Unless we can halt the current course of global warming, it is widely recognized that least developed countries and small island states will bear the brunt of negative impacts of climate change. As drought and extreme weather events increase in both frequency and intensity, UNICEF must prepare for the impact of continued climate change on the children and families it helps.
Climate change affects children in a number of ways:
- Negative nutritional impacts of long- and short-term food insecurity
- Health effects of poor air quality and aeroallergens
- Negative effects of poor water quality and increasing distances to fresh water sources
- Insecurity, safety and well-being during extreme weather events
- Negative effects of household-level economic setbacks
- The multitude of challenges that displacement can bring, including disruption of education, decreased access to essential medicines, and child protection problems
- The spread of globally important vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue and leishmaniasis
But children can be agents of change. For instance, 17-year-old Brittany Trilford of Wellington, New Zealand addressed 130 heads of state at the opening plenary of the Summit:
It is our sincere hope that the Rio meeting ends with a commitment by world leaders to redouble their efforts to address climate change.