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Climate extremes affecting babies

New research reveals how the effects of climate change are harming babies in Amazonia passing on a ‘chain of disadvantage’ to future generations.

That’s because climate extremes trigger negative outcomes for mothers and their unborn babies. They can reduce access to food when crops fail, while increased flooding can expose families to water-borne diseases.

The Lancaster University and the FIOCRUZ health research institute study, shows extreme rainfall linked to climate change leading to smaller babies and premature births. The research, published in Nature Sustainability, examined more than a quarter of a million births over 11 years in ’43 highly river-dependent municipalities in Amazonas State, Brazil’. It shows exposure to extreme rainfall severely reducing the average birth-weight by almost 200 grams. Meaning ‘life-long consequences for health and development’. Which rolls forward as a toxic intergenerational legacy, particularly for ‘socially-marginalized Amazonians in forgotten places’.

“We used publicly available data on birth records to go ‘back in time’ to look at the relationship between climate extremes and birth weight. Our study showed that even intense but non-extreme rainfall was harmful,” said Dr Erick Chacon-Montalvan of Lancaster University, lead author of the study.

He added: “Increasing climatic variability in Amazonia is concerning, in part because subsequent disadvantages associated with low birth weight include in lower educational attainment, poorer health, reduced income in adulthood, and mortality-risks.”

In the new book Revolutionary Power: An Activist’s Guide to the Energy Transition, author Shalanda H. Baker, Joe Biden’s recently appointed deputy director for energy justice at the US Department of Energy, argues that new innovation systems must be built ‘on a foundation of justice and equity’. and people in Amazonia need innovation and investment with justice now to stop corrosive inter-generational disadvantages.

“Reducing the health risks found by the team will require much greater investment into poverty alleviation and better healthcare if we are to help Amazonia’s river-dwelling populations adapt to changing rainfall patterns and increasingly frequent and severe floods and droughts,” said Dr Luke Parry of Lancaster University’s Environment Centre and one of the authors of the report.

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Written By

Susan is the co-founder of Innovators Magazine and a consultant for OnePoint5 Media. Susan is also a member of the UNFCCC-led Resilience Frontiers Nexus group and co-chair of the APOPO Foundation UK board.

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