Diverse Effects of Extreme Temperatures Highlight Urgency for Global Cooperation

Exposure to extreme temperatures driven by climate change is set to raise the risk of preterm births by a staggering 60 percent, leading to lifelong complications for millions of children worldwide, warns a comprehensive study conducted by researchers at The University of Western Australia. The findings, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, bring attention to the urgent need for global policies to counteract the detrimental effects of climate change on children’s health.

The research team, analyzing results from 163 health studies globally, identifies a direct correlation between climate change-driven extremes and various health impacts on children. These impacts include a higher incidence of respiratory illnesses and increased hospitalizations, with potential lifelong consequences. The study emphasizes that the lack of concerted global efforts to address climate change will likely result in devastating effects on children’s health for generations to come.

The study, considered the first to compile all available scientific evidence on the effects of climate change on children’s health, sheds light on the specific climate-driven extremes linked to particular health impacts. Corey Bradshaw, a study author from Flinders University, notes, “The children’s health issues we identified depend on weather extremes – cold extremes give rise to respiratory diseases, while drought and extreme rainfall can result in stunted growth for a population.”

Despite the majority of analyzed studies being from high-income nations, the research highlights that even advanced economies will not escape the impacts of climate change on children’s health. The risks vary across continents and socio-economic circumstances, underscoring the need for a global, collaborative approach to address this pressing issue.

The geographical impact of climate change on health outcomes is also evident in the study. While extreme temperatures contribute to higher preterm birth rates and respiratory issues in certain regions of Australia, similar temperatures are associated with increased mortality rates in South Africa.

Lead researcher Lewis Weeda from The University of Western Australia emphasizes the urgency for public health policies to counter climate-related diseases. Weeda states, “Finding solutions and implementing climate adaptation and mitigation policies would positively impact multiple United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Climate change is universal and adversely affecting all countries and people, and we must prepare societies for mounting threats to child health.”

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