Climate Change and the Environment
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Along with severe pollution and loss of biodiversity, climate change is the most urgent and alarming threat to the environment. Contributing to environmental degradation, loss of vital natural resources and the conditions that undermine food and water security, it disrupts the very context in which adolescents live and develop.
Climate change and increased frequency and severity of humanitarian crises have the potential to adversely impact not only young people’s health and nutrition, but also theireducation and development. For instance, families who lose their livelihood to drought may no longer be able to afford sending children to school or paying for health care.
Climate change is not just an ‘environmental’ issue. It requires collective action that brings together sustainable development, energy security, and actions to safeguard children’s health and well-being. While children and young people are most seriously affected by the accelerating deterioration of the environment, they can become effective agents of change for the long-term protection and stewardship of the earth if they are provided with knowledge and opportunity. Some community-based monitoring and advocacy activities already involve young people in efforts to improve living conditions in their environments.
Natural disasters are increasingly frequent, and they most severely effect those developing countries that lack the resources to restore ‘normality’ quickly. At times of crisis, children and adolescents are most vulnerable. While the youngest are most likely to perish or succumb to disease, all children and young people suffer as a result of food shortages, poor water and sanitation, interrupted education and family separation or displacement.Two other facts are clear. The first is that this generation of adolescents will bear a major portion of the burden and cost of mitigating and adapting to climate change.
Adolescents will be harder hit than adults simply because 88 per cent of them live in developing countries, which are projected to suffer disproportionately from the effects of rising global average temperatures. An estimated 46 developing and transition countries are considered to be at high risk of climate change worsening already existing problems and heightening the possibility of conflict; a further 56 countries face a lower but still marked risk of climate exacerbated strife.
The above is from the 2011 State of the World's Children report. To learn more about how young people are responding to climate change, check out the 2011 SOWC. The photo is of Plastic bags and other garbage caught in field of shrubs in Gusau, the capital of Zamfara State. © UNICEF/NYHQ2008-1089/Christine Nesbitt