Global warming affects children the most, the American Academy of Pediatrics has revealed in a recent policy statement, published online on October 26 in the journal Pediatrics.
While the consequences of climate change are devastating on the environment, and they also pose great risks to the well-being and survival of mankind, it appears that children are particularly vulnerable to these transformations in weather conditions.
For example, as the World Health Organization has estimated, around 88% of the diseases associated with extreme climate patterns are encountered among children younger than 5 years old.
As a result, pediatricians urge authorities, health practitioners and governments to join forces in order to keep the young generation safe from the immediate and long-term effects of man-made pollution and other factors that have contributed to global warming.
“Every child needs a safe and healthy environment, and climate change is a rising public health threat to all children in this country and around the world”, declared AAP President Sandra G. Hassink, M.D. and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The report authors have also detailed some of the indirect and direct effects of global warming on the well-being of kids nowadays.
Immediate consequences include devastating weather patterns, such as wildfires, floods, storms and hurricanes, whose prevalence and severity have increased in recent decades due to climate change.
During such phenomena, children run the risk of being hurt, killed, or separated from their families, and they also experience severe emotional trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder.
For instance, following Hurricane Katrina, approximately 5,000 kids went missing, and it took several months for them to be returned back to their families. In addition, between 200,000 and 300,000 children had to be evacuated and relocated, which negatively impacted their psychological well-being and academic performance.
In addition, heat strokes, which have become increasingly more common lately, have caused the death or disability of around 9,237 high school athletes.
Infants have also been at risk due to elevated temperatures, and it appears that mortality rates among this age group will rise by at least 5.5% by 2100, as a result of heat-related illnesses.
When it comes to indirect effects, researchers emphasize the growing number of respiratory disorders, asthma and allergies, due to air pollution and wildfires.
Global warming also makes contagious diseases such as malaria, West Nile virus, Chikungunya and dengue fever more widespread and potent. In addition, it seems to have caused a spike in Lyme disease transmission rates, especially among boys aged between 5 and 9.
Children’s growth and development is also affected by extreme temperatures, because higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere diminish the crops’ nutritional value.
Also, extensive droughts and powerful storms affect the land’s fertility, threatening food and water supplies. This leads to malnutrition, disease, and famine especially in poorer countries, which are already under great strain.
The authors of the statement insist that while kids represent the future, and nothing is as vital as ensuring that they will live safe from harm, little is being done to address these problems.
According to the pediatricians group, children nowadays are at the mercy of adults, who continue to wreck the environment, causing irreversible damage which might be less conspicuous currently, but will become progressively more visible in the next decades.
In fact, modern-day adults have a moral obligation to take the necessary steps so that climate change can be halted, or at least kept under control more efficiently.
For example, more investments should be made in renewable energy sources and other sustainable practices, while promoting energy efficiency and raising awareness about the dangers of leaving global warming unchecked.
At a local level, walkable communities and green spaces should become more widespread, and buildings should be constructed in a way that’s both resource-efficient and environmentally responsible.
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