Foreign Policy Blogs

Climate Change and Our Children, a Continuing Saga

In my last post I covered the effects of climate change and global warning on our world's children. However I wanted to take this time to add to that posting, and give more focus on the subject. I wanted to especially give more attention to Save the Children's Legacy of Disasters; Children Bear the Brunt of Climate Warming Report.

Global Warming and Climate Change will affect all of us, but it is the children of the developing world that will be hit the hardest. Global Warming will increasing the amount of natural disasters, as well as their severity. One only has to look at the past few years, and the number of disasters, to see the increasing effect that these disasters are having on the children. If this is only the beginning of a long cycle of large and small scale natural disasters, then millions of our children will only have more suffering ahead.

As the report's illustrate the true nature and relentlessness that the effects of climate change are having, and how we are taking them too lightly. These effects and disasters, especially slow-moving disasters, are currently seriously underreported. In the developing world children are already suffering needlessly through poverty, unclean water, disease, lack of education, and this will only increase with global warming, and the increase of natural disasters. Issues like poverty and disease are not the only problems that will increase for children as the effects of climate change are felt. As natural disasters continue to occur millions of people will become displaced, grow more economically vulnerable, and often increase civil unrest. This in turn puts children even more at risk for becoming victims of child labor, sex trafficking and tourism, being recruited as child soldiers, and other such appalling abuses. According to both Save the Children and the UNHCR children make up at least half of all the victims of disasters.

If a child's parents are killed by a tsunami or hurricane, schools are wiped out by floods, crops are left unmarketable by drought, then a child's right to shelter, nutrition and education needs to be met. Disasters put children at even more risk than adults, as they are more susceptible to disease, malnourishment, exploitation, and many become orphans at a time when there is little structure to take care of them, let alone find suitable placements for them.

So what does all this mean? It means we must take action, as consumers, citizens and parents. Governments need to both individually and collectively work to reduce our carbon emissions to curb global warming, put into place better disaster emergency and preparedness programs. According to Save The Children's Report; "Rich industrialized countries should reduce carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 and agree to limit global warming to no more than two degrees Celsius through a new treaty based on the Kyoto Protocol." The report also recommends that donors begin putting their funds towards disaster prevention and that child-centered programs should be included in donor plans.

We can not put an end to natural disasters and many are unlinked to global warming. However we must reduce the risk of these disasters ,and have proper emergency and recovery systems in place to eliminate as much needless suffering for our children as possible. I think we all learned from the hard lessons of hurricane Katrina, that even the wealthiest nations are not adequately prepared. If our children in the United States unnecessarily suffered in the wake of disaster, imagine what the suffering of the children in Asia where global warming and natural disasters have hit the hardest.In the article, "Refugee Babies: The Lasting Effects of Tsunami Aid in Sri Lanka', one sees clearly that it is the children who are continually being victimized by the tsunami and its continuing after effects. The article talks not about merely the environmental effects of the tsunami, and how it has shaped these children's lives, but how the relief work, aid and lack of infrastructure are making this children even more vulnerable almost two and a half years after the tsunami hit.

Prolonged drought is increasing the world's desertification in many developing areas, which is increasing urban migration, and thus leading to overpopulation and urban poverty. This will only increase, and also be compounded by those seeking refugee in urban centers from other natural disasters. There is expected to be 50 million refugees due to climate change in only five years ("Millions Will Flee Degradation"). The urban population is anticipated to increase from 2.5 billion to 5 billion globally in the next twenty years (Save the Children). This is not just a population shift from rural to urban life, but a food and housing crisis. For where there is desertification, there is poverty and it is estimated that only 25% of the Africa population will be able to be sustained by 2025 if desertification continues at this rate (Mongabay).

The total number of people killed by natural disasters between 1996 and 2005 was 84 per cent higher than the number of people killed in the decade before (Save the Children). However it is not just large scale disasters, but also "slow-moving’ disasters, such as desertification, the collapse our fisheries and forests, and the rising sea levels. Sea levels are estimated to increase over 40 centimeters by 2080 (Save the Children), which will jeopardize the survival of many smaller island nations. The rising sea levels and their distruction can already be seen and felt by many communities, especially on one small Alaskan island, in the village of Shishmaref. The village of Shishmaref is already feeling the extreme effects as they estimate the tide is moving ten feet closer each year. The entire village of Shishmaref will be forced to move to the mainland and thus refugees of global warming ("Sea Engulfing Alaskan Village').

Predictions for as early as 2080 are not looking good, and though you are thinking, “I won't be around”, but your children and grandchildren will be. Can we actually go on living like its all out of our control? Well, I know I for one cannot! But the reality is the change is now happening and it's effects are with us, the worlds citizens. What will really happen in the long run with global warming, no one really knows the answers, but we cannot take any more chances. We must act now and put sustainable programs into place. We must have appropriate infrastructures and disaster response programs, increase and improve early warning systems. As citizens of a shrinking global world we must lobby our governments to make feasible changes, and not close our eyes to millions of children around the world.

Articles, Blogs and Links of Interest:

Again, I suggest that you look at Bill Hewitt's blog on Climate Change if you have not yet done so.

Save the Children's Legacy of Disasters; Children Bear the Brunt of Climate Warming Report

The Environment Agency in Britain

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

IPCC Summary Report

International Action on Global Warming (IGLO)

Facts and Figures: Desertification and Drought

USA Today, “Millions At Risk From Rising Sea Levels’



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