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Longer, hotter, frequent heat waves to affect over 2 billion children by 2050: UN report

A United Nations report has revealed that by the year 2050, over 2 billion children globally will face frequent heat waves regardless of whether the world achieves a lower level of global heating or not. The report titled ‘The Coldest Year Of The Rest Of Their Lives’, says even a ‘low greenhouse gas emission scenario’ with about 1.7 degrees of warming in the next three decades is unlikely to prevent longer, hotter and more frequent heat waves for children anywhere.

The report highlights that at present, about 500 million children are exposed to high heat wave frequency and another over 600 million are exposed to other high heat measures which include extreme high temperatures. “The mercury is rising and so are the impacts on children,” UNICEF chief Catherine Russell said. “Already, 1 in 3 children live in countries that face extreme high temperatures and almost 1 in 4 children are exposed to high heatwave frequency, and it is only going to get worse.”

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Heat waves affect adults and children differently since the latter are more prone to its impact. Children are not able to regulate body temperature like adults and, therefore, are more vulnerable to chronic respiratory conditions, asthma, and cardiovascular diseases. Babies and young children face a greater risk of heat-related mortality, it elaborates. The minimum measure is for all governments to immediately limit global heating to 1.5 degree Celsius, the report further suggests.

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While Europe is expected to face dramatic increases in the severity of heatwaves, children in Asia and Africa will be exposed to extremely high temperatures as per the report. India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan are among those countries likely to face the worst consequences in both categories, it states.

The report also highlights the visible impact of heatwaves on crops, and the environment in general which poses an additional challenge and proposes measures like climate finance, increasing funding, climate change education, strengthened food systems to sustain the future livelihood of children.

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