Last week, a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirmed everyone's worst fears about climate change. The report highlighted how human activity is responsible for: glaciers melting at faster rates, causing more droughts, extremely heavy rainfall and prolonged heatwaves.
The report stated that within the next two decades, temperatures are likely to rise by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, breaching the ambition of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
However, it does not just end there. The study has warned of increasingly extreme heatwaves, droughts and flooding, and a key temperature limit being broken in just over a decade. UN chief Antonio Guterres termed the report "a code red for humanity".
While these are events that are already happening, very little attention is paid to how it will affect children. UNICEF's Children's Climate Risk Index said that 1 billion children are at 'extremely high risk' of the impacts of climate change.
According to the report:
- 820 million children (over 1/3rd of children globally) are currently highly exposed to heatwaves. The number is likely to rise higher as the Earth heats up more
- 400 million children (nearly 1 in 6 children) is exposed to cyclones
- 330 million children (1 out of 7 children globally) are currently highly exposed to riverine flooding
- 240 million children (1 out of 10 children globally) are currently highly exposed to coastal flooding
- 920 million children (over 1/3rd of children globally) are currently highly exposed to water scarcity
- 2 billion children (almost 90 per cent of children globally) are currently highly exposed to air pollution that exceeds 10µg/m3
Threat Of Overlapping Hazards
The report has highlighted how each of the above aspects affects children beyond threats to their physical well-being and protection. For example, it throws light on how water scarcity affects more girls than boys. Girls have to travel further, often in unsafe conditions, to reach water and bring it home, thereby putting the brakes on their education.
Women and girls collect 80 per cent of water for households globally. They are also often the first to be removed from school to help support their families in times of need.
The report has found that globally over 99% of children are currently exposed to at least one of the above climate and environmental problems. As per the Children's Climate Risk Index (CCRI), the countries where children are most at risk include the Central African Republic, Chad, Nigeria. India ranks 26th on the index.