|Sorita participates in UNICEF's global #ClimateChain campaign|
© Sorita Heng
1. You are a farmer in Cambodia. Your province has just been hit with a massive flood. Your rice paddy is completely destroyed. Your daughter keeps having diarrhea. She's pale and her lips are cracked. The road is too flooded for you to take her to the hospital. Knee-high water lulls around the house. It's starting to stink.
2. You are a middle-class resident in China. You live in its enormous, industrialized capital city, Beijing. The city is draped in smog. You have just rushed your son to the hospital. He's been coughing and wheezing so much lately. You're scared he's building up to another asthma attack. The memory of the last time he had one of these attacks still burns in your memory when his lips turned so blue. You'd thought he would die.
3. You're in the United States. People keep thinking you're living a glamorous, Hollywood life in Los Angeles. But your daughter has been having trouble breathing - plus, coughing and chest pains. From what you've read on the news, it's probably because of the high ozone pollution levels she's being exposed to. Los Angeles is found to have the worst ozone pollution out of all the cities in the country. You need to find a job somewhere else, and fast.
4. Your skin is dry. The land is dry. Ethiopia is your home, and the worsening drought has made you both hungry and thirsty. You can see your son's ribs underneath his skin. The crops have wilted. Water is scarce - you go off each day with your bottle in desperate search for it. You vow not to be useless. If you cannot afford to feed your son properly, then at least, at least, you must calm his thirst.
These are just a few scenarios to get you started. And these aren't scenarios far off in the distant future. They are already happening, and children are taking a huge brunt of the effects.
According to Unicef, over half a billion children live in areas where extremely high floods occur. Dangers include water-borne illnesses such as diarrhea. Because their immune systems are still developing, children run a higher risk than adults of getting sick. About 1.5 million children die each year around the world from diarrhea.
Beijing had sounded its alarm over smog levels back in December, 2015. Particulate matter (PM) - incredibly tiny matter caused by the burning of fossil fuel - infested the city. Health problems can range from asthma to lung cancer. Here, children are also more aptly affected since they breathe at twice the rate of adults.
Similarly, Los Angeles, is also facing air pollution problems. Although PM is less of a problem, the city was reportedly found to have dangerous levels of ozone pollution. Health risks include premature death, worsening asthma and heart disease.
On top of that, nearly 160 million children live in areas vulnerable to severe drought. Ethiopia has been hit the hardest, with 3.9 million children unable to go to school because of the drought.
All of these dangers, and more, are expected to worsen if we don’t cut down on carbon emissions. Developing countries will be taking the worst of the blows, as they struggle with the resources to cope. Even more disheartening statistics will continue to surface.
In our brief time here, humans have done many things on earth. We have invented agriculture, and built skyscrapers. We have constructed moving poetry and wondrous symphonies. We have achieved amazing feats, but we are also putting ourselves - and the millions of other species on this little blue dot in space with us - in danger.
Within the last century, sources say that the earth has warmed by 0.7 degrees Celsius. That may not sound like much, but it's around eight times quicker than the warming on average after the ice age. Natural influences alone cannot account for this rapid warming. And throughout history, the spike in greenhouse gases have led to hotter temperature. In the present, with El Nino factoring in, global temperature in 2016 is set to be record high.
Some researchers say the earth will probably be swallowed by the sun one day. Others say it will be obliterated in ‘The Big Rip’. Let’s not cut our time shorter than necessary, shall we?
Disclaimer: This piece doesn’t reflect the views of UNICEF.