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December 3, 2019

Children at risk

Opinion

December 3, 2019

On Nov 12, Veneto, Italy’s regional council was debating climate policy in its Venice offices. Minutes after a majority voted against budget amendments to address climate disruption, the chambers were inundated with water. Venice is known for flooding, but it’s getting worse, and the timing in this instance felt like a message.

Our existence is a marvelous phenomenon. We live on a spinning ball of water and rock at just the right distance from the sun for natural cycles to have developed to create ideal conditions for life as we know it. But exploding human populations and hyperconsumption-driven societies have, in a relatively brief time, knocked these natural systems out of balance. We’ve upset the carbon cycle so rapidly by indiscriminately burning fossil fuels and destroying natural carbon sinks like forests and wetlands that consequences are hitting much faster than predicted.

Australia is on fire. Parts of Europe are flooding. Melting permafrost in Northern Canada is raising fears that naturally stored methane will escape, accelerating heating. Refugees are fleeing homelands as climate disruption makes farming and living in many areas difficult. Entire villages in India are being abandoned for lack of water and temperatures too high for crops to survive.

Canada’s North is heating at close to triple the global average rate, and the country overall at twice the average.

The recent Lancet Countdown, an international academic review of climate impacts on human health by 120 experts from 35 institutions, found people in Canada face a range of health risks, including the many effects of increasing wildfires and pollution, such as asthma and other respiratory illnesses. It found pollution from land-based transportation alone caused more than 1,000 deaths in 2015.

In Canada and worldwide, as well as committing our children, grandchildren, and those yet to be born to an uncertain future, we’ve made conditions worse for young people today. The Lancet report found children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to climate disruption, as are the least well off.

Global heating is creating a range of health problems. Illness and death are increasing from climate-driven wildfires and smoke, insects carrying diseases such as Lyme and dengue are moving into new territory, malnutrition is on the rise as droughts and flooding cause crop failures and food scarcity, and deadly diarrhea from bacteria like cholera is spreading, with children bearing the brunt of the problems.

You’d think we’d do everything in our power to protect our children, but we aren’t. Governments here and elsewhere are still putting the fossil fuel industry’s interests ahead of citizens’, while downplaying the climate crisis.

Excerpted from:‘Failure to AddressClimate Crisis Puts Children at Risk’.

Commondreams.org

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