United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Unless we act now- The impact of climate change on children

Publication Year: 2015 Publisher: Unicef

Climate change

Related Goals


There may be no greater, growing threat facing the world’s children – and their children – than climate change. This mounting global crisis has the potential to undermine many of the gains we have made in child survival and development – and poses even greater dangers ahead.

In every crisis, children are the most vulnerable. Climate change is no exception. As escalating droughts and flooding degrade food production, children will bear the greatest burden of hunger
and malnutrition. As temperatures increase, together with water scarcity and air pollution, children will feel the deadliest impact of water-borne diseases and dangerous respiratory conditions. As more extreme weather events expand the number of emergencies and humanitarian crises, children will pay the highest price. As the world experiences a steady rise in climate-driven migration, children’s lives and futures will be the most disrupted.

These are the threats that children face today. Unless we act forcefully to stem the climate crisis now, the danger will only escalate. It is a prospect so painful to imagine that many people would rather not think about it.

But action must begin with knowledge and understanding of the costs of inaction. By combining state-of-the-art demographic data on the world’s child population with scientific projections on the likely impacts of climate change in the decades ahead, this report offers a unique look at the climate-related risks that children face. It also outlines the likely scenarios for children if the world continues on its current course.