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Climate change exposes future generations to lifelong health harm

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Study in medical journal says an entire generation of children will be impacted if nothing is done

LONDON : A child born today faces multiple and lifelong health harms from climate change - growing up in a warmer world with risks of food shortages, infectious diseases, floods and extreme heat, a major global study has found.

Climate change is already harming people's health by increasing the number of extreme weather events and exacerbating air pollution, according to the study published in The Lancet medical journal.

And if nothing is done to mitigate it, its impacts could burden an entire generation with disease and illness throughout their lives.

"Children are particularly vulnerable to the health risks of a changing climate. Their bodies and immune systems are still developing, leaving them more susceptible to disease and environmental pollutants," said Mr Nick Watts, who co-led The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change study.

He warned that health damage in early childhood is "persistent and pervasive", and carries lifelong consequences.

"Without immediate action from all countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions, gains in well-being and life expectancy will be compromised, and climate change will come to define the health of an entire generation," he told a London briefing.

Introducing policies to limit emissions and cap global warming would see a different outcome, the research teams said.

In that scenario, a child born today would see an end to coal use in Britain, for example, by their sixth birthday, and the world reaching net-zero emissions by the time they were 31.

The Lancet study is a collaboration by 120 experts from 35 institutions including the World Health Organisation, the World Bank, University College London and China's Tsinghua University.

On a "business-as-usual" pathway, with little action to limit climate change, it found that amid rising temperatures and extreme weather events, children would be vulnerable to malnutrition and rising food prices, and the most likely to suffer from warmer waters and climates accelerating the spread of infectious diseases such as dengue fever and cholera.

Among the most immediate and long-lasting health threats from climate change is air pollution, the researchers said.

They called for urgent action to reduce outdoor and indoor pollution through the introduction of cleaner fuels and vehicles, and policies to encourage safe and active transport such as walking and cycling.- REUTERS