PARIS: Climate change will damage the health of an entire generation unless there are immediate cuts to fossil fuel emissions, from a rise in deadly infectious diseases to surging malnutrition, experts warned on Thursday.

Children across the world were already suffering the ill effects of air pollution and extreme weather events, said.

The Lancet Countdown in its annual report on the impact of climate change on human health.

And far worse is to come for future generations, it warned: air-borne diseases, malnutrition due to mass crop failures, and even mental and physical trauma from increased flash flooding and wildfires.

The Lancet Countdown is a coalition of 35 institutions including the World Health Organisation and the World Bank.

“A kid born today has an average global life expectancy of 71 years so that brings them to 2090. That means that kid will experience a 4C world,” said Nick Watts, executive director of The Lancet Countdown.

The report, compiled by 120 experts, used the latest available data and climate modelling to predict global health trends as the mercury climbs throughout the decades.

In parts of the world already, the health effects from climate change start in the first weeks of a baby’s life.

In the last 30 years, the global yield potential of staple crops such as maize, winter wheat and rice, have all declined, putting infants and small children at heightened risk of malnutrition.

Infant malnutrition impacts every stage of a child’s life, stunting growth, weakening the immune system and throwing up long-term developmental problems.

More children will also be susceptible to infectious disease outbreaks.

In three just three decades, the number of days worldwide of prime infectiousness for the Vibrio bacteria — which causes much of child diarrhoeal disease worldwide — has doubled.

This not only increases the likelihood of children contracting diseases such as cholera in at-risk regions, it also enlarges their spread.

Extreme weather events are likely to proliferate as temperatures climb, posing increasingly frequent economic disruption. For example, in 2018, 45 billion hours of work were lost due to extreme heat globally compared with 2000.

“Climate change is not about 2100, climate change is about Wednesday, November 13, 2019,” said Watts, speaking on the day.

“Populations around the world are migrating, growing and ageing in the areas that are worst affected by climate change.”

The study found that last year an additional 220 million over-65s were exposed to extreme heat, compared with the historical average.

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2019

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