Heatwave Chimera To Haunt Virtually All Children On Earth By 2050

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  • 2 billion children will face four to five dangerous heat events annually.
  • Findings were highlighted in a recent report by UNICEF.
  • It has become a serious cause of concern.

The climate crisis is also a children’s rights crisis: one in four children globally are already affected by the climate emergency and by 2050 virtually every child in every region will face more frequent heat waves, according to a new Unicef report.

Extreme Weather Events

For hundreds of millions of children, heatwaves will also last longer and be more extreme, increasing the threat of death, disease, hunger and forced migration. The findings come less than a fortnight before the Cop27 UN climate talks get underway in Egypt, and after a catastrophic year of extreme weather events – heatwaves, storms, floods, fires and droughts – have demonstrated the speed and magnitude of the climate breakdown facing the planet.

According to Unicef, 559 million children currently endure at least four to five dangerous heat waves annually, but the number will quadruple to 2 billion by 2050 – even if global heating is curtailed to 1.7 degrees, currently the best-case scenario on the table. 

Children and infants are less able to regulate their body temperature, making them more vulnerable to the pervasive impacts of extreme and prolonged heat than adults. This includes a myriad of health problems such as asthma, cardiovascular diseases and even death. Additionally, as intense heat exacerbates drought, it can also reduce access to food and water, which can stunt development and increase exposure to violence and conflict if families are forced to migrate.

Global Impact

“While the full force of the climate crisis will take some time to materialize, for heatwaves it is just around the corner and looking incredibly grim,” said Nicholas Rees, the Unicef environment and climate expert. From the polar regions to the tropics, dangerous heat waves are increasing in frequency, duration and magnitude, and already kill almost half a million people each year.

This year alone, heatwaves in China dried up rivers and damaged crops, while temperatures hit 48C (118F) in Pakistan before unprecedented rains left a third of the country underwater. Record-breaking temperatures throughout Europe led to tens of thousands of preventable deaths and drastically reduced crop yields, while more than 100 million Americans were under heat advisories over the summer.

Catastrophic Consequences

Unicef researchers examined the potential exposure to three heat measures – duration, severity and frequency – based on two greenhouse gas scenarios used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for climate models. They found:

  • In 2020, there were around 740 million children in 23 countries where temperatures topped 35C (95F) for at least 84 days. Under the worst-case scenario this will rise to 816 million children living in 36 countries, mostly in Asia and Africa.
  • Children in Europe will have the highest exposure to severe heat waves by 2050 – one in three in the best-case scenario, two in three in the worst-case scenario. 
  • By 2050 5 million to 8 million children will be exposed to all three high heat measures, compared with none in 2020.

Given that within three decades virtually every child will be exposed to extreme heat even under the best-case fossil fuel reduction pledges, Unicef is calling on governments to cut emissions faster and further, and help communities prepare for what is coming. Advocates are also urging world leaders at Cop27 to listen to young people and prioritize their needs in next month’s negotiations.

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Source: TheGuardian

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