THE BLOG

A Climate Change Wake Up Call From the World Bank

21/06/2013 13:23 BST | Updated 21/08/2013 10:12 BST

This week's World Bank report on the impact of climate change is a stark reminder of just how awful the consequences of a modest rise in temperatures could be for many parts of the world.

What is particularly shocking is the level of devastation forecast by just a two degree rise in global temperatures - previously thought to be a relatively 'safe' level of warming.

Even more alarmingly, the report outlines the likely consequences of a four degree rise this century, which is where we're headed without significantly more action to curb emissions. This would have even more devastating results and make reversing these changes almost impossible.

The report, 'Turning down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts and The Case for Resilience', outlines impacts such as extreme heat events, water scarcity and drought, rising sea levels and more intense hurricanes which are already being seen more frequently across the global south.

Africa is particularly dependent on agriculture and food production, but even below 2 °C of warming, the World Bank predicts climate change will severely impact food security and destroy communities such as those of pastoralist farmers.

In South East Asia sea level rise and the destruction of marine life will be severe and cyclones will risk human lives and significant economic damage. This is likely to lead to migration and have huge economic costs.

South Asia will see water shortages hurting increasing proportions of its large and growing population, affecting drinking water and agriculture. Disturbances to the monsoons, extreme temperatures and intense cyclones will combine to threaten communities, particularly in coastal regions.

If we are to reduce global hunger and eradicate poverty, then developing countries must be supported to become more resilient to the changing climate, to limit the human damage it causes.

The report gives a blunt warning to global leaders to raise their ambition and prioritise action to stop climate change. Efforts so far have been pitiful, making action more urgent than ever.

But the World Bank should also look in the mirror and learn lessons from its own report. Currently it schizophrenically recognises the dangers of climate change while investing billions of dollars every year in coal, oil and gas projects. The World Bank should lead the world's financial institutes by pulling money out of fossil fuels and leading the move to a low carbon transformation of global energy.

This autumn, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world's foremost scientific authority, will publish its 5th assessment report, the latest verdict on global climate change. As this week's World Bank report makes clear it is vital that governments take heed.