Here’s What The New Climate Report Says About The Future Of My 1-Year-Old Daughter

My daughter is not yet 2 years old. In her short life, she’s only known of a world dramatically altered by man-made climate change. In her lifetime, she will face a worse future with floods, heat waves, droughts, extinctions and more disasters guaranteed by continuously rising temperatures.

Unless we start taking action now.

A new climate report was released this week, titled “Climate Change 2022: Impact, Adaptation and Vulnerability, ” Make it clear that the impact of climate will pervade her childhood. It also details how children around the world are particularly vulnerable to the crisis, even hotter.

But my daughter’s future is not over yet. It’s a takeaway key from the more than 3,000-page report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which outlines the many ways that society can act to not only better respond and adapt to warming here, but also prevent a dangerous hot world of no return.

“There are a lot of options,” said Edward Carr of Clark University, co-author of the new report. The greatest tragedy will be if we don’t act now on the climate solutions we already have, he added. “That would be the last, really unfair thing to do for a generation of children coming out right now.”

Born into a warming world

My daughter was born in the hottest year on record. Or the second hottest year, depending on analysis. 2020 is the year that Australia burns in deadly forest fire season and some records about grasshoppers swarm Horn of Africa – both disasters are forecast in a warming climate.

Since then, California has suffered not only its largest wildfire on record – the August Complex fire that burned 1,032,648 acres and 935 structures – but also its second largest, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday since at least 1932 when reliable recordkeeping began, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The Pacific Northwest also experiences The most intense heat wave on record. Tennessee has been record rainfall in a 24-hour periodand similar records were wiped out in the Northeast as a result of Hurricane Ida.

Elsewhere in the world, covered mudslide The Japanese town of Atami in Shizuoka Prefecture, the entire village is flooded in torrential rains in West Germany, and a destroyed forest fire The Canadian town of Lytton.

Some of these disasters pose real risks of physical harm to children. Handling high temperatures and heat waves: Pregnant people, infants, and young children are all more susceptible to overheating than older children and most adults because their bodies don’t cool as well and stay that way. Studies have even shown that a unborn child exposed to extreme heat in the womb can lead to negative health outcomes later in life, such as lower birth weight.

For older children, as the number of hot days increases with global warming, they are at greater risk of being exposed to the heat in non-air-conditioned schools and during outdoor activities, such as sports.

This latest IPCC review also discusses how disasters, including acute exposure to a disaster and subsequent long-term recovery from a disaster, can damage mental health. and the happiness of everyone, especially children.

After the great flood occurred in Great Britain in 2000For instance, researchers tracked the health of people whose homes were flooded and not flooded, according to Kristie Ebi from the University of Washington, who helped co-write the chapter on the health report. “There were very clear differences in anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder” between the different groups, she explains.

The headline disasters, increasingly frequent and intense, are perhaps the most obvious signs that 1.1 degrees Celsius of warming, relative to pre-industrial times, is decreasing. But there are more climate impacts here, as the new report details it fully.

For example, even before my daughter was born, two extinct species and climate change played a role: the Golden Toad in Costa Rica in 1990, as well as in Australia Bramble Spicy melomys, a type of rodent, in 2016. And a third species is close to extinction: the Australian lemuroid marsupial. And there have been more local extinctions: Climate-related local extinctions were detected in 47% of the 976 animal and plant species examined.

The impact of climate change on existing food problems and high prices could be a “combination,” said Rachel Bezner Kerr of Cornell University, co-author of the IPCC chapter on food systems. lethal to children”. countries, especially low-income households, especially in rural areas. ”

“So we have a study that shows that between 1993 and 2012, increased temperatures were significantly associated with child stunting in 30 countries in Africa,” she added. According to the World Health Organization, children are too thin for their height.

Malnutrition is already a serious problem among children in a number of developing countries, and it will only become more serious in a warmer world if no concrete action is taken to avoid the possibility of malnutrition. that ability.

How Hot Will It Be In My Daughter’s Life?

When world leaders signed the Paris climate agreement in 2016, they agreed together to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius (about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), ideally 1.5 degrees Celsius. poison.

Now, scientists predict that it is “more likely than not” that the average global temperature will surpass 1.5 degrees Celsius in the coming decades, no matter what. It could happen in 2030, when my daughter is 10 years old.

That’s why the next few years are so important. How quickly people cut their greenhouse gas emissions during this decade will help determine how far the 1.5-degree threshold is exceeded and what happens next. Will the temperatures continue to rise or will they start to drop?

Furthermore, what people do now to begin adapting to the warming already here and limiting in the future will minimize the damage associated with the crisis.

For example, by 2030, it is possible that countries will make the bold goal of protecting at least 30% of the planet’s land and water. If so, that could have many benefits, from keeping some species alive to strengthening natural ecosystems that protect against flooding, helping to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and even doing so. more than that. And if China transitions to semi-decarbonizing electricity for homes and vehicles by 2030, the report says, the country can be expected to avert 55,000-69,000 deaths that year.

It is also possible that urban areas could see a 2.7-fold increase in exposure to floods by 2030 compared with 2000, or an additional 48,000 children under the age of 15 globally could die from diarrhea, or The number of people living in extreme poverty could increase by 122 million, or an extreme drought in the Amazon would accelerate the migration of indigenous and traditional communities to cities, or fresh water would be lost. severe restrictions on some small islands.

By 2040, when my daughter is 20, the glacier on Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, could disappear.

But meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement across nine major economies by 2040, according to the report, “could reduce 1.18 million air pollution-related deaths annually, 5, 86 million deaths are related to diet and 1.15 million deaths are due to physical inactivity. ”

By 2050, when my daughter turns 30, millions of people could be at risk of starvation. In a world where temperatures never reach 2 degrees Celsius, 8 million people could be at risk. In a world that reached 2 degrees at the time, 80 million people could.

On the other hand, if the European Union specifically wants to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions, that action “could reduce the number of years of life lost to fine particulate matter by more than 4.6 million in 2005 to 1 million in 2050,” according to the report.

By the year 2100, when my daughter is 80, the temperature may have leveled off at 1.5 degrees or even dropped a bit – or increased to 4 degrees. The differences in climate impacts and habitability between such scenarios are biblical.

Even in a world that always warms by about 1.5 degrees Celsius, global sea levels could rise from less than a foot to nearly two feet at that point. At the same time, the benefits of cutting climate emissions, such as phasing out fossil fuel-powered power plants, will be huge for people’s health and their wallets. The financial value of the health benefits from improved air quality is projected to outweigh the costs of achieving the Paris Agreement goals.

“We need to ease our health,” Ebi said. Eliminating coal-fired power plants, for example, both cut climate pollution and could lead to fewer hospitalizations and deaths related to particulate matter, she said. Or eating less red meat will not only cut associated emissions from methane, a greenhouse gas, but will also cut chronic diseases and avoid some premature deaths and hospitalizations.

Meanwhile, in that very hot scenario, sea levels would rise by at least 2 feet, if not 3 feet, by 2100. Wildfires would be much more common, with up to 720 million people living in vulnerable areas. fire occurs. The risk of flooding will be higher. Farms, fisheries and ranches will be very stressful. Extinction will happen. And up to three-quarters of the human population, according to the report, “could be exposed to periods of life-threatening climatic conditions due to the effects of extreme heat and humidity by 2100”. That’s billions of people whose lives are threatened by droughts, heat waves, floods and other disasters caused by climate change.

The kids of today are the kids who will be here in the decades to come. “And so all of these impacts that we’ve talked about,” Carr said, “they’re going to see how all these effects play out.”

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