The intergenerational rift over climate change has long dominated talks around the looming crisis, with many young activists demanding action from the powers that be. The exact burden they would have to bear has not appeared entirely clear. But one study has identified five ways the climate crisis will pile pressure on the world’s youth as they take the baton from contemporary politicians.
A study published last week in the journal Science has quantified the climate fallout.
According to a group of researchers led by Wim Thiery, a climate scientist and professor at the Vrije Universiteit Brussels, people born in the 1960s faced far fewer climate disasters.
On average, over 60s see approximately four heatwaves during their lifetimes.
Modern generations – those born in 2020 – will see far more, an average of approximately 30.
The value marks a 7.5-fold increase on their grandparents’ generation and is just one of several potential dangers they face.
They will also need to navigate increasing droughts and crop failures, which have exploded by 3.6 and 3 times previous levels respectively.
River floods and wildfires have increased alongside them by 2.8 and twofold.
Altogether, the researchers estimate new generations will see roughly three times as many climate disasters compared to their predecessors.
These conditions would continue to develop under 2.7C of annual warming until 2100 – the end of the century.
The United Nations (UN) has warned current commitments made by global governments would guarantee this.
A recent report from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) found political pledges would reduce carbon by roughly 7.5 percent by 2030.
Scientists say the best route to reducing global temperatures to 1.5 percent – the goal set out in the Paris Climate Agreement – would require a commitment to cut carbon up to 45 percent.
World leaders will also discuss meeting the target in the upcoming COP26 conference between October 31 and November 12.
Leading figures in the UN have made impassioned calls on attendees to hash out a new, more ambitious deal.
Members of UNEP said they must address climate disasters with a sense of urgency.
Inger Andersen, executive director of the programme, said climate change has become a “now” rather than “future problem”.
She added that leaders now have only about eight years to “almost halve” greenhouse gases and meet that 1.5 percent goal.
And António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, used the report to condemn targets they are currently working to achieve.
He said their commitments were “far off”, adding countries have squandered a “massive opportunity” to invest in “sustainable” post-Covid recovery methods.
He added: “As world leaders prepare for COP26, this report is another thundering wake-up call. How many do we need?”