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Children Are Vulnerable to Climate Change

Researchers warn that countries should be prepared to shield children from the worst effects of climate change

Source: the journal The Future of Children

Children in a displaced persons camp, Kiptagich, Kenya, 9 December 2009
Children in a displaced persons camp, Kiptagich, Kenya, 9 December 2009

The latest issue of the journal The Future of Children, published jointly by Princeton University and the Brookings Institution, is devoted to the subject of Children and Climate Change.

Under this umbrella topic, the issue explores various aspects of climate change, such as the science of climate change, climate change and conflict, temperature extremes and health, climate change and natural disasters, climate change and pollution, climate change and developing countries, and mobilizing action to cope with climate change.

As the articles are authored by eminent experts in these field, yet written in simple everyday language, this issue of the journal also offers an excellent overview of the present state of climate change research.

School children, Paro, Bhutan, October 2012
School children, Paro, Bhutan, October 2012
Katiekk/Shutterstock.com

The editors stress that the direct effects of climate change on children are being felt via heat, drought and natural disasters, to which children – and also the elderly – are physically more vulnerable, than other people. In addition, climate change also impacts children indirectly, as it leads to more conflicts, insect-borne diseases, nutrition deficiencies and migration.

Since the most severe consequences of climate change are yet to be felt in the near future, today's children – and their children – will be most affected. Children in developing countries with weak governance will be most severely harmed.

When it comes to policy recommendations, the authors seem overwhelmed by the multitude of challenges they are so apt to analyze. The most concrete policy proposal is the building of cooled shelters where people can find protection during extreme heat waves. Another proposed measure is better education on the risks of climate change.

Children playing in Bacoor, Philippines, 10 December 2015
Children playing in Bacoor, Philippines, 10 December 2015
EPA

As a separate article on viruses, whose spread is facilitated by global warming, points out that the need for education is especially relevant when it comes to heat- and vector-borne diseases. To prevent the Zika virus, which is believed to cause birth defects in children, from spreading, the aedes aegypti mosquitoes transmitting the virus must be stopped from multiplying. This can be easily done by anyone by eliminating any small puddles of standing water, such as those in old tires and pets' bowls, where aedes aegypti can lay their eggs. Other mosquitoes can be combated with similarly simple measures.

In addition, the researchers advocate the use of genetically modified mosquitoes, as developed by the UK company Oxitec, that are sterile and lead to a reduction – theoretically, even complete eradication – of aedes aegypti (see our earlier article on Oxitec). The case of aedes aegypti shows that the challenges posed by climate change will have to be met with a combination of grassroots measures and advanced technology.

Children playing in Happy Valley, one of the poorest communities in Cape Town, South Africa, 5 May 2016
Children playing in Happy Valley, one of the poorest communities in Cape Town, South Africa, 5 May 2016
EPA

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