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REPORT: Warmer world will keep millions of people trapped in poverty


A new report by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics for the World Bank Group, and co-sponsored by CDKN, assesses the latest climate science and paints a bleak outlook for the world’s poor in the coming decades.

Regular food shortages in Sub-Saharan Africa. Shifting rainRain is liquid water in the form of droplets that have condensed from atmospheric water vapor and then precipitated—that is, become heavy enough to fall under gravity. Rain is a major component of the water cycle and is responsible for depositing most of the fresh water on the Earth. It ... patterns in South Asia leaving some parts under water and others without enough water for power generation, irrigation, or drinking. Degradation and loss of reefsRock-like limestone structures built by corals along ocean coasts (fringing reefs) or on top of shallow, submerged banks or shelves (barrier reefs, atolls), most conspicuous in tropical and subtropical oceans. (IPCC) in South East Asia, resulting in reduced fish stocks. Coastal communities and cities more vulnerable to increasingly violent storms. These are but a few of the likely impacts of a possible global temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius in the next few decades  that threatens to trap millions of people in poverty, according to a new scientific report released today by the World Bank Group.

Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience builds on a World Bank report released late last year, which concluded the world would warm by 4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century if we did not take concerted action now.   This new report looks at the likely impacts of present day, 2°C and 4°C warming on agricultural production, water resourcesClimate change is expected to exacerbate current stresses on water resources from population growth and economic and land-use change, including urbanisation. On a regional scale, mountain snow pack, glaciers and small ice caps play a crucial role in freshwater availability. Widespread mass ..., coastal ecosystemsA system of living organisms interacting with each other and their physical environment. The boundaries of what could be called an ecosystem are somewhat arbitrary, depending on the focus of interest or study. Thus, the extent of an ecosystem may range from very small spatial scales to, ... and cities across Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and South East Asia.

This new report outlines an alarming scenario for the days and years ahead – what we could face in our lifetime,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “The scientists tell us that if the world warms by 2°C — warming which may be reached in 20 to 30  years —  that will cause widespread food shortages, unprecedented heat-waves, and more intense cyclones. In the near-term, climate change, which is already unfolding, could batter the slums even more and greatly harm the lives and the hopes of individuals and families who have had little hand in raising the Earth’s temperature.”

“These changes forecast for the tropics illustrate the level of hardships that will be inflicted on all regions eventually, it we fail to keep warming under control,” Kim said. “Urgent action is needed to not only reduce greenhouse gas emissionsGreenhouse gas emissions cause dangerous anthropogenic climate change. Emissions include CO2, fluoridated gases, methane which are emitted by human activity such as deforestation and burning fossil fuels, and water vapour., but also to help countries prepare for a world of dramatic climate and weatherWeather refers to the state of the atmosphere with regard to temperature, cloudiness, rainfall, wind, and other meteorological conditions. (UKCIP) extremes.

The report, prepared for the World Bank by the Potsdam Institute for Climate ImpactConsequences of climate and climate change on natural and human systems. (IIED)A specific change in a system caused by its exposure to climate change. Impacts may be harmful (threat) or beneficial (opportunity). (UKCIP) Research and Climate Analytics, reveals how rising global temperatures are increasingly threatening the health and livelihoods of the most vulnerable populations, crucially magnifying problems each region is struggling with today.

Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience is an analysis of the latest climate science, as a means to better understand the risks of climate change to development. Key findings include:

  • In Sub-Saharan Africa, by the 2030s droughts and heat will leave 40 percent of the land now growing maize unable to support that crop, while rising temperatures could cause major loss of savanna grasslands threatening pastoral livelihoods.  By the 2050s, depending on the sub-region, the proportion of the population undernourished is projected to increase by 25-90 percent compared to the present.
  • In South Asia, the potential change in the regularity and impact of the all-important monsoon could precipitate a major crisis in the region.  Events like the devastating Pakistan floods of 2010, which affected more than 20 million people, could become common place.  More extreme droughtsA period of abnormally dry weather long enough to cause a serious hydrological imbalance. Drought is a relative term (see Box 3-3), therefore any discussion in terms of precipitation deficit must refer to the particular precipitation-related activity that is under discussion. For example, ... in large parts of India could lead to widespread food shortages and hardship.
  • Across South East Asia, rural livelihoods are faced with mounting pressures as sea levels rise, tropical cyclones increase in intensity, and important marine ecosystem servicesHumankind benefits in a multitude of ways from ecosystems. Collectively, these benefits are known as ecosystem services. Ecosystem services are regularly involved in the provisioning of clean drinking water and the decomposition of wastes. While scientists and environmentalists have discussed ... are lost as warming approaches 4°C.
  • And across all the regions, the likely movement of impacted communities into urban areas could lead to ever higher numbers of people in informal settlements being exposed to heat waves, floodingThe overflowing of the normal confines of a stream or other body of water, or the accumulation of water over areas that are not normally submerged. Floods include river (fluvial) floods, flash floods, urban floods, pluvial floods, sewer floods, coastal floods, and glacial lake outburst floods ..., and diseasesAny disease caused by microbial agents that can be transmitted from one person to another or from animals to people. This may occur by direct physical contact, by handling of an object that has picked up infective organisms, through a disease carrier, via contaminated water, or by spread of ....

