Elsewhere in the world, covered mudslides Japanese city of Atami in Shizuoka Prefecture, entire villages have been flooded by torrential downpours in West Germany, and a forest fire destroyed The Canadian town of Lytton.
Some of these disasters pose real risks of physical harm to children. Take extreme heat and heat waves: pregnant women, babies, and young children are all more vulnerable to heat than older children and most adults because their bodies aren’t as good at cooling themselves and stay that way. Studies even show that a exposure of the unborn child to extreme heat while in the womb could lead to negative health outcomes later on, such as lower birth weight.
For older children, as the number of hot days increases with global warming, they are at risk of greater heat exposure in schools without air conditioning and during outdoor activities, such as sports.
This latest IPCC assessment also explains how disasters, both the acute exposure to a disaster and the longer-term recovery from it, can harm the mental health and well-being of all those affected, especially children.
After major flooding in the UK in 2000, for example, researchers tracked the health of people whose homes were flooded and not flooded, according to Kristie Ebi of the University of Washington, who helped co-author the report’s chapter on health. “There was a very clear difference in probable anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder” between the different groups, she explained.
The headline-grabbing disasters that are becoming more frequent and more intense are perhaps the most obvious signs of how 1.1 degrees Celsius of warming, compared to the pre-industrial era, is at stake. But there are already many more climate impacts here, as the new report comprehensively details.
Even before my daughter was born, for example, two species disappeared and climate change played a role: the golden toad in Costa Rica in 1990, as well as the Australian toad Melomys of Bramble Cay, a type of rodent, in 2016. And a third species is dangerously close to extinction: the Australian lemur opossum. And there were many more local extinctions: climate-related local extinctions were detected in 47% of the 976 animal and plant species examined.
The impact of climate change on existing problems of food availability and high prices can be a “deadly combination for children”, said Rachel Bezner Kerr of Cornell University, co-author of the IPCC chapter on food systems. , “particularly in low-income countries”. countries, especially low-income households, especially in rural areas.
“So we have a study that showed that between 1993 and 2012, rising temperatures were significantly related to child wasting in 30 countries in Africa,” she added. Wasting refers to a child who is too thin for their height, according to the World Health Organization.
Malnutrition is already a huge problem among children in some developing countries, and this problem will only get worse in a warmer world if steps are not specifically taken to avoid this possibility.
How hot will it be in my daughter’s life?
When world leaders signed the Paris climate accord in 2016, they jointly agreed to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), ideally 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Today, scientists predict that it is “more likely than not” that global average temperatures will exceed 1.5 degrees in the coming decades, come what may. It could happen by 2030, when my daughter is only 10 years old.
This is why the next few years matter so much. How quickly people reduce their greenhouse gas emissions during this decade will help dictate how the 1.5 degree threshold is exceeded and what happens next. Will the temperatures continue to rise or will they start to come down?
Moreover, what people do now to begin to adapt to the warming that is already here and locked in for the future will minimize the damage associated with the crisis.
By 2030, for example, countries may adopt the bold goal of protecting at least 30% of the planet’s land and water. If so, it could have cascading benefits, from keeping certain species alive to strengthening natural ecosystems that protect against flooding, help suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and much more. And if China switched to a half-carbon-free power supply for homes and vehicles by 2030, the report said, the country could expect to avoid 55,000 to 69,000 deaths that year.
It is also possible that urban areas will see their exposure to flooding increase by 2.7 times by 2030 compared to 2000, or that an additional 48,000 children under the age of 15 worldwide will die of diarrhoea, or that the number people living in extreme poverty will increase by 122 million, or that extreme droughts in the Amazon will accelerate the migration of traditional communities and indigenous peoples to cities, or that fresh water will be severely limited for some small islands.
By 2040, when my daughter turns 20, the glacier on Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, may be gone.