Children pay the highest price as extreme weather worsens our living conditions – whether it is from a drought, building collapse or flood. They suffer most from malnutrition and disease. They will also feel these effects longer than adults, making kids vital in today’s decisions about climate change.
According to a new UNICEF report called UNLESS WE ACT NOW, over half a billion children live in zones with an extremely high likelihood of flooding (the vast majority living in Asia) and nearly 160 million live in high or extremely high severity drought zones. In addition, an estimated 370 million indigenous adults and children in some 90 countries around the world are at particular risk of the direct consequences of climate change.
While climate change will ultimately impact every child, these children are already in harm’s way and face some of the most immediate risks.
Climate Change = Inequality
Climate change does not affect everyone equally. Children living in poverty have less access to needed resources. A child deprived of adequate water and sanitation before a crisis, will be more affected by a flood, drought or storm, less likely to recover quickly and at even greater risk in a subsequent crisis.
We have the opportunity for action that can hold off some of the worst effects of climate change, and it is our responsibility to act. What we do now can dramatically reduce the number of children threatened by the most severe impacts of climate change in the coming decades.
How to Protect Our Children
The report outlines 10 bold steps we need to take now to safeguard our children’s future:
- Cut greenhouse gas emissions so that the average rise in the global temperature is limited to a maximum of 2º Celsius, and ideally to 1.5ºC.
- Prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable, particularly children – who will bear the brunt of climate change far longer than adults.
- Reduce inequities among children now, to help them better face disasters or crises.
- Listen to and act on children’s perspectives on climate change.
- Provide children and youth with climate change education, awareness and training.
- Align and coordinate work on climate change adaptation, preparedness and disaster risk reduction at national and state levels.
- Protect children and their families who are forced to move as a result of climate change.
- Invest in children as part of national climate plans.
- Expand and roll-out proven approaches to address the changing needs of children.
Take Action Challenge
Find out more about the consequences of climate change on young children in the report: write about it, talk about it and take the conversation to your local political leaders. If you can, let your kids speak – our politicians will listen to them!
All images via UNICEF