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Children Will Face 18 Times More Extreme Weather Events Than Their Parents

A new report documents the consequences of current climate policies.

Today’s inaction will result in disproportionate increases in floods, heatwaves, droughts, and wildfires for the next generations, it says.

Published yesterday in the journal “Science”, the data shows that children born in 2020 are 7 times more likely to experience heatwaves than their grandparents. Plus, twice as many droughts and wildfires. They will also experience 3 times more floods and crop failures than those born in 1960. Significantly, these are global averages. The report indicates that exposure is disproportionately higher in several regions. For example, Afghan children face 18 times as many heatwaves as their parents whilst the 172 million children born in sub-Saharan Africa since 2016 will experience 6 times as many extreme weather events as their grandparents. Moreover, youngsters in Mali will have to deal with 10 times as many crop failures. 

Climate Calculations

The study – compiled by an international team of scientists from Imperial College London, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), and other institutions – quantifies lifetime exposure to extreme weather. It factors in events for every generation born between 1960 and 2020, for every country in the world. The results show that for a 3°C global warming pathway, a six-year-old in 2020 will experience twice as many tropical cyclones, 3 times more river floods, and 36 times more heatwaves. Under a 3.5°C warming scenario, children born in 2020 will experience 44 times more heatwaves. Even at the recommended 1.5°C of warming, lifetime exposure to extreme weather for people born post-1980 exceeds pre-industrial climate conditions. 

Lead author Professor Wim Thiery from VUB warns, “This basically means that people younger than 40 today will live an unprecedented life even under the most stringent climate change mitigation scenarios. Our results highlight a severe threat to the safety of young generations and call for drastic emission reductions to safeguard their future.”

Co-author Dr Joeri Rogelj, from Imperial College, condemned the lack of urgent action. “With this study we lay bare the fundamental injustice of climate change across generations, as well as the responsibilities of today’s adults and elders in power. The consequence of children suffering unprecedented sequences of climate extremes over the course of their lives can now be attributed to the inaction of today’s adults. It also shows how much can be gained by ambitious emissions reductions.”

Save the Children

Accompanying the study is a report by the international charity Save the Children. Called “Born Into the Climate Crisis,” it highlights the need to secure children’s rights in the context of climate change. Both study and report have been released to coincide with the UNFCC Youth Summit, starting tomorrow in Milan, as well as COP26, the upcoming United Nations climate summit taking place in Glasgow in 6 weeks’ time. Co-author and Climate Risk Professor, Simon Gosling, concludes, “We have to turn a sharp corner if we want to limit the intergenerational impacts of climate change. In this respect, the setting of more ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets at the UN climate conference in Glasgow in November this year is going to be crucial.”

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