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Think of the children

3 September, 2021

What do you wish for your children, nieces, nephews or grandchildren? A good education? A safe and happy home? A healthy childhood free of pain? 

Heartbreakingly, a new report from UNICEF demonstrates how the climate crisis is already putting all this and more at risk for billions of children – with virtually no child in the world being left untouched by the climate emergency. 

In the first comprehensive analysis of climate risk from a child’s perspective, UNICEF ranks countries based on children’s current exposure to climate and environmental shocks, such as air pollution, water scarcity and cyclones, alongside their vulnerability to these events. As one author put it, “it essentially [shows] the likelihood of a child’s ability to survive climate change”. The results are dire: half of the world’s children are already at extremely high risk of experiencing potentially deadly consequences of the climate crisis. And as ever the picture is deeply unfair, with the top ten countries considered to be at extremely high risk responsible for only 0.5% of total global emissions. 

Children, the report warns, are “uniquely vulnerable” to climate threats. They require more food and water per unit of body weight than adults and find it harder to survive extreme weather. The report argues that they must be given a real voice in climate negotiations and decisions, including at the COP26 conference. And it demands immediate action to keep warming at 1.5 degrees.  

UNICEF’S report proves, again, that the impacts of the climate crisis are no longer in the future. They are threatening our children’s lives, today. And – whether parents or not – we must all do everything we can, now, to keep them safe. 

By Sarah Howden

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