This century, Australians are likely to face higher temperatures, shifting rainfall systems, severe droughts and more fires and storms. Food and water costs are increasing, while weather-related disasters and droughts will generate financial insecurity, social dislocation and loss of livelihoods in affected farming, peri-urban and regional communities. These climate-induced changes are also likely to affect human health and well-being, especially children's. Because of their immature organ systems, neurobiology and dependence on caregivers, children are more likely to be affected by heat stress, gastroenteritis and natural disasters, as well as family stresses linked to droughts, loss of livelihood and familial dislocation. Furthermore, because of climate change, children living today will confront even greater health risks over their lifetime, with available estimates indicating a 30-100% increase across selected health risks by 2050. Future generations may face a 3 to 15-fold increase by 2100. These greater health risks to children will unfold over their lifetime. We argue that they can be viewed as a form of health inequity. Indeed climate change suggests that two types of health inequities are likely. The first will be to lower the level of population health across current and future generations (including the generation of a health gap between today's adults and children living now). The second will be to increase the social gradient in health, with those with more resources better able to protect themselves from impacts and to adapt. An intergenerational framework helps clarify the human health impacts of climate change, and may help research and policy efforts to address the time lag between cause and health consequence, thereby improving health, equity and sustainability.
|International Public Health Journal
|Published - 2010