A new report from the World Bank has determined that warming of around 1.5°C (around 2.7° Fahrenheit) by mid-century is already locked into the atmosphere but that further warming beyond 2°C — and some of the worst projected impacts — is avoidable with immediate action. The report also warns that without coordinated efforts to transition to low-carbon energy sources, there is an increasing likelihood that temperatures could rise by 4°C or more “by the time today’s teenagers are in their 80s.” This would have drastic consequences on many of the developing countries where the World Bank operates — many of which have very young populations.
“The good news is that we can take action that reduces the rate of climate change and promotes economic growth, ultimately stopping our journey down this dangerous path,” said Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank. “World leaders and policy makers should embrace affordable solutions like carbon pricing and policy choices that shift investment to clean public transport, cleaner energy and more energy efficient factories, buildings and appliances.”
Prepared for the World Bank Group by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics, this is the third such report focusing on climate impacts in areas where the Bank operates, including Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Called “Turn Down The Heat,” the report warns of a “new climate normal” that will create a world of increased risks and instability. This will add substantially to the already daunting challenges of global development and poverty reduction, as crop yields would decline, water resources dwindle or shift, ocean acidification accelerate, and sea levels continue to rise and disrupt heavily-populated coastal regions.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, these heat extremes and changing rain patterns could lead to a 70 percent fall in soybean crop yields and up to 50 percent for wheat by 2050 without further adaption efforts. In the Caribbean, tropical storms and sea level rise will impact everything from tourism to security.
Across the Middle East and North Africa, scarce water resources will be further stressed, which could increase the outbreak of conflicts in the already fraught region. Similar challenges with water availability and food production are expected in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
“The report makes crystal clear that we cannot continue down the current path of unchecked, growing emissions,” said Rachel Kyte, World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change.
The Bank is backing up these statements with a policy that avoids funding coal-fired power plants except in circumstances where no other baseload power sources are economically viable.
“It will only be in circumstances of extreme need that we would contemplate doing coal again,” said Kyte. She went on to say that the Bank’s focus is on accelerating lending for all forms of renewable energy, including “everything from all sizes of hydro through to wind, to solar, to concentrated solar, to geothermal.”
The Bank is encouraging country leaders to do away with fossil fuel subsidies that create unnaturally low prices for oil, gas and coal.
A major global report in September found that governments can grow their economies and reduce their GHG emissions at the same time. This is especially true in developing economies where energy systems are not locked-in and infrastructure investments are rapidly growing. The New Climate Economy report found that by 2030, about $90 trillion will be invested in cities, agriculture, and energy systems across the world. If this financing is directed toward low-carbon projects, it could mark a major turning point in climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.
World leaders will gather in Lima, Peru next month for a major round of negotiating sessions before next year’s U.N. climate summit in Paris where hopes for a new global agreement to reduce carbon emissions are high. There have been several promising developments in recent weeks, including a U.S.-China pledge to limit emissions and a G20 communique demanding efforts to reduce GHGs and fund clean energy.