Climate change doesn't obviously fall under the mandate of the World Bank, which has the official goal of reducing poverty. But speaking in Tokyo last month, new bank president Jim Yong Kim said he felt "a moral responsibility to be very clear in communicating the dangers of climate change." The bank is following through. Yesterday, it released a new report spelling out the consequences of the world's current course. "The lack of action on climate change not only risks putting prosperity out of reach of millions of people in the developing world, it threatens to roll back decades of sustainable development," Kim writes in a foreword to the report, Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided.
Written by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics, the report concludes that the world is on a path to a 4°C warmer world by end of this century and that current pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will not reduce warming by very much. The report is not intended to be comprehensive or a substitute for the assessments due next year from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Instead, the report focuses on problems that are likely to disproportionately hit developing countries: coastal inundation from rising sea levels, plummeting food production and associated malnutrition, unprecedented heat waves, increasing fresh water scarcity, more frequent and intense tropical cyclones, and the loss of biodiversity. The report notes that some of the risks have not been thoroughly studied. For example, it says there is as yet no comprehensive investigation of the ecological, human, and economic consequences of the collapse of coral reef ecosystems due to warmer and more acidic oceans. Climate change is likely to hit hardest the countries that have the least capacity to adapt and to increase poverty rates throughout Africa as well as in countries such as Mexico and Bangladesh.
It is not too late to dodge the worst case scenarios. "[W]ith action, a 4°C world can be avoided and we can likely hold warming below 2°C," the report states.