News Release

Climate change more severely threatens young generations than older generations

Reports and Proceedings

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

Babies born in 2020 worldwide could expect to experience 2-7 times more extreme climate events – including heat waves, wildfires, crop failures, droughts, floods and tropical storms – under current global climate policy pledges than someone born in 1960, report Wim Thiery and colleagues in a Policy Forum. The findings provide a scientific perspective on intergenerational climate inequalities and underscore the challenges younger generations face due to inadequate climate action. “Our results highlight a severe threat to the safety of young generations and call for drastic emission reductions to safeguard their future,” write the authors. Under ongoing climate change, extreme climate events are expected to become more pronounced and occur more frequently over the next decades. As such, younger generations will likely live through far more of these events throughout their lives compared to older generations. This impending reality has fueled a surge of climate protests and litigation led by young people worldwide. However, these positions lack a comprehensive scientific perspective as current climate change assessments fail to quantify differences in lifetime exposure to climate change effects across generations. Here, Thiery et al. present a novel intergenerational analysis designed to predict impacts as they are experienced over a person’s lifetime. The analysis combines data from a collection of extreme climate event projections, global population data and data on future global temperature trajectories from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming. While the authors found that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius reduces the burden of younger generations, these generations will still experience unprecedented and unavoidable impacts unmatched by those experienced by older generations, particularly in low-income countries with rapidly growing young populations. The impacts under the current climate trajectories are far more grim.

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