The report says impacts across its study regions are potentially devastating.  And, if warming goes from 2ºC to 4°C, multiple threats of increasing extreme heat waves, sea–level rise, more severe storms, droughts and floodsThe overflowing of the normal confines of a stream or other body of water, or the accumulation of water over areas that are not normally submerged. Floods include river (fluvial) floods, flash floods, urban floods, pluvial floods, sewer floods, coastal floods, and glacial lake outburst floods ... would have severe negative implications for the poorest and most vulnerableIt notes, however, that many of the worst consequences could still be avoided by holding warming below 2ºC.

I do not believe the poor are condemned to the future scientists envision in this report. In fact, I am convinced we can reduce poverty even in a world severely challenged by climate change,” President Kim continued. “We can help cities grow clean and climate resilient, develop climate smart agricultureCultivation of the ground and harvesting of crops and handling of livestock, the primary function is the provision of food and feed. practices, and find innovative ways to improve both energy efficiencyUsing less energy/electricity to perform the same function. Programs designed to use electricity more efficiently - doing the same with less. and the performance of renewable energiesRenewable energy is power generated from infinite sources, such as wind or solar power. Conventional energy is generated from finite sources, such as natural gas or fossil oil..  We can work with countries to roll back harmful fossil fuel subsidies and help put the policies in place that will eventually lead to a stable price on carbon.”

“We are determined to work with countries to find solutions,” Kim said.  “But, the science is clear.  There can be no substitute for aggressive national mitigationMitigation refers to actions that reduce our contribution to the causes of climate change. This means reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), through energy efficiency and using alternative forms of transport and energy.(UKCIP) targets, and the burden of emissions reductions lies with a few large economies.” 

The report says sea level riseCoasts are projected to be exposed to increasing risks, including coastal erosion, due to climate change and sea level rise. The effect will be exacerbated by increasing human-induced pressures on coastal areas (very high confidence). {WGII 6.3, 6.4, SPM}; By the 2080s, many millions more people ... has been occurring more rapidly than previously projected and a rise of as much as 50 cm by the 2050s may already be unavoidable as a result of past emissionsEmissions of greenhouse gases, greenhouse gas precursors, and aerosols associated with human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, land-use changes, livestock, fertilisation, etc. (IPCC).  In some cases, impacts could be felt much earlier.  For example, without adaptation measures, sea level riseSea level can change, both globally and locally, due to (i) changes in the shape of the ocean basins, (ii) changes in the total mass of water and (iii) changes in water density. Factors leading to sea level rise under global warming include both increases in the total mass of water from the ... of 15 cm, coupled with more intense cyclones, threatens to inundate much of Bangkok by the 2030s.

The burgeoning cities of the developing world are identified as some of the places on the planet most at risk from climate change.    Describing urban areas as “new clusters of vulnerability,” the report says urban dwellers, particularly the urban poor, face significant vulnerability to climate change.

Informal settlements in places like Metro Manila in the Philippines and Kolkata in India concentrate large populations and often lack basic services, such as electricityElectricity generation includes all technologies that turn some form of energy into useful electric energy. Electricity is a form of energy that has magnetic, radiant and chemical effects. Electric current is created by a flow of electrons., sanitation, healthThe health status of millions of people is projected to be affected through, for example, increases in malnutrition; increased deaths, diseases and injury due to extreme weather events; increased burden of diarrhoeal diseases; increased frequency of cardio-respiratory diseases due to higher ..., infastructure, and durable housing.    In such areas, people are highly exposed to extremen weather events, such as storms and floodingsee flooding.  Extreme heat is also felt more acutely in cities.

Partly in response to the findings of the two Turn Down the Heat reports and under Dr Kim’s leadership, the World Bank Group is stepping up its mitigation, adaptation, and disaster risk managementProcesses for designing, implementing, and evaluating strategies, policies, and measures to improve the understanding of disaster risk, foster disaster risk reduction and transfer, and promote continuous improvement in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery practices, with the explicit ... work, saying it will increasingly look at all its business through a “climate lens.”

For a copy of Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts and the Case for Resilience go to: http://climatechange.worldbank.org

Visit Dr Kim’s launch of the new report at the Reuters newsmaker event.

CDKN contributed to the production of Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts and the Case for Resilience, together with the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), and Connect4Climate (C4C).

 

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