One billion children across the world are at ‘extremely high risk’ of the impacts of climate change, reveals UNICEF’s Children’s Climate Risk Index. This means that nearly half of all the children are at risk of climate change.
The report “climate crisis is a child rights crisis” finds that the children at most risk live in one of the 33 countries classified as “extremely high-risk”. These children face a deadly combination of exposure to multiple climate and environmental shocks with a high vulnerability due to inadequate essential services, such as water and sanitation, healthcare and education. The findings reflect the number of children impacted today – figures likely to get worse as the impacts of climate change accelerate.
The report presents the Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI), which uses data to generate new global evidence on how many children are currently exposed to climate and environmental hazards, shocks and stresses. A composite index, the CCRI brings together geographical data by analyzing 1.) exposure to climate and environmental hazards, shocks and stresses; and 2.) child vulnerability.
Stressing that “every child deserves a liveable planet”, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore pointed out that it was already clear that children are more vulnerable to climate and environmental shocks than adults. “This report examines for the first time exactly how many children live in areas that experience multiple, overlapping climate and environmental risks that trigger, reinforce and magnify each other combined with data on the availability and quality of essential services such as healthcare, education and water and sanitation to give a true insight into the impact of the climate crisis on children,” she said.
She stressed that every part of society need to act for addressing climate crisis. “Governments need to ensure that environmental policies are child-sensitive. Businesses must ensure their practices are protective of the natural environment on which children depend. Greenhouse gas emissions and environmental pollutants must be reduced dramatically,” she noted in the forward.
- 820 million children (over one third of children globally) exposed to heatwaves. 400 million children (nearly 1 in six children globally) exposed to cyclones.
- 330 million children (1 in 7 children globally) exposed to riverine flooding.
- 240 million children (1 in 10 children globally) exposed to coastal flooding.
- 920 million children (over one-third of children globally) exposed to water scarcity.
- 600 million children (over 1 in 4 children globally) exposed to vector-borne diseases, such as malaria and dengue, among others.
- 2 billion children (almost 90 per cent of children globally) exposed to air pollution that exceeds 10µg/m3.
- 815 million children (over one-third of children globally) exposed to lead pollution due to exposures in contaminated air, water, soil and food.
- Almost every child on earth (>99 per cent) is exposed to at least one major climate and environmental hazards, shocks and stresess.
- 2 billion children exposed to at least 2 of these overlapping climate and environmental hazards, shocks and stresses.
- 7 billion children are exposed to at least 3 of these overlapping climate and environmental hazards, shocks and stresses.
- 850 million children are exposed to at least 4 of these overlapping climate and environmental hazards, shocks and stresses.
- 330 million children are exposed to at least 5 of these overlapping climate and environmental hazards, shocks and stresses.
- 80 million children are exposed to at least 6 of these overlapping climate and 6 environmental hazards, shocks and stresses.
The report also points out that Children are more vulnerable to climate and environmental shocks than adults for a number of reasons:
- Children are physically more vulnerable, and less able to withstand and survive shocks such as floods, droughts, severe weather and heatwaves.
- They are physiologically more vulnerable. Toxic substances, such as lead and other forms of pollution, affect children more than adults, even at lower doses of exposure.
- The children are more at risk of death compared with adults from diseases that are likely to be exacerbated by climate change, such as malaria and dengue.
- They have their whole life ahead of them – any deprivation as a result of climate and environmental degradation at a young age can result in a lifetime of lost opportunity
The report mentions that the whole society should respond to achieve an environment fit for children and it requires;
- Increase investment in climate adaptation and resilience in key services for children.
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis, comprehensive and urgent action is required. Countries must cut their emissions by at least 45% (compared to 2010 levels) by 2030 to keep warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
- Provide children with climate education and greens skills, critical for their adaptation to and preparation for the effects of climate change.
- Include young people in all national, regional and international climate negotiations and decisions, including at COP26. Children and young people must be included in all climate-related decision making.
- Ensure recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is green, low-carbon and inclusive, so that the capacity of future generations to address and respond to the climate crisis is not compromised.