Climate Change Inspires Verbal Gymnastics at UNICEF

When something is fashionable it is so much better if you can dress up whatever you care about with the right clothes. Step forward UNICEF, then, launching itself into a remarkable case of verbal gymnastics to link the very much serious-but-evidently-unfashionable problems of poor children around the world, with…climate change.

Warming ‘affecting poor children“, reports the BBC, notably with those single quotes, but with no link to the UNICEF report itself “Our Climate Our Children“. From UNICEF’s presentation of the report, by Lord Nicholas Stern:

Here in the UK, flooding is becoming a more common occurrence. Birds are nesting earlier, animals are moving territories, the duration and range of seasons is changing.

The usual collection of baseless remarks then? Not encouraging. Let’s move further:

[Children] are already seeing the impacts of climate change through malnutrition, disease, poverty, inequality and increasing risk of conflict – and ultimately an increase in child mortality rates.

Unfortunately, malnutrition, disease, etc were with us long before anybody had said “climate change”. Has UNICEF and/or Lord Stern found a way to identify the climate-change signal in current child mortality rates? Let’s find out. Here’s a quote from the Press Release:

the world’s poorest and most vulnerable children are being hit the hardest by the impact of climate change…the implications of climate change for the world’s children’ draws attention to the fact that climate change is impacting very seriously on children and their rights

So the BBC is right…it does look like UNICEF is claiming climate-change stuff is affecting children RIGHT NOW. But is that so? Here’s the list from the same press release:

…Climate change could cause an additional 40,000 to 160,000 child deaths per year…
…an additional 30 – 200 million people will be placed at risk of hunger…
…may make it more likely that parents remove their children from school…
…Malaria…is now being seen in areas which were previously outside the range of malarial mosquitoes, such as the highlands of Kenya and Jamaica. Diarrhoea: Climate change will increase the burden of diarrhoeal disease…

Out of FIVE claims, only ONE is for the present (malaria in Kenya and Jamaica highlands). Everything else is for the FUTURE. So much for “already seeing the impact“…

How can this be reported as happening in the present? By creatively using the vocabulary: as written by the BBC: “Climate change is already affecting the prospects for children in the world’s poorer countries, according to Unicef“.

What is claimed to be affected right now is the ESTIMATED FUTURE RISK for children. A strange definition of “PRESENT” indeed…

ps it’s sadly ironic that the one PRESENT consequence of UNICEF’s work about climate change, is that kids are getting anxious. One wonders if the UNICEF’s founders ever planned for their organisation to be on the forefront of the business of…scaring young children.

pps At page 8 of the UNICEF report there is a separate section “Examples of hazardous weather in 2007”. But as we well know, weather is not climate, so what is that list about, one is not sure. Also, note that more or less any kind of “hazardous weather” would do, cold, warm, dry, wet, whatever.