Extreme weather warning prompts concern for Aussie kids: 'We need to be prepared'

The world is set to experience its hottest year on record, prompting concerns about the health of our kids.

“At its heart, the climate crisis is a child rights crisis.”

That’s the declaration from international child protection agency UNICEF, amid news that the world is set to warm to record levels during the next five years, further destabilising our daily lives.

Its head of child rights policy in Australia, Katie Maskiell, said climate change can affect every aspect of a child’s development. “It’s really robbing children of their health, their homes, their cultures, their way of life. And if we're not careful their future.”

Left - a child in a Spiderman costume looking at flood waters. Right - a child walking to school in suburbia.
Climate change could disrupt our children's lives, impacting their mental health. Source: Getty (File)

But it's not just the next generation that's likely to be impacted by climate change. Yahoo spoke to experts in insurance and weather to better understand how to protect our investments and health from rising temperatures.

Increased frequencies of disasters can really get children off track when it comes to their development, education, mental health and wellbeing.Katie Maskiell, UNICEF Australia

Why the sudden concern about rising temperatures?

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) predicts a 98 per cent likelihood that at least one of the next five years will be the hottest on record, thanks to greenhouse gas emissions and a naturally occurring El Niño event.

There’s also a 66 per cent chance the planet will enter “uncharted territory” between now and 2027, and record a temperature of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels for at least a year.

A house on the Central Coast on a cliff edge impacted by erosion.
Extreme weather is already impacting some Australian homes. Source: AAP (File)

“This will have far-reaching repercussions for health, food security, water management and the environment. We need to be prepared,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said.

How climate change will impact Aussie kids

UNICEF released a report last year, outlining how children will be impacted in 2050 if the world warms to 2.4 degrees as expected. It is particularly concerning because heatwaves are predicted to increase in frequency and severity, and they are already the most deadly weather-related events in Australia.

  • Every child will experience around 4.5 heat waves a year.

  • Up to 2.2 million kids could live in areas where heatwaves last for close to five days.

  • The number of children living in areas that experience 35 degrees for over 83 days a year could double.

How could daily life be impacted by record temperatures?

Dr Agus Santoso, a senior research associate at UNSW’s Climate Change Research Centre, warns record-breaking temperatures put Australia at risk of drought and coral breaching across the Great Barrier Reef.

People in cities will also likely be affected by dust storms and poor air quality from bushfires. This could result in higher food prices from droughts.

Will I have to pay more for insurance because of climate change?

As a climate risk and adaptation expert, Dr Karl Mallon provides modelling to governments and industry across the globe, so they can mitigate the impact of global warming.

Dr Mallon told Yahoo he believes some homeowners should actually be paying more attention to temperature warnings than interest rates. “They will have much worse financial implications,” he said.

“I expect premiums will continue to rise across flood zones and forest fire prone areas, and insurance will become unavailable in more areas,” he added. “Banks will be forced to ask for much higher deposits or even refuse mortgages in these locations,” he said.

Aren’t El Niño events naturally occurring?

The world is likely to reach its dreaded 1.5-degree heating milestone because of a predicted severe El Niño weather event. El Niño systems start to present in the tropical Pacific and then spread across the globe.

Dr Santoso explains climate change can lead to more frequent and severe weather events because it warms the ocean.

“In the Pacific that can enhance interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere. So if that coupling is enhanced that can facilitate the formation of strong La Niña and strong El Niño,” he said.

Australia has experienced La Niña for the last three years, leading to cooling and extensive flooding. Now the tropical Pacific is warming up underneath the surface. Once this warmth comes to the surface it could trigger changes in the atmosphere and trigger an El Niño.

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