According to a study that looks at how different generations will be affected by climate change, a child born in 2021 will experience worse climates. They are expected to have seven times as many heat waves, doubled wildfires, and nearly three times as many droughts, crop failures, and river floods compared to their grandparents.
According to the findings published by the journal Science, global warming will disproportionately damage the lives of young people and children, especially when it comes to catastrophic occurrences exacerbated by climate change. The study is the first to thoroughly simulate catastrophic events and future climate scenarios and use the projections across demographic sets to quantify how people of various ages worldwide would be affected by climate disasters throughout their lives.
According to Wim Thiery, if the rate of global warming continues unabated, the future looks bleak, a scientist at Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium, who spearheaded the study.
“We discovered that anyone under the age of 40 today will have an extraordinary lifetime exposure to heatwaves, droughts, and floods,” Thiery added. “Even in the most conservative circumstances, this is true.”
The study found significant intergenerational differences across the board, but the researchers believe climate change will have a greater impact on children in underdeveloped countries. Even with committed reductions in greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Agreement, a global climate deal signed by more than 190 countries, the burden would remain unfair.
According to the researchers, 172 million children in Sub-Saharan Africa might experience 50 times more heatwaves and a sixfold rise in extreme events during their lifetimes if existing pledges are met. This is compared to 53 million children in the same age group in Europe and Central Asia.
While the findings are alarming, Thiery believes that the impact on people’s lives will be even worse than the study predicts. This is because the researchers only examined the number of extreme episodes, not the length or severity of the incidents.
Climate change has been demonstrated in studies to make disasters like heat waves, droughts, and wildfires more likely and more intense.
“We don’t account for the reality that a bad heatwave in the future could persist twice as long as it does now,” Thiery added.
He went on to say that the researchers looked at catastrophic occurrences in isolation; thus, the study didn’t look at how the effects of such disasters could be compounded if they happened at the same time.
“These things have a propensity to happen at the same moment,” Thiery remarked. “Think of heatwaves, droughts, river flooding, and tropical cyclones,” says the author.
But, as Thiery pointed out, there is cause to be optimistic. Some of the study’s most terrible scenarios can be avoided if governments can aggressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit the consequences of global warming.
Young people have been in the vanguard of climate activism, with marches like “Fridays for Future” calling governments to take action. The talks will be especially significant in the coming weeks, as world leaders are due to meet in Glasgow, Scotland, from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12 for the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2021, when countries are expected to announce aggressive targets to reduce emissions by 2030.
“This ought to be a wake-up call,” Thiery added. “We have the power to avert the worst effects of global warming. Climate change is a problem that affects all of us who are alive today.”