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Climate change is damaging to children's health, medical authorities warn

Man and child wearing breathing masks are seen in an electric vehicle smog on 14/11/2018 in Beijing, China.

Yang Kelja, China News Service Visual China Group | Getty Images

Climate change is already harming children's health, and its impacts will affect the entire generation with serious life-threatening health problems, medical authorities warn on Thursday.

In a new report published by the Lancet medical journal, scientists and health experts from 35 United Nations academic institutions and agencies said children will suffer from an increase in infectious diseases, malnutrition and air pollution if global warming continues on the current trajectory.

A child born today will experience a world that is more than 4˚C warmer by the time he turns 71, a warming rate that will endanger their health at every stage of their lives, the authors of the report said.

"Children are particularly vulnerable to the health risks of changing climate," said Nick Watts, executive director of the Lancet Countdown, an annual report on monitoring the links between public health and climate change.

"Their bodies and immune systems are still developing, leaving them more susceptible to contaminants of disease and the environment," he said.

If greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm by 1.5 degrees Celsius in about 20 years. Warming starting at 2˚C could trigger an international food crisis in the coming years, according to a recent report by the UN science panel. on climate change.

"Without urgent action by all countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the benefits of well-being and life expectancy will be compromised, and climate change will come to define the health of a whole generation," Watts said.

Children are more susceptible to infectious diseases that are exacerbated by rising temperatures and changing patterns of rainfall, the report said. For example, climate change is causing dengue fever, a mosquito-borne disease. Nine of the 10 most convenient years for dengue transmission have occurred since 2000.

Goethe Fire burns off Highway 405 in the hills of West Los Angeles, October 28, 2019.

Genin Blevins | Reuters

In addition, children will breathe more toxic air throughout their lives, leading to reduced lung function, worse asthma and increased risk of heart attack, the report said. The World Health Organization estimates that about 7 million people die each year from exposure to contaminated air.

Early deaths from outdoor air pollution reached 2.9 million worldwide in 2016. More than 440,000 of these deaths are from carbon emissions, according to the report.

"This year, the accelerating impacts of climate change have become clearer than ever," said Hugh Montgomery, director of the Institute of Human Health and Performance at University College London and co-chair of the report.

Climate change has become a widespread concern as more frequent and extreme weather events caused by rising temperatures occur worldwide.

In the past few months alone, the heatwave has fueled Europe and then moved to Greenland to cause a record warming of ice there; Record fires ripped through the rainforests of the Amazon, parts of California, Russia and the Arctic, and Hurricane Dorian spawned the Bahamas and killed at least 65 people.

About 77% of countries worldwide have experienced increased fire exposure from 2001 to 2014 and from 2015 to 2018, the report said.

"The highest recorded temperatures in Western Europe and fires in Siberia, Queensland and California have triggered asthma, respiratory infections and heat stroke," Montgomery said. "Sea levels are now rising at a constantly worrying rate."

These extreme weather disasters will continue to worsen around the world and result in displacement, disease and death. Low-income countries will be most vulnerable, as almost all economic losses from extreme weather events are uninsured, the report said.

Chinese residents wear protective masks, such as smoke bushes from Shanxi, China.

Getty Images

The Lancet report called for swift action to prevent climate change and prepare global health systems for the huge challenges ahead.

If global warming is limited to well below 2˚C, which is the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement, then a child born today could experience a world that will achieve net zero emission in about 30 years, the authors say.

Nations have delayed the greenhouse gas emission limitation for so long that warming of 1.5 заC is inevitable. Global greenhouse emissions need to be cut in half by just 12 years and reach a net zero by 2050 to keep temperatures at 1.5 наC.

But achieving that goal will take years. According to the report, total primary coal supply between 2016 and 2018 increased by 1.7%. Global subsidies for the consumption of fossil fuels have also increased by 50% in the last three years, reaching a peak of nearly $ 430 billion last year.

"Our children are recognizing this climate of emergency and are looking for action to protect them," Montgomery said. "We have to listen and respond."

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