Children born in 2020 will experience extreme climate events at a rate that is two to seven times higher than people born in 1960, according to a new study in the journal Science.
With the current rate of global warming and national policies that fail to make necessary cuts in heat-trapping pollution, climate events such as heat waves will continue to rise in frequency, intensity and duration, scientists say. That leaves children of younger generations facing a "severe threat" to their safety, according to the study's authors.
The study analyzed extreme climate events such as heat waves, droughts, crop failures, floods, wildfires and tropical cyclones. Researchers used recent data from a 2021 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that included information on global life expectancy, population trends and projected trajectories of global temperatures.
36 times more heat waves
The forecasts for how these events could drastically impact younger generations were startling.
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The scientists compared a person born in 1960 to a child who was six years old in 2020. The six-year-old will experience twice as many cyclones and wildfires, three times as many river floods, four times as many crop failures and five times as many droughts.
Heat waves, though, will be the most prevalent extreme climate event, with 36 times as many occurring for the six-year-old.
Younger generations in lower income nations will be most affected
The study shows that extreme weather events could affect younger generations in various regions of the world differently. People who were younger than 25 years old by 2020 in the Middle East and North Africa will likely experience more exposure to extreme climate events compared to other regions. The researchers say overall, younger generations living in lower income countries will experience the worsening climate at a higher rate than their peers in wealthier countries.
The data from the study show how limiting the increase in global warming and adapting policies that align with the Paris Climate Accords are beneficial, the researchers argue. But even then, younger generations are still left with "unprecedented extreme event exposure," they write.
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