Although wealthy and rapidly growing countries are the major consumers of fossil fuels and other resources, the impacts of climate change are often more severely felt in poor countries, where many people already struggle with food and water scarcities and diseases like cholera, which spreads more easily when natural disasters like flooding or storms compromise already fragile water and sanitation infrastructure.
Climate change is impacting so many different aspects of our lives that it has evolved from an ‘environmental’ issue into one that requires collective expertise in sustainable development, energy security, and the health and well-being of children. Here are some examples:
- Accessing fresh water is essential for life, health and livelihoods. Climate change is expected to bring more droughts, floods and rising sea levels, which will make finding clean and fresh water more difficult.
- Food security is affected by the changing climate. Droughts, temperature variations, wildfires, severe weather events, pests, diseases and floods can damage food crops. Worsening malnutrition puts the health and survival of women and children at risk and puts an added strain on people with HIV who are taking antiretroviral medication, as solid nutrition is critical to the success of the therapy.
- A clear consequence of climate change is the displacement and migration of families, which almost always have a negative impact on children. Under these conditions, children face an increased risk of abuse and trafficking. In the aftermath of disasters, children may be pulled out of school and put to work to help their families recover.
- Diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and Lyme disease, which are carried by insects, are also affected by changing temperatures because the insects are able to breed in areas where they were not able to in the past. They are now found in many northern countries that used to be too cold for them to breed.
- Increases in the intensity of extreme weather events linked to climate change also put people in danger, often destroying the places where they live and work and leaving behind damaged crops, contaminated water supplies and separated families.
- Smoke and fumes from burning fossil fuels in homes, buses, cars and factories increase greenhouse gas emissions, making climate change worse, while also polluting the air we breathe and causing health problems.
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