Doomed! Failure to act on climate will mean debilitating health consequences for children born today

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Published: November 15, 2019 1:33:57 AM

A report by The Lancet on the public health impacts of rising temperatures and air pollution provides a set of equally compelling reasons.

With worsening air pollution, future adolescents are expected to suffer damage to their hearts, lungs, and other vital organs.

The world, over the last few years, has seen devastating consequences of climate change unravel. With various reports sounding the alarm on consequences—indeed, some warn we might have vastly underestimated them so far—climate action couldn’t have seen more urgent ever. Now, a report by The Lancet on the public health impacts of rising temperatures and air pollution provides a set of equally compelling reasons. The report points to several threats, including increased incidence of infectious and vector-borne diseases like dengue, rising food insecurity, undernutrition, and more frequent extreme weather events, it notes that the size of India’s population and the stark inequalities in healthcare in the country expose it to the risk of losing the public health gains of the last two decades. India, along with China, is expected to face an increased burden of climate change effects, the worst of which, the report emphasises, will be borne by children being born today.

“A child born today,” the report states, “will experience a world that is more than four degrees warmer than the pre-industrial average, with climate change impacting human health from infancy and adolescence to adulthood and old age.” Infants would be more vulnerable to malnutrition—already responsible for two-thirds of under-five deaths—and rising food prices. With worsening air pollution and PM 2.5 already having contributed to 5,29,500 premature deaths in 2016, future adolescents are expected to suffer damage to their hearts, lungs, and other vital organs. Extreme weather events, including exposure to wildfires—the exposure of daily population to which the report estimates to be 21 million between 2001 and 2014—is expected to severely limiting labour capacity. The writing has been on the wall for quite some time now—Greta Thunberg is right. A failure to act now will doom future generations.

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