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Climate Change Is Already Having A Devastating Impact On Children

Save the Children says climate change is “a children’s crisis at its core.”

One of the world’s leading humanitarian organizations for children is sounding the alarm after the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a sobering report on climate change. Save the Children, a humanitarian aid organization dedicated to improving children’s lives through education, health care, economic opportunities, and emergency aid, has cautioned that children will see impacts of the climate crisis far worse than what their parents or grandparents will experience.

“Today’s report is a harrowing warning of what is to come,” Yolande Wright, Save the Children’s global director of child poverty, climate, and urban said in a statement released Monday. “But millions of children across the globe are already experiencing irreversible impacts on their lives and life chances.”

According to Wright, climate change has already resulted in children dying as a result of droughts, cyclones, and floods or being forced to flee their homes due to dangerous wildfires. Additionally, Save the Children recently estimated the biggest global hunger crisis of the 21st century had left 5.7 million children under the age of 5 were on the brink of starvation while another 13 million children under the age of 16 face extreme food shortages. Climate change has played a “major factor” in driving this food crisis, Wright said.

“Children born today will experience the devastating impacts of the climate crisis far worse than their parents or grandparents,” Wright said. “That makes this a children’s crisis at its core.”

Among the key takeaways of the IPCC’s most recent climate change assessment was the “unequivocal” conclusion “that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land.” The IPCC also cautioned that some of the impacts of global warming already being seen across the world were likely irreversible. In fact, they noted that while a drastic reduction in carbon emissions could help slow these changes, we will never return to the more moderate weather patterns of past decades.

Perhaps most troubling, however, was the IPCC’s warning that even immediate and significant action was now unlikely to stop global temperatures warming 1.5 degrees Celsius. Instead, IPCC warned that average global temperatures could rise beyond 2 degrees Celsius by the end of this century, resulting in an increase in extreme weather events such as heatwaves, droughts, and floods — all of which Save the Children has warned have a devastating impact on children.

But while children are likely to suffer more than their parents or grandparents as a result of climate change, some children will be disproportionately impacted by the crisis. “Children in lower-income communities will be hardest hit as the [climate] crisis — like COVID-19 — exacerbates inequalities within and between countries,” Wright said. “But the scorching heatwaves in North America, the widespread wildfires, and the recent floods in Europe have shown that no place is safe.”

Save the Children has urged world leaders to take action on climate change, noting the window of opportunity to limit global warming was closing fast. “We need to drastically cut emissions, but every action to limit warming brings us closer to protecting the lives of children now and in the future,” Wright said. “Children need to be involved in these policies and decisions on climate change. It’s their future that is at stake, so they must play a key role in shaping it.”