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Lowering carbon emissions could help prevent heat-related deaths among children

Experts worry about how children will handle rising temperatures if emissions don't go down

Hot temperature and high heat concept
Photo (c) Brandy Arivett EyeEm - Getty Images
A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Leeds explored how carbon emissions and rising temperatures may affect children. According to their findings, reducing carbon emissions in an effort to lower temperatures may prevent thousands of childhood heat-related deaths. Conversely, the team says failing to lower emissions could cost more young lives.

“Young children are especially vulnerable to the effects of heat exposure,” said researcher Dr. Cathryn Birch. “They have limited ability to thermoregulate and high temperatures can increase disease transmission and outbreaks. 

“This research details the very real consequences of allowing carbon emissions to continue unchecked. Our results underscore the need for more ambitious mitigation measures to protect vulnerable populations and the need for proactive and effective adaptation.” 

Prioritizing kids’ health 

For the study, the researchers projected how rising temperatures have and will impact childhood mortality in sub-Saharan Africa from 1995 through 2050. They also looked at the relationship between emissions levels, rising temperatures, and childhood mortality rates. 

The researchers explained that childhood mortality has been increasing since 2009 due to rising global temperatures. They believe this trend will likely continue if efforts to lower carbon emissions aren’t put into effect. 

If no initiatives are put in place to lower carbon emissions, the researchers predict that childhood mortalities will reach 38,000 by the year 2049. On the other hand, getting emissions levels to a medium or low place could prevent many heat-related childhood deaths. Medium emissions efforts may prevent as many as 3,000 childhood deaths each year, while cutting emissions to the lowest level may prevent 6,000 childhood deaths. 

The researchers explained that children in low-income countries are more likely to have poorer health care and nutrition, both of which can be detrimental when temperatures are high. The team worries about how children will be affected, especially in low-income areas, if more efforts aren’t taken to lower carbon emissions levels. 

“Our results highlight the urgent need for health policy to focus on heat-related child mortality,” said researcher Dr. Sarah Chapman. “This is a serious present-day issue, which will only become more pressing as the climate warms.” 

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