Last month a report published by The Lancet declared that "wealthier countries threaten the future of all children through carbon pollution, on course to cause runaway climate change and environmental disaster". Entitled A future for the world's children?, the report was published on behalf of the Lancet Commission as well as WHO (the World Health Organisation) and UNICEF (the United Nations Children's Fund).
One of the co-chairs of the panel producing the report was Helen Clark, one time prime minister of New Zealand. The other was a Senegalese minister, Awa Coll-Seck.
Climate disruption, they said, "is creating extreme risks from rising sea levels, extreme weather events, water and food security, heat stress, emerging infectious diseases, and large-scale population migration". The threats to "global health from disturbances in planetary health are profound and imminent". Children stood "on the precipice of a climate crisis". Moreover, "youth climate activist Greta Thunberg" had warned that "our house is on fire".
None of this is new. It echoes warnings contained in "summary" documents aimed at "policymakers" and produced by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was set up in 1988. Similar warnings have repeatedly been issued by a former American vice president, Al Gore. In a version of his book An Inconvenient Truth adapted for "a new generation" of "young readers", he warned more than ten years ago that if Iceland's ice dome or the West Antarctic ice shelf melted, it would raise water levels worldwide between 18 and 20 feet. "Miami would be underwater" and "Amsterdam would vanish".
Warnings of this kind date back at least as early as the "earth summit" in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. They continue to receive extensive press endorsement, with minimal coverage of alternative viewpoints.
No wonder teenagers such as Ms Thunberg are frightened. Naomi Klein, a Canadian journalist and climate activist, described that child's anguish in a book published last year. Since the age of eight, Ms Thunberg had been learning about climate change. She had watched documentaries about species collapse and melting glaciers and had become "obsessed". She learned that burning fossil fuels and eating a meat-based diet were major contributors to "planetary destabilisation".