Climate change Environment

More than one billion children at extremely high risk of climate change impacts

More than one billion children are at ‘extremely high risk’ of climate change impacts. This is according to a new report by the United Nations children’s fund.

The report from UNICEF found that over one billion of the world’s 2.2 billion children live in countries classified as ‘ extremely high risk’ due to climate change impacts.

The report, named ‘The Climate Crisis Is a Child Rights Crisis: Introducing the Children’s Climate Risk Index, ranks countries based on children’s exposure to various environmental shocks- such as cyclones and heatwaves, and their relative vulnerability based on access to essential services.

The report adds that young people in the Central African Republic, ChadNigeriaGuinea, and Guinea-Bissau are the most at risk among 163 nations of the world.

The release of the report coincides with the anniversary of the youth-led global climate strike movement. It also comes after a landmark report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) UNICEF collaborated with Fridays for Future among other partners to produce the report.

The report’s Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI) provides global estimates of the number of children “highly exposed” to specific climate shocks, including:

  • coastal flooding: 240 million 
  • riverine flooding: 330 million
  • cyclones: 400 million
  • vector-borne diseases (e.g. malaria, dengue): 600 million 
  • lead pollution: 815 million
  • heatwaves: 820 million
  • water scarcity: 920 million
  • “exceedingly dangerous” levels of air pollution: 1 billion

The findings in “Climate Crisis” detail how climate change impacts threaten children’s health, education, and protection by increasing their exposure to life-threatening diseases. 

For children enduring extremely high levels of risk, it is a combination of high exposure to climate shocks compounded by inadequate critical services and related social support systems were inadequate. UNICEF warns that as the impacts of climate change accelerate, the 1 billion estimates will likely increase.

“For the first time, we have a complete picture of where and how children are vulnerable to climate change, and that picture is almost unimaginably dire,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “For three years, children have raised their voices around the world to demand action. UNICEF supports their calls for change with an unarguable message — the climate crisis is a child’s rights crisis.”

Nearly every child in the world is at risk from at least one of the climate and environmental perils. However, Children in the worst-affected countries face multiple and overlapping climate shocks, threatening to deepen child deprivations.

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There is also a disconnect between where greenhouse gas emissions are produced and where children enduring the most significant climate-driven impacts: The 33 ‘extremely high-risk’ countries collectively emit just 9 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, the report notes. 

The 10 highest-emitting countries collectively account for nearly 70 percent of global emissions. But only one of these countries is ranked as ‘extremely high risk’ in the index.

“Climate change is deeply inequitable,” Fore said. “While no child is responsible for rising global temperatures, they will pay the highest costs.”

Improving children’s access to water and sanitation, health, education, and other essential services “can significantly increase their ability to survive these climate hazards,” Fore added.

UNICEF is urging governments and businesses to listen to children and prioritize actions that protect them from climate change impacts while accelerating efforts to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 45 percent. 

UNICEF is also urging all relevant actors to:

  • increase investment in climate adaptation and resilience in key services for children
  • provide children with climate education and green skills deemed critical for adapting and preparing for the effects of climate change
  • include young people in all national, regional, and international climate negotiations and decisions including COP26
  • ensure the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is green, low-carbon, and inclusive

Also read,

World marks World Water Day as 2.2 billion people lack safe water and sanitation facilities

Investment in water infrastructure is crucial as 2.2 billion people lack assess to safe water and sanitation globally, UNICEF

Bad news as IPCC climate report is released; key findings

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