An entire generation at risk | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 15, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:33 AM, November 15, 2019


An entire generation at risk

  • A 7.4 percent year-on-year cut in CO2 emissions needed until 2050 to limit global warming to 1.5C
  • A warmer world brings risks of food shortages, infectious diseases, floods and extreme heat
  • Venice floods, Australia bushfires blamed on climate change


Climate change will damage the health of an entire generation unless there are immediate cuts to fossil fuel emissions, from a rise in deadly infectious diseases to surging malnutrition, experts warned yesterday.

Children across the world were already suffering the ill effects of air pollution and extreme weather events, said The Lancet Countdown in its annual report on the impact of climate change on human health.

And far worse is to come for future generations, it warned: air-borne diseases, malnutrition due to mass crop failures, and even mental and physical trauma from increased flash flooding and wildfires.

The Lancet Countdown is a coalition of 35 institutions including the World Health Organization and the World Bank.

The report came as climate change is attributed to extreme floods in Venice, fires in Australia and even an outbreak of plague in China this week.

Venice declared a state of emergency on Wednesday after “apocalyptic” floods swept through the lagoon city, flooding its historic basilica and inundating squares and centuries-old buildings.

Some of Australia’s worst wildfires in living memory continue to burn across its eastern seaboard. 4 people have been killed so far.

If nothing is done, the impacts could burden an entire generation with disease and illness throughout their lives, researchers said.

The report, compiled by 120 experts, said “nothing short” of a 7.4 percent year-on-year cut in CO2 emissions until 2050 would limit global warming to 1.5C.

“A kid born today has an average global life expectancy of 71 years so that brings them to 2090. That means that kid will experience a 4C world,” Nick Watts, executive director of The Lancet Countdown, told AFP.

In the last 30 years, the global yield potential of staple crops such as maize, winter wheat and rice, have all declined, putting infants and small children at heightened risk of malnutrition.

Infant malnutrition impacts every stage of a child’s life, stunting growth, weakening the immune system and throwing up long-term developmental problems. More children will also be susceptible to infectious disease outbreaks.

In three just three decades, the number of days worldwide of prime infectiousness for the Vibrio bacteria -- which causes much of child diarrhoeal disease worldwide -- has doubled.

The report found that mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue and malaria were also on the march, putting half of the world’s current population at risk.

Reacting to the report, The Lancet’s editor-in-chief Richard Horton said climate change was “one of the greatest threats to the health of humanity today”.

“But the world has yet to see a response from governments,” he added. “We can’t afford this level of disengagement.”

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