Disaster Research: Young people are already victims of the climate crisis

Schoolchildren and students take action during her global climate strike Fridays for the Future.ANP . image

Children born today will experience seven times more heat waves than people born in 1960. They will also experience twice as many wildfires on average, 2.6 times droughts, 2.8 times floods, 1.5 times tropical cyclones, and nearly three times crop failures. Like people born before 60 years old. This is evident from an international scientific study published on Monday in the famous journal Science.

“Climate disruption does not only affect future generations, as you often hear. People under the age of 40 today will live unprecedented lives in terms of exposure to droughts, heat waves and crop failures,” said Wim Terry, a climate scientist at Vrije University in Brussels and lead author of the study. and floods.” “And this is even under the most ambitious climate change mitigation scenario.”

Terry and his colleagues wanted to investigate whether climate change really is a problem that affects different generations differently, as activists like Greta Thunberg often point out. The damage to younger generations is often cited in the growing number of lawsuits against companies and governments. Are the human rights of a 15-year-old really being violated by climate disruption? “I will leave the legal aspect to the lawyers, but the results of the investigation are clear. This makes the climate crisis fundamentally different from, say, a problem like poverty, where age plays a less distinct role,” Terry says.

Forest fires

The international research team looked at droughts, heat waves, crop failures, river floods, tropical cyclones and wildfires. By combining climate science and demographics, the researchers calculated the lifetime exposure to those disasters for every generation born between 1960 and 2020. This is for every country in the world and for every common global warming scenario.

Research leader Terry is 34 years old and has young children, but he wants to stress that the research meets all scientific standards. It only takes three pages Science, but we’ve been working on it for 2.5 years, it’s now Science It was audited by six outsiders, and we had to write 90 pages to answer their questions,” says Terry, speaking about the most comprehensive research of his ten-year career.

It’s worse in Asia and Africa

Not all younger generations are affected equally everywhere. 53 million children born in Europe and Central Asia since 2016 will face nearly four times as many climate extremes. 172 million children in sub-Saharan Africa, nearly six times as many. If you look at heat waves, you will find that they are fifty times more than children in Africa.

“Our findings underscore the critical importance of the Paris Climate Agreement in protecting younger generations around the world,” Terry added. “If we succeed in drastically reducing our emissions in the coming years, we can prevent the worst consequences for children around the world. At the same time, we have a sobering message for young people in poor countries. They are facing an incredible number of climate extremes, even with the most dire policies climatically ambitious.

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