If governments continue to fail to comply with the Paris Agreement, children born today will grow up in a disease-ridden, malnourished world.
Unless drastic action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, children born today will grow up in a world that threatens every aspect of their health and well-being, according to the Countdown on Health and Climate Change report released this year by the Lancet. The report uses 41 key indicators to measure progress towards achieving the Paris Agreement goals, and this year’s report reveals a planet on the road to failure.
Children will be the most affected by this situation. Crops that have not completed their development will cause children to not be fed properly. Even now, the growing conditions of basic foodstuffs are less favorable than in the past, and the crops are less nutritious.
Nick Watts, lead author of the study, says his team is tracking maize, soy, rice and wheat and that “yield potential for these key crops has already dropped to 6 percent.”
More children will get sick from increased bacteria due to warmer weather. Vibrio, one of the examples given in the report, is a bacteria that feeds on algal blooms that thrive in warm seas and cause most cases of diarrhea. Dengue, cholera, and tick-borne encephalitis are also on the path to further spread.
Child health is also threatened by fossil fuel use and poor air quality due to warming temperatures. Toxic air impedes lung, health and brain development and is linked to premature death.
As children become adults, they will face more extreme weather events such as the wildfires that are currently devastating Australia, California, Siberia and the Amazon. There are also more forest fires than usual in China and India.
Heatwaves are another problem, with 2018 being the fourth warmest year on record. This is particularly difficult for infants and the elderly who are susceptible to heat-related illnesses, and prevents outdoor workers from doing their job:
“Amid last year’s protracted heatwaves, outdoor agricultural and construction workers in the southern parts of the US lost 20 percent of potential daylight hours in the hottest month.”
It is clear that urgent measures are needed to protect the health not only of future generations, but also of children born. Many of these children are calling for urgent action by holding climate protests, but adults are empowered to take political action to ensure that the Paris Agreement goals are met as soon as possible.