Children born today face seven-fold increase in exposure to extreme heatwaves, research shows

A child born today faces living through, on average, seven times more heatwaves than their grandparents, research finds.

hildren born in 2020 will also experience double the number of wildfires, 2.6 times more droughts and almost three times more river floods and crop failures than someone born in 1960, the analysis says.

Writing in the journal Science, the international team of climate researchers say their findings “highlight a severe threat to the safety of young generations and call for drastic emission reductions to safeguard their future”.

The analysis comes just days after young people took to the streets around the world to demand more urgent climate action ahead of Cop26, the crucial global summit taking place in Glasgow in November.

The findings are conditional on countries meeting their current climate pledges, which are not ambitious enough to meet aspirations of limiting global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Study lead author Prof Wim Thiery, a climate scientist at Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium, said: “Our results show that newborns will face a seven-fold increase in exposure to extreme heatwaves across their lifetime relative to their grandparents.

“We also find that people who are under 40 today will live an unprecedented life in terms of exposure to heatwaves, droughts, crop failure, and river floods – even under the most ambitious climate policies.”

The researchers made estimates of lifetime exposure to six extreme conditions –  droughts, heatwaves, crop failures, river floods, tropical cyclones and wildfires –  for every generation born between 1960 and 2020.

They examined extreme weather exposure under several possible scenarios, including one where temperatures are successfully limited to 1.5C and one where countries instead meet their current climate pledges.

“If we manage to drastically reduce our emissions in the coming years, we can still avoid the worst consequences for children worldwide,” said Prof Thiery.

“We can cut the intergenerational burden by at least 40pc if we increase current ambition levels and limit global warming to 1.5C.”

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