Nearly half of the world’s 2.2 billion children are at an “extremely high-risk” of experiencing the effects of climate change, including exposure to harmful greenhouse gases, flooding and heatwaves, according to a new report from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The report, which was shared with The Hill on Thursday, marks the first of its kind to measure the effects of climate change specifically from the perspective of children, a population that UNICEF says is disproportionately more likely to experience detrimental health outcomes from global warming.
UNICEF found that about 1 billion of the global child population lives in one of the 33 countries labeled at the highest level of risk in terms of vulnerability to climate change.
The international humanitarian aid agency made its determination based on the Children’s Climate Risk Index, which measured children’s vulnerability to climate shocks, including heat waves, cyclones, droughts and floods.
UNICEF said that the countries where children are most vulnerable include the Central African Republic, Chad, Nigeria, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.
The report also found that nearly every child on the planet is exposed to at lease one climate and environmental hazard, shock or stress, including air pollution and water scarcity.
The foreword portion of the report, written by Greta Thunberg and other youth climate activists, said that children across the world “face a deadly combination of exposure to multiple climate and environmental shocks with a high vulnerability due to inadequate essential services,” like water, sanitation and healthcare.
“The survival of these children is at imminent threat from the impacts of climate change,” the activists added.
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement shared with The Hill that the report for the first time provides a "complete picture of where and how children are vulnerable to climate change, and that picture is almost unimaginably dire.”
“Climate and environmental shocks are undermining the complete spectrum of children’s rights, from access to clean air, food and safe water; to education, housing, freedom from exploitation, and even their right to survive,” she continued. “Virtually no child’s life will be unaffected.”
The director went on to say that UNICEF supports youth climate activists in “their calls for change with an unarguable message — the climate crisis is a child’s rights crisis.”
Among the recommendations included in the report, UNICEF said governments, businesses and other actors should invest in the adaptation and improvement of water, sanitation and hygiene systems, as well as health and education services.
The organization also urged the groups to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 45 percent of 2010 levels by 2030 “to keep warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.”