A child born in 2021 will experience more floods, heat waves, and forest fires. With a gloomy forecast, scientists recall the need to catch up in climate policy.
Potsdam – Due to climate change, a child born today will on average experience much more extreme weather than an earth citizen born in 1960 will have to go through.
Its lifetime is predicted to have twice as many forest fires, three times as many floods and crop failures, and seven times as many heatwaves – in a scenario in which countries stick to their current greenhouse gas reduction strategies. This is the result of a study by an international team of scientists that was published on Monday in the journal “Science”. Reaching the 1.5 degree target could make a huge difference.
Significantly more heat waves
The scientists superimposed existing data on global temperature profiles and projections for extreme weather events with population data and life expectancy figures. In doing so, they looked at different scenarios with regard to the increase in the global average temperature.
An example: According to the calculation, a person born in 1960 experiences an average of two to six heat waves. In contrast, an average of 10 to 26 heat waves will occur during the lifetime of a child born in 2020 if the global temperature increase is limited to 1.5 degrees. There are 15 to 29 heat waves with an increase of 2.0 degrees – and 21 to 39 heat waves if the current climate strategies of the governments are maintained.
There is also an increase in other extreme weather events, for example forest fires. People younger than 40 today would lead “an unprecedented life” when it comes to droughts, heat waves, floods and crop failures, said lead author Wim Thiery of the Free University of Brussels. The results showed a serious threat to the safety of the younger generations and suggested drastic emissions reductions.
North Africa particularly affected
The increase in extreme weather events will therefore be particularly strong for young people in the Middle East and North Africa. In principle, young generations in countries with low average incomes will be more affected than in richer countries, according to the forecast. Children born in sub-Saharan Africa between 2016 and 2020 will experience five and a half to six times more extreme weather. But it will also hit Europe: Here, around four times more extreme weather events are forecast for toddlers today. Breaking the numbers down to Germany is difficult, according to the study authors. The average values are reliable when viewed at the continental level or for very large countries.
“The good news is: We can actually take a large part of the climate load off our children’s shoulders if we limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by stopping the use of fossil fuels,” said co-author Katja Frieler from the Potsdam Institute for climate impact research. Globally, this could mean 24 percent fewer extreme weather events for the young generation than if the states stick to their current commitments to reduce emissions. For Europe it would be a minus of 28 percent. dpa