Children born this year are going to live their lives on a drastically different planet than any generations that came before them.
Thanks to the largely unmitigated progression of global climate change, upcoming generations will be forced to endure several times more ecological disasters and dangerous bouts of extreme weather, according to research published in the journal Science on Sunday. It’s an alarming prognosis that should underscore the importance of taking urgent, significant steps to keep climate change in check.
Unfortunately, lead study author and Vrije Universitiet climate scientist Wim Thiery told NBC News that in some ways, the damage has already been done, and each generation will face a more climate-ravaged planet than the one before it.
“We found that everyone under 40 today will live an unprecedented life in terms of their lifetime exposure to heat waves, droughts and floods,” Thiery told NBC. “This is true even under the most conservative scenarios.”
Specifically, Thiery and his colleagues found that kids born this year will face seven times more heat waves, twice as many wildfires, and about three times as many droughts as their grandparents. But, Thiery told NBC, droughts and heat waves may continue to grow more extreme, making the problem even worse than their research suggests.
Just like with the impacts of climate change that we’re already facing today, the researchers predict that developing nations will bear the brunt of the burden and that their wealthier neighbors will be able to avoid some of the worst changes.
But there’s time to stave off some of the worst impacts of climate change, Thiery noted, if countries around the world make severe cuts to their greenhouse gas emissions in the near future.
“This should be a call for action,” Thiery told NBC. “We have it in our hands to avoid the worst of global warming. For all of us alive today, we need to combat climate change.”