Heat waves, which have become an unavoidable health hazard for many nations, are set to virtually affect every child on earth (over 2 billion children) by 2050, warned the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, on October Tuesday.
In the report The Coldest Year Of The Rest Of Their Lives, the UNICEF points out that climate crisis was rapidly accelerating and heat waves are becoming longer, stronger, widespread and more frequent.
HEAT WAVE AND REGION
The UNICEF said that children in northern regions will face the most dramatic increases in high heatwave severity while by 2050, nearly half of all children in Africa and Asia will face sustained exposure to extreme high temperatures.
It also noted that around 559 million children are already exposed to high heatwave frequency and around 624 million children are exposed to one of three other high heat measures – high heatwave duration, high heatwave severity or extreme high temperatures.
“This year’s wildfires and heat waves that have swept through India, Europe, and North America were “yet another sobering example of the impact of climate change on children,” she said.
Protecting children from the escalating impacts of heat waves should be a priority for all countries, UNICEF said, in a call for “urgent and dramatic emissions mitigation measures to contain global heating – and protect lives”.
“This will have a devastating impact on children,” said Vanessa Nakate, climate activist and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. “The more frequent, longer lasting and more severe heat waves children are exposed to, the greater the impacts on health, safety, nutrition, education, access to water and future livelihoods.”
HEAT WAVE; KEY FINDINGS
- Extreme high temperatures: In 2020, around 740 million children (1 in 3 children globally) lived in countries with 83.54 or more days per year exceeding 35Â°C. By 2050 under a very high emission scenario with 2.4 degrees of warming, this figure would rise to approximately 816 million (2 in 5 children).
- High heat wave frequency: By 2050, under both low and very high emission scenarios, virtually every child on earth will be exposed to high heatwave frequency (i.e., living in areas where the average yearly number of heat waves is equal to or above 4.5), rising from only 1 in 4 children in 2020.
- High heat wave duration: While about 1 in 4 children live in areas where the average heatwave event lasts 4.7 days or longer as of 2020, by 2050, this percentage will rise dramatically to over 3 in 4 children under a low emission scenario of 1.7 degrees of warming. At 2.4 degrees of warming, 94 per cent of children will be exposed.
HEAT WAVE; RECOMMENDATIONS
- Every country must adapt critical social services – WASH, health, education, nutrition, social protection and child protection – to protect children and young people.
- Food and social protection systems made fragile by climate change, environmental crises and conflict must be strengthened to withstand hazards and ensure continued access to healthy diets.
- Health systems must be resilient to climate events and must be equipped to treat children and pregnant and breastfeeding women facing the impacts of heat waves and other climate hazards.
- WASH services must be adapted to withstand climate-related disasters and weather variability to protect against contamination and shortages of drinking water supply.
- Every country must provide children and young people with climate change education, disaster risk reduction education, green skills training and opportunities to meaningfully participate and influence climate policy-making.
- Prioritize children and young people in climate finance and resources
- Prevent a climate catastrophe by drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions and keep 1.5Â°C alive.
- COP27 must see countries strengthen the focus on children’s climate education and empowerment in the ACE action plan, adopt it, and implement previous commitments to build youth capacity.