Climate change: children’s challenge

Climate change is real and happening now. And it is set to pose an even greater challenge in the future ifappropriate action is not taken.In developing countries today, children face thechallenge of climate change, despite being leastresponsible for its causes. More severe and morefrequent natural disasters, food crises and changingrainfall patterns are all threatening children’s livesand their basic rights to education, health, cleanwater and the right food. The impact of climatechange is projected to be more intense in theimmediate and long-term future, suggesting thatchildren of today and subsequent generationswill bear the brunt of climate change. The costof inaction will place a great economic burden onfuture generations. Children will bear the highercosts of not taking action today.Developed and developing countries are affected byclimate change, both directly and indirectly. Whilethe impact of climate change-related events maybe less severe in developed countries – largelybecause of greater economic resiliency –HurricaneSandy (2012) showed that intense storms havethe capacity to wreak havoc in even the mosteconomically developed nations. Sandy claimedthe lives of 73 people and caused US $68 billion ofdamage in the United States.Children and young people in developed countriesare acutely aware of climate change, and arepassionate and vocal about the need for action bygovernments to tackle the problem. UNICEF UK/Ipsos MORI polling carried out in 2013 highlightedthat 74 per cent of young people (age 11–16) inBritain agreed that they are worried about howclimate change will affect their future and believethe world will have changed as a result of climatechange by the time they are adults. More thanseven out of 10 wanted the UK Government to domore to tackle climate change. Moreover, nearlytwo-thirds (63 per cent) were worried about howclimate change will affect children and families indeveloping countries, demonstrating a high levelof concern for children in other countries. Similarpolling in the US showed that nearly three out offour young voters said they are less likely to votefor someone who opposes President Obama’slandmark plan on climate change.1 The evidenceis clear: children bear the brunt of the impactof climate change and want to see change onthe issue.Ahead of the UN Secretary General’s High LevelMeeting on Climate Change in 2014 and thesigning of a new global deal in 2015, this reportcollates perspectives of young people from all overthe world. Gathered from five years of UNICEFresearch at international, national and regional level,accompanied by key statistics and analysis of thecurrent and expected impacts of climate change onchildren. It shows how children are experiencing theimpacts of climate change right now and their fearsfor the future. The evidence in this report highlightsthat climate change is perhaps the greatestchallenge facing children today.Climate change has too often been discussed anddebated in abstract terms, negating the human costsand placing little attention on its intergenerationalimpact. Figures on projected impacts of climatechange give us a sense of the world in 2030, 2050and beyond. While these projections are hugelyimportant, they must be combined with a focus onthose who will have to live with the reality of thestate of the planet. A child born in 2012 will be 18 in2030 and 38 in 2050. Climate change is not abouta future we won’t live to see. It is about now andabout the future for our children.Urgent action on climate change is needed to ensurethat the state of our planet allows children to surviveand flourish today and in the future. We need tolisten to what children are saying, and take action toensure we build the future they want to see. 

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