Climate Change

Children born in 2020 will experience 6.8 times more heatwaves than those born in 1960: Report

Limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels will reduce the additional lifetime exposure of new-borns to heatwaves by 45%, droughts by 39% and river floods by 38%

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 28 September 2021

Children born in 2020 will experience more heatwaves, floods, droughts and wildfires across their lifetimes due to climate change, according to a recent study by non-profit Save the Children

These children will face on average twice as many wildfires; 2.8 times the exposure to crop failure; 2.6 times as many drought events; 2.8 times as many river floods and 6.8 times more heatwaves across their lifetimes compared to a person born in 1960, the study said.

The study, done in in collaboration with an international team of climate researchers led by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), said children of many low- and middle-income countries would continue to bear the brunt of worsening climate change.

The report, Born into the Climate Crisis: Why we must act now to secure children’s rights, calculated the exposure of an average person to climate impacts across their lifetime in 178 countries.

Among other findings were:

  • Children born in 2020 in Palestine, Afghanistan and Papua New Guinea face around double the lifetime risk of wildfires compared to the previous generations.
  • The new-borns in Portugal are poised to face 1.8 times the lifetime exposure to wildfire than previous generations
  • In Sub-Saharan Africa, new-borns in 2020 will face 2.6 times more crop failures over their lifetimes than a person born in 1960. In South Asia, this rate increases to 3.6 times, and 4.4 times in the Middle East and North Africa.
  • In Afghanistan, new-borns will confront 5.3 times more drought in their lifetimes. In Tanzania and Kenya, children will face 2.8 and 4.6 times the exposure to drought, respectively. In the Sahel, where temperatures are rising 1.5 times faster than the global average, agricultural yields are projected to fall by 20 per cent per decade by the end of the 21st century.
  • In Western Europe, a new-born is projected to experience roughly similar exposure to droughts compared to the past generations.
  • The lifetime exposure for new-borns rises to 3.8 times that of older generations in sub-Saharan Africa, and 4.5 times in the Middle East and North Africa.
  • Children born in 2020 in Europe and central Asia will experience 4.8 times as many heatwaves compared to the previous generation.
  • In most parts of Africa, the new-borns will experience exposure increases reaching as high as 9 times in the Democratic Republic of Congo and 11.6 times in Eritrea. In south and central Asia, exposure rises even further, reaching 15.9 times as many heatwaves as a person born in 1960 in Tajikistan and 18 times as many in Afghanistan.

The report also found that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels will reduce the additional lifetime exposure of new-borns to heatwaves by 45 per cent; droughts by 39 per cent; river floods by 38 per cent; crop failures by 28 per cent and wildfire by 10 per cent.

The impact of reducing the frequency of extreme weather events through cutting emissions will help keep more children in school, avoid increase in malnutrition and ultimately save the lives of several of the world’s most vulnerable children, the report stated.

The report recommends actions including recognising children as equal stakeholders and key agents of change, scaling up social protection systems and taking bolder action to limit warming.

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