Many are already feeling the impacts of climate change around the world. Heat waves, severe storms, and flooding have affected humans of all ages. However, a new report from the medical journal The Lancet warns that if we continue “business as usual,” the health of children born now will be heavily impacted by our changing climate throughout their lifetime. The report states, “without accelerated intervention, this new era will come to define the health of people at every stage of their lives.”
This report was published just last week and is the collaborative result of research from 35 academic institutions and UN agencies worldwide. Contributors include climate scientists, geographers, engineers, food and transport experts, economists, and more. The video below features a summary of the report.
This report uses 41 key indicators across five main domains to provide an annually updated profile on climate change and related health impacts. According to the executive summary of the report, children born today will enter “a world that is more than four degrees warmer than the pre-industrial average.” Key concerns include food production and security, disease transmission, air pollution, extreme weather conditions (including extreme heat). These issues could have a snowball effect and risk causing migration, poverty, violent conflicts, and mental illness.
An article from Scientific American regarding the report states that health impacts start at birth with a higher risk of low-birth-weight and death. Through childhood and adolescence risks include potential lung-problems, asthma attacks, and insect-borne diseases. Additionally, older adults are at higher risk due to extreme heat. According to the report, in 2018, an additional 220 million older adults (aged over 65) were exposed to at least one heatwave.
It’s not all bad news, as the report states that some regions of the world are beginning to adapt. Fifty percent of countries and 69% of cities assessed reported either initiating or completing a climate change risk assessment or adaptation plan. Additionally, 70 countries reported the implementation of meteorological services focused on the health sector, and 109 countries reported “medium to high implementation of a national health emergency framework.”
Nonetheless, The Lancet report strongly recommends “accelerated ambition and action” to keep the world temperature rise below the globally agreed-upon two degrees Celsius.