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Wednesday, 14 February 2018 06:17

The Plight of Children Affected by Climate Change Is Happening Now

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clichangechildClimate change is hazardous to the health of children. (Photo: Environmental Illness Network)

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We are not just leaving the legacy of a toxic and volatile environment to our children; we are negatively impacting them today.

In a recent article, the Inter Press Service (IPS) describes how young people are pushing back against adults' failure to take aggressive action to mitigate climate change:

In the United States, the 21 young people who are plaintiffs in the case Juliana v. United States will soon make their case against the government for failing to take action against climate change. Similar lawsuits have been filed in countries including Portugal, India, and Pakistan.

And in the 2017 Bonn climate change conference, a 12-year-old Fijian boy whose village had completely been devastated by cyclone linked to climate change, addressed negotiators and urged them to find solutions to the changing climate.

Sadly, these children are outliers and millions of their peers in other parts of the world, including children from sub-Saharan African countries, will never have the chance to tell the world how climate change harms them. All too often, children are the unseen victims of climate change.

However, the IPS notes that "children’s plight is not addressed by the major stakeholders in the climate change negotiations." Climate change is, according to IPS, something that adults will discuss, without the input of children.

The US press has never provided comprehensive coverage of world events, and that is particularly true when it comes to the Global South. Add that to the lack of reporting on children's issues, and one can see how the negative effect of climate change on young people is underreported. Take, for instance, the connections between climate change and food. When global warming causes already dry agricultural lands to become desiccated, children have less food to eat and become malnourished.

Higher sea levels that drown coastal towns or make them unlivable also shortchange children living in the Global South by forcing them to become migrants and disrupting their education.

That's not to mention air pollution and water-borne diseases and other secondary impacts that can stem from climate change. While the corporate media press occupies itself with every tweet from Donald Trump, children around the world are becoming increasingly susceptible to the ravages of climate change. After all, just look at the United States and its recent spate of catastrophic hurricanes. How many children had their lives disrupted and exposed to toxic living situations because of these deadly and ruinous weather events?

It is clear that global warming undercuts the wellbeing of our young people.

Mainstream media and lawmakers spend so much verbiage on the sanctity of children, but when it comes to climate change, very little consideration is given to how it impacts them, both now and in the future. Lip service will not protect children from global warming.

A UNICEF report, "Climate Change and Children," points out that even in the present, young people are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change:

The human suffering caused by natural disasters is most profoundly felt in developing countries, particularly poverty-stricken nations that lack the resources to cope with their aftermath. Countries with a low Human Development Index ranking suffer higher mortality rates from disasters.

In addition, catastrophic disasters often result in enormous economic damage, sometimes exceeding the gross domestic product of low-income countries. While natural disasters are devastating for anyone who experiences them, children are the most vulnerable, due to their small size and relative inability to care for themselves. Children are more likely than adults to perish during natural disasters or succumb to malnutrition, injuries or disease in the aftermath.

UNICEF states it bluntly: "There may be no greater, growing threat facing the world’s children -- and their children -- than climate change."

Adults should stop giving lip service to the sanctity of children, and should instead take immediate and concrete steps to mitigate and counteract climate change.