A study quantifying the “intergenerational inequality” of climate change found that today’s children will live through three times as many climate disasters, including wildfires, floods and droughts, than their grandparents. 

What is Happening?

An average six year old child will have to live through nearly three times as many climate disasters as their grandparents should the planet continues to warm at its current rate, according to a new study published in the journal Science

The study, which the writers claim to quantify the “intergenerational inequality” of climate change, found that children will experience twice as many wildfires, 1.7 times as many tropical cyclones, 3.4 times more floods, 2.5 times more crop failures and 2.3 times as many droughts as someone born in 1960.

The paper was published just ahead of the UNFCCC Youth Summit running in Milan and a month’s away from the crucial UN climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland, where world leaders converge to discuss countries’ respective climate action progress since signing the Paris Agreement in 2015. 

Authors of the study are hoping the research can propel world leaders to adopt and agree on more aggressive climate policies, or kids will very likely endure an average of five times more climate disasters than people who lived 150 years ago.

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It’s been known how climate change has disproportionately affected low-income countries and marginalised groups, more so than the developed countries that have contributed large amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. The study reinforces that imbalance and found children from developing nations will likely be the biggest victims of worsening climate change where infants in sub-Saharan Africa are projected to live through 50 to 54 times as many heat waves as someone born in the preindustrial era.

The extreme climate events that today’s children experience can also be linked to emissions produced during their parents’ lifetimes.

“Young people are being hit by the climate crisis but are not in position to make decisions,” said lead author Wim Thiery to the Washington Post. “While the people who can make the change happen will not face the consequences.”

However, Thiery believes that it’s not too late to change the world’s current trajectory and prevent the extreme weather events that future children will have to encounter. 

If the world can limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius set in the Paris Agreement, the extreme heat exposure for newborns will drop almost by half, and experience 27% fewer droughts.

“Our results underline the sheer importance of the Paris Agreement to protect young generations around the world” adds Thiery. “If we manage to drastically reduce our emissions in the coming years, we can still avoid the worst consequences for children worldwide. At the same time, a sobering message for the youth in low-income countries emerges, where incredibly challenging extreme events are robustly projected, even under the most stringent of climate action futures.”

Featured image by: Garry Knight/Flickr