|Doctors warn that the ongoing climate crisis will cause lifelong health problems for future generations. The environmental issue is already affecting people's health / Photo by: Kritsada Seekham via 123RF|
Doctors warn that the ongoing climate crisis will cause lifelong health problems for future generations. The environmental issue is already affecting people's health, and it will continue to do so while changing overwhelmed health systems, according to a new report published in the journal The Lancet.
The annual Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change noted that children are the most vulnerable and that global heating may lead to more malnutrition. Nick Watts, executive director of The Lancet Countdown, said that because children's bodies are still developing, the current climate situation may leave them more prone to disease and environmental pollutants.
Impact of the Climate Crisis on Children’s Health
The Lancet report showed concerning details that put public health at risk in a rapidly heating planet. These risks are likely to impose lifelong consequences on health and the world continuing on the "business-as-usual" path is seen as dangerous for future generations.
If a child is born today, they will grow up on a planet that is four degrees Celsius hotter compared to pre-industrial levels 71 years ago. The report added that increasing global temperatures will cause dire health consequences on the child throughout their life.
According to a press release, infants will be in danger of malnutrition as increasing temperatures affect the yield of major grain crops including maize (-4 percent), winter wheat (-6 percent), soybean (-3 percent), and rice (-4 percent)—all of which have declined in production in the last 30 years.
|The report added that increasing global temperatures will cause dire health consequences on the child throughout their life / Photo by: Shao-Chun Wang via 123RF|
Children also become more vulnerable with the rise of infectious diseases. The year 2018 was seen as the second most favorable year for the spread of bacteria, which caused most cases of cholera transmission, malaria, and dengue fever worldwide.
Air pollution led to 2.9 million premature deaths in 2016, and the report predicted its worsening effect will affect children throughout their adolescence. In adulthood, these future generations will see intensified weather events following increased exposure to wildfires in 152 countries and heatwaves that affected 220 million people in 2018.
All these dire effects are inevitable if the world continues on its “business-as-usual” path. Experts are calling on governments to act, with more than 11,000 scientists from various disciplines releasing a warning and declaring a “climate emergency,” American media website CNET reported.
“Young people are right to be angry and concerned about the future—the science is frightening,” said Fiona Armstrong, founder of the Climate and Health Alliance, referring to the youth rallies that have gone up in various parts of the world to call for action on the climate crisis.
Inadequate Progress Against the Climate Crisis
The science of the climate crisis predicts Earth’s inevitable demise caused by humans. While it seems and feels frightening, there is still an opportunity for the world to turn the effects around.
Saving the planet and protecting the public health from the impact of the climate crisis are laid out in the Paris Agreement goals: Limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The goals also aim to cut down greenhouse gas emissions worldwide by 45 percent of 2010 levels by 2030—and get it to zero by 2050.
The report explained that governments should take bold steps to achieve that goal, CNN reported. However, the news agency also noted that there has been inadequate global progress in these goals.
For instance, the total primary energy supply from coal rose 1.7 percent from 2016 to 2018 even though coal production declined. Subsidies for worldwide use of fossil fuel also increased by more than 50 percent in the last three years.
“The world has yet to see a response from governments that matches the scale of the challenge,” Jonathan Patz, a professor and director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who was not involved with the new report, told CNN.“Ironically, this report shows too many countries still continue to subsidize fossil fuels,” Patz added, noting that this is “very concerning” since the prices for renewable energy sources make them competitive against fossil fuels.
“It is a time of urgency. And the health benefits from clean energy far outweigh the investment costs."
Protecting the Health of the Next Generation
The environmental crisis is among the biggest threat to humanity’s health today and it will continue to be so as governments have yet to provide a response that matches the “unprecedented scale of the challenge facing the next generation,” echoed Richard Horton, editor in chief of The Lancet, as he pushed for the mobilization of clinical and global health communities.
He added that disengagement is not a choice as the full force of the Paris Agreement nears its full implementation in 2020. Horton called for the clinical, global health, and research community to unite and for world leaders to act in protecting childhood and lifelong health.
The world has little time left to reverse the effects of the ongoing climate crisis. Without action, these effects will manifest and there’s little to nothing people can do to address them.
|The world has little time left to reverse the effects of the ongoing climate crisis. Without action, these effects will manifest and there’s little to nothing people can do to address them / Photo by: Vadim Guzhva via 123RF|