Implications of Climate Change for Children in Developing Countries

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Climate change may be particularly dangerous for children in developing countries. Even today, many developing countries experience a disproportionate share of extreme weather, and they are predicted to suffer disproportionately from the effects of climate change in the future. Moreover, developing countries often have limited social safety nets, widespread poverty, fragile health care systems, and weak governmental institutions, making it harder for them to adapt or respond to climate change. And the fact that many developing countries have high birth rates and high ratios of children to adults (known as high dependency ratios) means that proportionately more children are at risk there than in the developed world. In this article, Rema Hanna and Paulina Oliva delve into climate change’s likely implications for children in developing countries. Such children already face severe challenges, which climate change will likely exacerbate. In particular, most people in developing countries still depend primarily on agriculture as a source of income, and so anything that reduces crop yields—such as excessive heat or rain—is likely to directly threaten the livelihoods of developing-country families and their ability to feed their children. Poor nutrition and economic disruption are likely to lower children’s scholastic achievement or even keep them out of school altogether. Children in developing countries also face more-severe threats from both air and water pollution; from infectious and parasitic diseases carried by insects or contaminated water; and from possible displacement, migration, and violence triggered by climate change. How can we temper the threat to children in developing countries? Hanna and Oliva write that we should design and fund policies to shield children in developing nations from the harm caused by climate change. Such policies might include developing new technologies, inventing more-weather-resistant crops, improving access to clean water, increasing foreign aid during disasters, and offering more assistance to help poor countries expand their safety net programs.

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