We know that the climate crisis will continue to ravage our planet until governments take action, but how much worse off will it be for a baby born in 2014? Significantly worse, according to the latest information.
As reported in the journal Science, the new generation will deal with seven times more scorching heatwaves in their lifetime than what people born 60 years ago have and will experience, if the average global temperature reaches 3°C (5.4°F) above the preindustrial average.
It’s not just heatwaves – this generation will on average live through 2.6 times more droughts, 2.8 times as many river floods, almost three times as many crop failures, and twice the number of wildfires than the generation born in the 1960s.
“With this study we lay bare the fundamental injustice of climate change across generations, as well as the responsibilities of today's adults and elders in power,” co-author Dr Joeri Rogelj, from the Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment, said in a statement.
“The consequence of children suffering unprecedented sequences of climate extremes over the course of their lives can now be attributed to the inaction of today's adults. It also shows how much can be gained by ambitious emissions reductions.”
While the burden will be on the youngest, it doesn’t mean that everyone else is not affected. Even under the requirements of the Paris Climate agreement to limit the warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F), people born after 1980 will have experienced a number of heatwaves, crop failures, droughts, and river floods that wouldn’t have been possible under pre-industrial climate conditions.
“This basically means that people younger than 40 today will live an unprecedented life even under the most stringent climate change mitigation scenarios,” Professor Wim Thiery, a climate scientist at Vrije Universiteit Brussel and lead author of the study, said in a statement.
“Our results highlight a severe threat to the safety of young generations and call for drastic emission reductions to safeguard their future.”
The team also stresses that inequality is not just between generations, but also between different regions of the world. Despite contributing way fewer emissions, the younger generations in the Global South are experiencing more extreme events than their counterparts in the Global North.
“In the past few years, I have seen more and more how the climate crisis is affecting the African continent – which is ironic given that Africa is the lowest emitter of CO2 emission of all continents, except for Antarctica,” Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate said in her speech at the Youth4Climate summit.
“It’s time for our leaders to wake up! It’s time for our leaders to stop talking and start acting. It’s time to count the real costs, and it’s time for the polluters to pay.”
Nakate's request for no more empty promises echoes the words of fellow climate activist Greta Thunberg that mocked world leaders in her speech.