Friday, September 2, 2011

Climate change: an interview with Donovan Burton

“What do you do when you tell the majority of 12-year-olds in an island that in 20 or 30 or 40 years’ time they may have to relocate and their island is not going to be there anymore?” Donovan Burton of Climate Planning

A profound and complex question raised by Donovan, who led UNICEF’s research into climate change impacts on children in Kiribati and Vanuatu. Donovan is one of Australia’s most experienced climate change planners and he worked closely with researchers from the Griffith University’s Centre for Coastal Management and Urban Research Programme and CLIMsystems  on the study, which is part of five UNICEF country studies on climate change and children in East Asia and the Pacific.

One of the things that really jumped out at me in reading the Pacific study was that how climate change affects children is largely being left out of discussions around how countries will adapt to the impact of climate change. Yet children will be among those most affected by it. The leading killers of children worldwide are highly sensitive to climate change. Higher temperatures have been linked to increased rates of malnutrition, cholera, diarrhoeal disease and vector-borne diseases like dengue and malaria, while children’s underdeveloped immune systems put them at far greater risk of contracting these diseases. When crops fail or livelihoods are lost, children get taken out of school. So why aren’t the majority of adaptation strategies taking children into consideration?