Extreme Heatwaves to Affect 2 Billion Children by 2050
A new UNICEF report reminds us that children are on the front lines of extreme heat -- and as heatwaves around the world grow more severe, the risks are only escalating. The report specifies that currently, "about 559 million children are exposed to high heatwave frequency, and around 624 million children are exposed to one of three other high heat measures -- high heatwave duration, high heatwave severity or extreme high temperatures.”
UNICEF predicts that this number will climb to over 2 billion by midcentury. Nearly all children on earth will be subject to extreme, frequent heat waves, even in a “low-emission scenario” where the world warms by just 1.7 degrees by 2050.
Why This Matters
The latest research shows that the world is not just warming -- it’s warming exponentially. From Europe, to India, to the US, climate change has made extreme heat 100% more likely. Indeed, summer temperatures have skyrocketed in the last few years, shattering heat records across the world. During the past year alone, according a brand new study climate change raised temperatures for 7.6 billion people worldwide (ie roughly 96% of the world's population).
BBC: Deadly heatwaves '100 times more likely’ due to climate change, May 18, 2022.
Bloomberg: Extreme Heat in the Middle East, September 9, 2021.
South China Morning Post: Pakistani city on 'front line of climate change’ sees record temperatures, May 18, 2022.
United Nations: UN Secretary-General | "Pakistan is paying a supersize price for manmade climate change,” October 11, 2022.
Rising temperatures pose a major threat to both mental and physical human health, the Lancet Countdown 2022 report finds. Heat is also the most deadly form of extreme weather -- data from earlier this year reveals that by August, America’s extreme heat death toll was already higher than both the 10 and 30-year averages.
Health risks are only magnified in children -- already, almost half of the world’s children are at extremely high risk from the impacts of climate change. As Paloma Escudero, Head of UNICEF's COP27 delegation and Director of Communications and Advocacy, stated in a press conference:
Children are more vulnerable to the impacts of extreme heat and heatwave events than adults. Infants and young children are less able to regulate their body temperature compared to adults, putting them more at risk when exposed to high heat. And beyond the threat that heatwaves pose to children’s health, they also threaten their access to food and water, their education, and their future livelihoods.
WW0: Health and Climate, August 6, 2020.
The Coldest Summer of the Rest of Our Lives?
Scientific American compiled many studies from across the world that all suggest the same conclusion: summers will just keep getting hotter and hotter. As US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo stated at a Heat.gov event: "The reality is, given the scientific predictions, this summer -- with its oppressive and widespread heat waves -- is likely to be one of the coolest summers of the rest of our lives.”
With more heatwaves on the horizon, many US cities are taking steps to prepare. Fast-growing cities in the "US Sun Belt,” for example, including Phoenix and San Antonio, are scrambling to put together heat protections for their booming populations. Some cities are appointing Chief Heat Officers to respond to the growing threat to human health.
FOX 43: Heat.gov launches, providing resources for those facing excessive heat, August 4, 2022.
MSNBC: Chris Hayes | We Must Pay Attention To 'Urgent Crisis’ Of Extreme Heat Events, May 23, 2022.
The Economist: See what three degrees of global warming looks like, October 30, 2021.
TED: Mapping Urban Heat Islands | Tom DiLiberto, October 20, 2020.