Climate change poses a threat to human health and safety, but children are uniquely vulnerable, especially those in the poorest countries, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said in a policy statement released on Monday.
“Children are uniquely at risk to the direct impacts of climate changes like climate-related disaster — including floods and storms — where they are exposed to increased risk of injury, death, loss of or separation from caregivers and mental health consequences,” explained lead author of the policy statement Samantha Ahdoot.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 88 percent of the existing burden of disease attributable to climate change occurs in children younger than five years old.
“They are also more vulnerable to the secondary impacts of global warming, like disease,” Ahdoot pointed out.
Children in the world’s poorest countries, where the disease burden is already disproportionately high, are most affected by climate change, according to a technical report that accompanies the policy statement.
In 2030, climate change is projected to cause an additional 48,000 deaths attributable to diarrheal disease in children younger than 15 years old, primarily in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, the report noted.
“Every child need a safe and healthy environment and climate change is a rising public health threat to all children in this country and around the world,” said AAP president Sandra Hassink.
The technical report accompanying the AAP policy statement offered a review of the latest scientific evidence linking climate change to child health, development, wellbeing and nutrition.
Infants less than one year of age are uniquely vulnerable to heat-related mortality, with one study projecting an increase in infant heat-related deaths by 5.5 percent in females and 7.8 percent in males by the end of the 21st Century, the report said.
Failure to take prompt, substantive action would be an act of injustice to all children, the report said.
The policy statement was published online in the journal Pediatrics.