Te Whanganui-a-Tara – Children born recently will experience the effects of the climate crisis significantly more than their grandparents have, according to new research.
Further, children who are already underprivileged – such as children with disabilities and Indigenous kids – are likely to face even greater risks compared to those from privileged backgrounds.
Global organisation Save the Children released the research alongside climate scientists from Vrije Universiteit Brussel, a research university in Brussels.
The study, published in the journal Science, investigates children’s lifetime exposure to extreme climate-related events. Researchers compared the likely experiences of those born in 1960 to children born in 2020.
They calculated the findings based on the climate pledges outlined in various states’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Officials developed the NDCs in response to the Paris Agreement.
Researchers found that children will still suffer from environmental impacts significantly more than their elders, even if these commitments are met.
For instance, children born over the last year will, on average, experience nearly seven times as many heat waves during their lives.
Meanwhile, children in Afghanistan could see up to 18 times as many heat waves as their grandparents have.
New-borns around the world will live through, on average, 2.6 times as many droughts and 2.8 times as many river floods, the charity says.
Further, children will experience twice as many wildfires and three times as many crop failures compared to those born 60 years ago.
In Mali, a west African country which is home to around 20 million people, circumstances are even more dire. Children born there within the last 12 months could face up to 10 times as many crop failures as their elders.
The report highlights that climate breakdown can obstruct children’s access to healthcare and education. This is especially true for children with disabilities, children in refugee communities, Indigenous children, and girls.
For instance, after the 2010 floods in Pakistan, 24 percent of girls in grade six were forced to drop out of school. Meanwhile, six percent of boys dropped out.
The Save the Children report shows the terrifying reality for this generation and future ones the world does not act now.
Children in low- and middle-income countries and disadvantaged communities will be the worst affected, but every child will feel the ravaging impact of this climate emergency.
Recent heat waves in the US and Canada, the wildfires in Australia, the recent floods in Europe and China, the multiple droughts, which are driving food crises in places such as Afghanistan, Madagascar, and Somalia have clearly shown that nowhere is safe.
Many environmentalists argue that climate objectives are unattainable without updating the food system. Scientists have repeatedly identified animal agriculture as one of the leading drivers of the climate crisis.
If global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, new-borns’ additional lifetime exposure to heat waves would drop by 45 percent, the report says.
Additional exposure to droughts and river floods would reduce by 39 and 38 percent respectively. Further, children could face 28 percent fewer crop failures and 10 percent fewer wildfires.