental health and with expertise in behavior change and systems, have a role in both climate change mitigation (preventing further damage) and adaptation (responding to effects that already exist). Action is needed in the domains of education (of youth, families, clinicians, and systems), clinical care, research, and advocacy.

To protect youth from biological, psychological, and socio-cultural harms associated with climate change, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recommends:

  • Identifying, developing, and disseminating educational and clinical resources on climate change and youth mental health for clinicians, families, educators, and young people.
  • Funding, conducting, and disseminating research on the unique impacts of climate change on youth mental health and best practices for supportive and therapeutic approaches.
  • Advocacy to mitigate the crisis through a rapid transition off fossil fuels, including reducing the carbon footprint of our professional and clinical activities.
  • Advocacy for adaptation, including bolstering physical, social, and technological infrastructure to withstand climate-related disruption, and developing response plans for climate-related events, especially those affecting youth with mental health disorders.
  • Acknowledging that climate change will disproportionately harm youth already at highest risk due to systemic inequities and centering climate justice in all efforts.


The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry promotes the healthy development of children, adolescents, and families through advocacy, education, and research. Child and adolescent psychiatrists are the leading physician authority on children’s mental health.

Approved by Council April 2024