Climate change, despite what the naysayers claim, is taking place at a frighteningly rapid pace. Countless studies have been conducted to ascertain its impact on the planet and all of them are raising alarm bells. Rising temperatures, environmental degradation, the spread of diseases are among the many issues plaguing our world and they have a direct connection to climate change.
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The impact of climate change is more pronounced on the vulnerable, especially children. This is because their body and their immunity has not reached its full potential yet.
Children in developing countries are more likely to pay the price for exposure to climate change. Here is what can happen to children when they are exposed to the effects of this calamity.
According to a report by the United Nations Panel on Climate Change sea levels will rise by 32 inches worldwide by the end of the 21st century. Global warming, which is one of the most alarming effects of climate change on the planet, can have catastrophic consequences on water supply. This becomes evident when one part of the planet experiences drought and another floods. The ground water in coastal areas around the world is showing signs of saltiness due to rising sea levels which is also a consequence of global warming. During floods children are most likely to drown or get displaced.
Water scarcity causes contamination which leads to diarrheal diseases in children. Malnutrition and diarrheal diseases are among the leading causes of death in children who are less than 5 years old. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) claims that 25 million children will be affected by malnutrition caused by climate change this century.
No fun in the sun
The United Nations Panel on Climate Change predicts that globally temperatures will rise anywhere between 0.3 to 4.8 degree Celsius by the end of this century. Children who are exposed to intense spells of heat become prone to many heat related diseases. Heat strokes, stress related to heat, electrolyte imbalance, fever and renal diseases are some of the ailments that can occur in children who are exposed to heat waves.
Ultra violet (UV) radiation is another cause for concern. The ozone layer, which protects us from the harmful UV radiation, is getting depleted at a rapid rate thanks to all the gases which are being released into the atmosphere. The more the ozone layer gets depleted, the more UV radiation enters the planet. Children have thinner skin than adults and this puts them at more risk than adults to the effects of this harmful radiation. A report by the World Health Organization suggests that about 80% of a person's exposure to UV rays happens by the time they reach the age of 18. Children who are more exposed to UV radiation grow up into adults who will have the potential to develop skin cancer and cataract later in life.
Poor air quality
Climate change has ruined every aspect of life form, including air. Globally 2 billion children live in regions where the air toxicity level is beyond the annual permissible level set by the World Health Organization according to a report by the Unicef. The higher the mercury climbs the higher the chances of children getting asthma and allergy attacks. The hotter climate increases the concentration of ozone in the air which is considered to be an irritant. Wildfires are also another phenomenon which can ruin air quality. The smoke from these fires can travel far and cause breathing difficulties in children. Allergens also have a field day when the weather turns warmer.
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Children who keep on breathing in polluted air will have a reduced lung capacity as adults. This will lead to them developing chronic respiratory problems and cardiovascular diseases.
It is our responsibility as adults to leave behind a better planet for our children. This means reforms at a policy level and at a personal level as well. We must ensure that we use only what is required to get by on a daily basis and not indulge in excess. Because these excesses have led to deterioration in the health of children, both physically and mentally.
Children depend on adults for guidance. By setting an example and adopting a greener lifestyle you are not only saving your future, you are also saving your children's life.