Jim Yong Kim, the new President of the World Bank, called on the world to address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a shift for an organization that usually does not weigh in on the subject. Kim’s report, “Why a 4° Centigrade Warmer World Must Be Avoided,” has a very specific intent. “It is my hope that this report shocks us into action,” Kim writes in the foreward.
The report paints a terrifying picture of a warmer world, and all the challenges countries would face under that scenario.
“It would be so dramatically different from today’s world that it is hard to describe accurately; much relies on complex projections and interpretations,” Kim writes, but he manages to quantify it enough to make it significantly unpalatable. It would consign millions of people around the world, particularly in tropical regions, to massive suffering and an inability to rise from poverty, while it would completely reverse sustainable development projects in much of this world.
The distribution of impacts, the report writes, would fall unequally on the poorest citizens in the world, living in equatorial regions.
Extreme weather events would proliferate everywhere, with global effects on agricultural production, societal development, and social unrest. Coastal regions would face the greatest threats from rising sea levels, and this would also magnify around the Equator. Oceans would acidify, threatening fragile ecosystems like coral reefs. Food and water systems would break down, and the impacts on human health could be incalculable. Entire populations would have to move from their inundated islands and coasts.
The executive summary concludes this way:
Thus, given that uncertainty remains about the full nature and scale of impacts, there is also no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible. A 4°C world is likely to be one in which communities, cities and countries would experience severe disruptions, damage, and dislocation, with many of these risks spread unequally. It is likely that the poor will suffer most and the global community could become more fractured, and unequal than today. The projected 4°C warming simply must not be allowed to occur—the heat must be turned down. Only early, cooperative, international actions can make that happen.
About half of the 4°C rise is probably locked in, absent a miraculous agreement for immediate carbon pollution reductions. That means tens of billions in annual costs of adaptation and disaster relief, as well as all of the effects previously discussed.
If a staid organization like the World Bank is sounding the alarm, you would think that nations would pay attention.
Photo by World Bank GFDRR Disaster Risk Management (DRM) under Creative Commons Licenses