Foreign Policy Blogs

Children, the True Victims of Climate Change

Climate Change and Global Warming are hot topics these days. We all hear the buzz around the water cooler, have had arguments with our friends and family, and listened cynically to the extremist co-worker, but the reality is no matter what we hear there is something happening to our world. As I sit here typing this with the Colbert Report on TV in the background, Senator Kerry is on the show discussing his new book, "This Moment on Earth', and I know you've all heard of Al Gore's documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth.' Global Warming and climate change are not a conspiracy theory and regardless of how serious or detrimental you believe the issue to be, it's something we cannot avoid.

I'm not a scientifically minded person at all, so I will be honest and say I don't understand a lot of the technical reports on the issues of climate change, but I do understand the detriment of it all. I'm not saying that I'm good at the whole "green' thing and I know I could be better, but I do try. I recycle as much as I can and I try to take my own bags to the supermarket, but I know that's not enough. I hear people say all the time “Who cares, I'll be dead when it happens .” and so on, but the reality is it's already happening. No, we are not all going to melt tomorrow, but the effects are here and they are causing unneeded suffering to the world's children. It's hard not to believe that the changes have already started when you see all the natural disasters that have been occurring all around the world: tsunamis, hurricanes, typhoons, landslides and so much more.

But I think where I have been the most surprised lately is by this sudden shock to the press and media over all the reports coming out on the effects climate change is having on our worlds children. I find it no surprise at all that the children are the ones who are being most effected by global warming. The children are the ones who are to inherit our faults and problems, if not today then tomorrow, but they will suffer more than I can imagine. It is always the children who suffer more out of any disaster, and that is what climate change is, a series of disasters that will only heighten the disease and poverty of so many children.

On April 5, 2007, Save the Children UK published a report Legacy of Disasters; Children Bear the Brunt of Climate Warming. The sixteen-page report states that approximately 175 million children will be affected by climate change induced natural disasters every year. The report also says that those exposed to malaria will increase 45% to 60% in the next 100 years because of climate change. Malaria is one of the largest fatal diseases of children under five. They estimate in the report that by 2010, there will be around 50 million people who have been displaced due to environmental disasters, most of whom will be woman and children.

The Environment Agency in Britain also issued a report in which it stated that because of the time delay in the warming effects of carbon gases in the atmosphere, temperatures would continue to rise for the next 40 years regardless of emissions curbs. And it should be no shock to anyone that it is our obsession with cars that is the main contributor, and hardest to curb, to climate control. I know how hard it is to avoid getting in your car and driving anywhere, but we must think harder about how we can be as efficient as possible. I believe our governments have a lot of work to do and more and more standards need to be set. For the consumer will buy it if it's available, and that included the gas guzzling SUVs that Americans love so well, but I won't get on my soapbox. The point is regardless of how we do it we must curb our intake of fossil fuels for they are increasing our world's temperature and we must act now for the sake of our children and their future.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a summary report on April 6, 2007 for policy makers, on the effects of climate change for this century. Africa and Asia are expected to be the worst hit continents, and of course they are more underdeveloped and less prepared to deal with the effects. The report also states that between 200 and 600 million people will face hunger due to the effects of global warming by 2080.

Jasmine Whitbread, Save the Children UK's Chief Executive, said:

"Our job is only going to get harder. Children are already bearing the brunt of climate change and there will be millions more children caught up in climate-related natural disasters every year that will urgently need our assistance. The warning bells have been sounding for long enough. Children can't wait. The threat of climate change must be faced head on.”

Save the Children is tripling its capacity to respond to emergencies in response to global warming over the next three years.

The sad reality is we are talking about millions of children who will not only be displaced but also those who will be forced from their homes, killed, go hungry, suffer from disease, and become abused, physically and sexually, due to the consequential effects of climate change. Children make up about half of the victims of disasters and they are more susceptible to disease, malnutrition and other associated issues that will increase as the effects of global warming intensify.

It is the developing worlds children that are more at risk to the added effects of global warming due to the lack of adequate warning and emergency preparations systems. We saw this with the tsunami. However they will also be greatly affected by slower developing disasters like temperature extremes and a rise in the sea level. Many smaller disasters can tend to be ignored by the international community; however these will also increase and heavily affect those communities who are already at risk for poverty and it's subsequent effects. The developing world is less capable to handle and adapt to these changes as are we, but it is they who are beginning to feel the effects the hardest.

The truth is no matter where we come from, we all share the same world and we will feel the effects of climate change. There is no First World and Third World when speaking of a child's future, there is only one world and what we do today will effect them more than one can imagine

If you have not already, I suggest that you read my esteemed colleague Bill Hewitt's blog on Climate Change.

Related Articles and Blogs:

The Boston Globe

Time Thief: ICCP Summary for Policy Makers

Reports From Four Fronts in the War on Warming

Special Report on Climate Change

Stolen Moments a Green Digest

"Children Already Bearing the Brunt of Global Warming"



Cassandra Clifford

Cassandra Clifford is the Founder and Executive Director of Bridge to Freedom Foundation, which works to enhance and improve the services and opportunities available to survivors of modern slavery. She holds an M.A., International Relations from Dublin City University in Ireland, as well as a B.A., Marketing and A.S., Fashion Merchandise/Marketing from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Cassandra has previously worked in both the corporate and charity sector for various industries and causes, including; Child Trafficking, Learning Disabilities, Publishing, Marketing, Public Relations and Fashion. Currently Cassandra is conducting independent research on the use of rape as a weapon of war, as well as America’s Pimp Culture and its Impact on Modern Slavery. In addition to her many purists Cassandra is also working to develop a series of children’s books.

Cassandra currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where she also writes for the Examiner, as the DC Human Rights Examiner, and serves as an active leadership member of DC Stop Modern Slavery.

Areas of Focus:
Children's Rights; Human Rights; Conflict